Wednesday, February 11, 2009

she walks in beauty like the night

The bad news fairy has been leaving little treats of news articles for me at my desk.

I would prefer Hot Tamales.

There is really no new news here. About the same headlines that the northern press loves to blare:

  • 200 Americans killed in Mexico since 2004

  • Ex-general tortured and shot first day on anti-drug job

  • Cancun police chief arrested in drug deaths

And all three headlines were based on fact.

That first one sounds terrible. 200 Americans killed in Mexico over the past five years. Let's see. That is 40 people each year on an average.

And who were they? A recent study concluded exactly what an informed person would guess: most of them were involved in organized crime as cartel hit men, drug dealers, smugglers, or gang members. (I am not saying they deserved to die. I am just saying that were involved in a profession that does not have a high payout in retirement benefits.)

But, at least 70 -- or a third of the total -- were killed in what appears to be innocent circumstances.

Compare that with the 43,200 Americans that died in car crashes in 2005.

Or 366 murders in Detroit in 2003.

Or 234 murders in Phoenix in 2006.

And the list could go on and on.

Americans are murdered in Mexico. Of course, they are. And they are murdered in their home towns. For almost the same reasons. Illegal drug activity and enforcement of prohibition laws top the list.

And there are terrible stories of torture and murder: the most recent being Brigadier General Mauro Enrique Tello, his aide, and his driver. The drug cartels were obviously sending a message to the government to back off on the drug wars.

Instead, the Cancun police chief has been arrested and is currently being interrogated about his involvement in the general's death. It is a good start. And it is understandable why a growing segment of the Mexican public has started calling for reinstatement of the death penalty.

And now, along comes the good Donna commenting yesterday in another post:

It seems that since I have become an avid reader of your blog I am hearing more and more about the drug cartels in Mexico and all the horrible crimes they commit. In the local newspaper I get every morning, there was an article about how far into the United States these cartel members have traveled and that the crimes continue to escalate as far inland as Atlanta. I also heard about a Marine killed by his vehicle in the Baja. Now Steve I know you are a capable man and a wonderful human being, but I am thinking your Mexican adventure might need to be re-thought. In any event, you are sure to find the best of the worst. Some of us may worry though.

Donna (and the news fairy) --

I appreciate the concern. But I am going to Mexico because it offers something that Salem cannot.

The best Salem offers is a comfortable life. I have had that for 60 years. I need something more.

And that something more is the adventure I know Mexico will offer. The weather will be a challenge. Learning Spanish will be a challenge. Learning not to be a fatal statistic on the roads will be a challenge.

But I am going to learn something about life -- and about me.

And I am finding it hard to wait for the adventure to begin.


Islagringo said...

Crime happens. Here in Mexico. There in the USA. Everywhere. Sensationalism sells. That's all there is to it. C'mon down and join the rest of us who live here safely and happily!

Larry Lambert said...

Steve - I don't know if you saw it or not, but check out Richard's blog post yesterday at regarding the "200." You will, like many of us, over time accept less and less at face value what you see in the NOB papers. They seem to like to leave out the middle part of the story for the sake of sensationalism.

Larry Lambert, Mazatlan

Michael Dickson said...

Steve, an excellent job of putting those 200 murders of Americans in perspective. I have noticed in the past that those Americans getting knocked off along the border almost invariably have Spanish names, which means they are border Latinos who are U.S. citizens but whose lives are focused on the other side, especially the money-making aspects.

They are not Joe and Betty Smith from Topeka.

Babs said...

Ironic that you should choose that article about the Americans being killed in Mexico. Two days ago I received an email from a former business associate whose husband was NOT going to come to Mexico after reading that article. They had rented a house in San MIguel but he was afraid. The article was written by a trio of reporters for the Houston Chronicle. First, I assured the associate that they would be fine coming to Mexico; second, I emailed one of the three reporters who I know from my "bidness days" as we say in Texas. I chastised them for bringing up murders that occurred from 2003 to 2007 all over again! I heard back from one of the other reporters who said "I lived in Mexico for two years - I KNOW what I'm talking about" Oh, really? In two years......huh.

1st Mate said...

Steve - The media love to pick up on crime in Mexico, it's soooo much more interesting than the garden variety shootings, stabbings and mayhem in the States. Since you're not moving down here to take over any cartels, you're going to be fine. You made a good choice of locations, and you're going to love it here.

CancunCanuck said...

Seems to be a theme with some of us bloggers lately, I wrote of this myself yesterday and Rivergirl did as well. The media loves a good scandal, they sure prefer it to facts, statistics and real sources. No one is saying that there is not a problem with crime, but it's certainly isolated to those involved with the criminal elements or the fight against them. Those that suggest that moving here is any more dangerous than living in New Jersey or Vegas or Miami obviously have not done their research. Keep fighting the good fight Steve.

Steve Cotton said...

Islagringo -- And it is amazing how the press sensationalism spreads so quickly through my acquaintances. They are convinced I am about to die, and there is nothing I can do to dissuade them. Except, maybe go to Mexico and live a very happy life.

Larry -- I had not read Richard's post on this topic. In this instance, I think he nailed the topic. The facts simply do not support the tone of most of these news stories.

Michael -- Thanks. Amazingly, when I point out the rest of the story to my friends, their eyes glaze over. Nothing for it, but a move south.

Babs -- I admire your style -- reasoning with people who now make a living off of hysteria. I wonder why the reporters never seem to ask any of you expatriates how many of your friends have been murdered? Not a very good story in that line of inquiry.

1st Mate -- Thanks. I know I will be fine. And if somehing happens, something happens. That's the point of life, isn't it?

CancunCanuck -- This is getting to be a very sore point with a lot if us. If the public wants to get hysterical over this topic, there is not much I can do. But I hate to see my family and friends pulled into this emotional maelstrom.

Alan said...

Steve, I think I heard the first true words of short timer anxious for the next phase of his life. Congrats!

"And I am finding it hard to wait for the adventure to begin"

Steve Cotton said...

Al -- It was inevitable. I am starting to find most of the "issues" at work are simply petty. 27 more workdays until I am retired.

Laurie said...

Go for it, Steve! I don't regret my move to Honduras. I don't regret my time working in the worst parts of New Orleans at a homeless shelter. I don't regret my time in Russia, even though a friend ended up jailed by the KGB. Life is full of adventures if we chose to walk out of the front door!

Nancy said...

I think that for anxious family back in the US my blog has been a big help in making them relax about our choice to live here.

I have a cousin and his wife arriving on a cruise ship next week and I am looking forward to showing them our new home in an 8 hour tour. I think they have been our biggest skeptics in the family, so it should be interesting.

I remember before we left the US all those people who would chime in every time something happened in Mexico, but you know they'd do the same thing if you were moving to Omaha and there were some murders in Omaha in the news.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

Steve - I just realized I did not really respond to a Comment on my blog about being in our area in April.

I will be in USA from 4/14-4/24. Then back in MX the rest of month -would love to have tacos with you in our fishing/marina village!

Steve Cotton said...

Laurie -- Go for it, I will.

Nancy -- It is the relatives that worry me. But I seem to recall my mother was worried when I lived in Laredo in the 1970s. Come to think of it, she had good reason to be worried.

AMM -- I may be coming through just as you are returning. Let's keep in touch.

Calypso said...

Computers are great things - if I didn't believe that we wouldn't be having this conversation.

On the other hand statistics garnered with computers have been bent, folded and mutilated in ways to sell a point or 'prove' a point.

These days I pay little mind to them and the sensational main stream news.

All your blogging amigos are having a fine time down here - to believe anything different is nonsense.

Steve Cotton said...

Calypso -- I believe you are having a great time, That is why I am heading your (general) way.

Anonymous said...


You're already learning tons! Like your friends and some readers can't evaluate risk, or make comparisons between one place and another.

200 people killed in 4 years? That's alarming? I don't think there's a single major American city that doesn't have a multiple of those murders over three years.

Boston is regarded as one of the safer big cities in the country. I think we have somewhere around 180 murders a year.

And while they are 180 too many, most of them are people who were dealing drugs, gang-banging, etc. They aren't tourists from Milan who were randomly shot for sport.

You'll be fine in Mexico. Just stay away from gun-toting gringos.


Kim G
Boston, MA

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- Thanks for the confidence. I agree with you. Life in Mexico will be fine, not perfect. And that is good enough for me.

vcazort said...

It is all very upbeat to read these comments which play down the failure of the Mexican state in favor of encouraging tourists to continue to visit all the awful habitat destructions from Cancun to Baja, but the truth is, these comments reflect total ignorance of the fact that Mexico is a failed state in almost all regards due to the violence which is blamed on the drug cartels but which is violence caused by poverty and greed and the insolence of the United States of America which has never admitted its role as buyer of drugs and exporter of guns. The fact is that one cannot go to Mexico by car, cannot cross the border states safely, cannot go anywhere in the country that is not a habitat destroyed horror such as Cancun, Tulum (with, perhaps, the exception of a few places such as the Diamante K) or a theme park monstrosity such as the Mayan /Toltec/Olmec/etc. ruinas, or Acomal, or, you-name-it, ANYPLACE which can offer a vulgar exploitation of some once authentic experience for a buck and attract moronic tourists who think they are seeing something authentic but who are really deluded by the crass glitz of contaminated cultural artifacts and environments.
     We are an old couple, 75 and 85, veterans of the Boston to Chiapas run, overland, every year for several decades, and we can no longer go to OUR Mexico, the REAL one,  and expect to return with our heads attached to our bodies.
Virginia Cazort, Ph.D.