Apr 27, 2010

Friday, April 16 - Traveling Companions

A couple of weeks ago we got talking with another couple who were planning on driving north about this time and so we decided to drive together. Joe & Marilyn have been up and down this road many times, and will be good company. They are also full-timers, spending their winters in Paamul and their summers doing a circuit of the US visiting kids and grand-kids.

The background to this is that there have been a few stories going around on the e-mail grapevine, and RV discussion forums about potential dangers on the roads up north near the border. The US news has been covering the “escalation” in the violence between competing factions of the Mexican drug trade. According to reports, many of the gangs have been fighting it out, and a few innocent people have been caught in the crossfire. The snowbirds who spend their winters in the grapefruit belt, the US border region, from Texas to Arizona, hear a lot about it on the news. The battle reports reach us too, and so all us travelers are particularly cautious.
I am one of the less worried ones, I think, and I try to keep it all in perspective. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of Canadians and Americans RVers like ourselves, as well as those who drive their vehicles down to spend the winters in their palapas and condos all through Mexico. I read a report that there are an 120 thousand North American (gringo) visitors in Mexico at any one time.
Without going into details and interpretations, it is often reported that the dangers are increasing. I think a lot of it is pulp journalism, and this country as a whole is no worse than almost anywhere else.

Our last night in Paamul, we were invited to a farewell dinner with our neighbors. A lovely meal, and we were joined by two other couples, who like our hosts are Americans, have built new palapas, and are planning to live here mostly full time. As the conversation went to the safety issue, it was the first time I have ever heard the emphatic phrase (and at a dinner table) “I sure wish I had my guns!”. I was speechless. It is reported that most American RVers travel with firearms in their vehicles. It is completely prohibited to carry any guns or ammo into Mexico. Of course, this prohibition is the same for Canada. So it is a cultural shock for me to hear it first hand.

Somewhat related, I noticed that there were many, I thought more than usual, friendly waves from the people on the streets of the towns, and along the road as we passed through on this trip. Most every traveler will attest that Mexicans are remarkably friendly and joyful. With our heightened anxiety this trip, it was particularly nice to see warmth and acceptance.

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