Nov 12, 2010

La Vida Loca, continues...

A couple of weeks ago, we once again drove across the Mexican frontier to make our way to our winter home. Virtually without exception, everyone I have mentioned this trip to, our friends in Canada, and people we meet along the way, has suggested we were crazy. “Everybody” knows that Mexico is an out-of-control lawless anarchy. So I’d like to offer some of my thoughts.

Why are we living The Crazy Life?
Mexico and the “drug war” have been running rampant in the news lately. I’m sure it was on every TV network and newspaper a couple of months ago when the Canadian Gov’t recently issued a Travel Warning for driving into Mexico. I read the actual bulletin but it was very general so I wrote to the Canadian Gov’t for clarification and data supporting their declaration. I received an brief confirmation but it was completely lacking in any detail. I also read the (longer) US Gov’t Travel Warning issued prior to the Canadian one, and it seems that one was a digest version of the other. By the way, there is also a official travel warning for traveling in Europe.

Ten years ago, we attended a seminar in North Vancouver, presented by Bill & Dorothy Bell, titled “RVing in Mexico”. They showed pictures and talked about the beautiful country and its friendly people. At the end, I asked the question, “What about the banditos?” Their reply was that after many years of traveling all over Mexico, they had never had a problem and nor had anyone else they had met had a problem. Instead they talked about the great friendliness and willingness to help that is the Mexican culture. So even back then, I was thinking about “banditos”. Where I got the idea, old movies movies, tv shows, I don’t know.
Now a decade later, after we have driven all around Mexico, and have experienced unmatched hospitality, we still feel of the scare.
I think it all adds up to a kind of “urban myth” or in this case “national myth”-- a “story” that is passed around, over and over, until it takes on the currency of truth. Over and over, as we are told how dangerous it is, it becomes emotionally wearing.

I am not disputing the existence of “the drug war” which has been going on in Mexico, especially in the northern border states. We hear about shootouts in the streets, attacks on homes and police stations. The vast majority of the war is intertribal, between rival gangs for control of lucrative trade routes. It is about big money, big competition, big risks, in that big lucrative subculture. It is very much like the violence and lawlessness of the US prohibition/ bootlegging years.
I firmly believe, as do many serious thinkers on the subject, that if we could get our heads around decriminalization and regulation, this would take the big money out of the equation, much of the war would fizzle.

How has this war touched us tourists? As we clearly have a vested interest, I have been following this closely. By my count, there has been but one incident of car jacking involving rv’ers, about a year ago, when two rigs were stolen. No one was hurt, the rigs were recovered a couple of days later, but the trauma was, of course, very real. Do carjackings happen elsewhere. Of course. Myth or reality, it has been widely reported in the southern US sunbelt states. Last year there was an elderly couple traveling in their RV in BC (Canada) that were abducted, disappeared, and are presumed dead.

Each year there are more than 22 million tourists visiting Mexico. The all-inclusive resorts along the coasts are popular for their all you can eat and drink excess. The Cancun college break is famous and some of those kids are on missions to get a little drunk and disorderly. I discount them, but somehow trouble which can happen under these circumstances, or willful acts of stupidity make the news.
I needn’t go into a long debate here, except to say that I have read thoroughly on the matter. I believe that a couple of isolated incidences are given a disproportional emphasis, compared to similar crimes involving strangers (tourists) in Canada or the US.

However, this growth of paranoia has had a great effect on RV tourism. From many reports, the numbers of RV’s from Canada and the US are decreasing. Even the group caravans are diminished.
Still in this past week, three more rigs arrived here in Paamul, bringing our numbers to about 15 with more on the way. Each of us safely traveled the 3000 kms from Texas to the Caribbean coast. Each of these last three traveled on their own with no escorts or convoy.

It was particularly delightful to see Peter & Patsy, from near Pentiction, BC. We first met them many years ago when we spent time in Lo de Marcos on Mexico’s west coast. Peter and Patsy are both in their 80’s and once again drove their Type C RV, towing their ancient VW Rabbit.

Bill and Dorothy Bell, longtime residents of our old city of North Vancouver, BC, now live full time in Mexico. They are committed to promoting RV travel in Mexico and have a web site that is loaded with reference material, including charting all of the working RV parks. In their recent trip around Mexico, they produced a bulletin titled, “Traveling safe in Mexico” It is quite a comprehensive guide and adds another knowledgeable perspective.
I’ll post the link here (I’m not sure it will be clickable inside this blog):
Their web site is “On the Road In” listed in the Blogs I follow on the right column of this page and they have link to this bulletin on their cover page.

Thanks everyone for reading my “ideas locas”.


Jonna said...

Bravo! I think you have a clear picture of the situation and I agree.

John Kobak said...

Glen, that was a great description. I keep telling people the same story. I think I'll link this Blog post in my next post before we cross the border.
My friends always express concern for our sfety.
We are heading to Xpu-Ha again this winter but we may stop by Paa-Mul to say hello.

Tim Brown said...


Thank you for this post it's quite informative and definitely puts my mind at ease. My Wife and I are looking at condos in PDC (a palapa would be nice but I need high speed internet to do my work from Mexico). If we bought a condo I'd want to take and leave a car down there so I wouldn't need to rent while I'm there. I'd love to make it an adventure with my father and the both of us drive down. It would be nearly the same trip as you We would be leaving Waterloo, ON and driving to PDC. A question I have is do you drive at night? because researching the topic I've read a few people make the "Bandito" claim. I just wanted to see you did. Also which crossing do you normally cross at? I would be looking for the most direct route but with good roads.

I know you are required to carry the appropriate insurance when your in Mexico. Am I allowed to carry this insurance indenfinitely as I would be leaving the car there?

Actually that brings another question to my mind. I wonder if I would need to leave Canadian insurance on it while its sitting in Mexico? I wouldn't really care if the car went missing while there I'm not bringing something fancy only A to B transportation that would be reliable..

Any light on topic you could share would be much appreciated.


Glen and Susan - said...

Hi Tim, Just found your comment and here are a couple of thoughts.
There are a couple of routes and crossings -- we usually cross near San Benito Texas at Los Indios and then head over to Hwy 57 and down. No I don't drive at night, if I can help it. Too many unpredictabilities.
I am not an expert on the car issues. Rules are changing and opinions on the rules are changing too. I don't keep my Can insurance while in Mexico.
Read all you can on the - many of these items are discussed. Look for postings from geewiz and PM me.

Croft said...

My main reasons for not driving at night are topes and animals. They are both hard to see. In three winters of almost steady driving throughout all parts of Mexico we have not seen one bandito. A couple of crooked cops, yes, but no banditos.

Rick and Elaine NB said...

love your blog read it frequently but never posted before (I don't think)...anyway watched your kitchen palapa build ~followed right along...

There is CRIME everywhere...I love Mexico and hope to RV down there someday..we plan to be FT spring of 2011 and I can't wait...we live in crime daily here in Canada its no better no worse than anywhere else..lots of drug wars on here you just don't see or hear about them often...but they are present...