The L.A. Times has a series of articles titled “Mexico Under Seige.” After viewing the headlines I might rename it “Holy Shit What the Hell is Happening in Mexico?” This collection of articles journals specifics of the drug war and its unfortunate effects on citizens and visitors.
Op-eds like this one by Tim Rutten blame the U.S./us for the horrific gang action. This article instills some fear factor by trailing the dark side of Cancun.
I read a bunch of these articles over the weekend and really appreciated this one about the small town of Columbus, New Mexico. Scott Kraft paints a portrait of daily life in this sleepy border town 30 miles south of Deming, just north of Mexican border town of Palomas and the Three Sisters mountains. If you Google Map Columbus you can see just how remote it is.
Columbus’s most notable claim to fame occurred in 1916 when Francisco “Pancho” Villa attacked the town, practically leveled it, and escaped back to Mexico never being captured. Prior to September 11th this was the only place in the continental U.S. having experienced an invasion by a foreign army. (“Continential” qualifier to exclude Pearl Harbor.)
Kraft describes the relationship between the two cities, and it’s unfortunate turn for the worse over the recent years. Read “Border Drug War is Too Close For Comfort.”
It’s understandable that with horrific stories of beheadings and other unbelievely incredible horror stories that travelers would be deterred from enjoying time across the border. Even if the majority of incidents only affect those involved, (or sadly decent law enforcerment,) it still doesn’t put the casual tourist’s mind at easy. Warnings are out to the standard vacation spots too, which even if Americanized and not the “real” Mexico still support tourism and bring in a ton of money to the locals. And the border towns are suffering even more, with daytrippers choosing to forgo their Tijuana tequila binges or pharmaceutical stockpiling excursions.
As recently as December I flew to Cancun and drove down the coast for some scuba diving south of Playa del Carmen, then visited some ruins near Valladolid. I felt completely safe tooling around the back roads of Mexico – but if I feel a bit wary and sad after reading this stuff I can only imagine what “Joe All Inclusive” might think about a future trip to Mexico.
I’m headed to Puerto Vallarta later this month, (speaking of touristy stuff.) I found an airfare that would have allowed a day and night in Mexico City, but ended up flying with friends who don’t have such an interest in the bustling metropolis. So maybe next time…
Meanwhile for the sake of tourism, travel, and cross-culture, I certainly hope that things reverse course muy pronto. (Quick Spanish lesson: that last sentence would call for the subjuntive.)
An additional note: Steven F. Havill writes a series of books set in fictional “Posadas County” New Mexico, which follow affable undersherrif Bill Gastner. I think I’ve read every one (that the library has,) over the past few years. It’s not Tom Clancy, and they’re fairly simple reads, but I really like the characters and setting.
Between eating burritos at the Don Juan de Onate and hanging out with Estelle and his god kids, Gastner finds himself in one crazy mystery after another. After reading this article I can’t help wondering if Columbus was the inspiration for Havill’s “Posadas County”
Oh and it turns out a new one was published in November, titled “Fourth Time is Murder.”
Photos from Scott Kraft’s L.A. Times article, and B&N.com by James Van Dellen