The Myth of Mexico in the Media

It has been nearly 14 months since we crossed the border south into Mexico. Nearly 14 months of fascinating history, delicious food, gorgeous countryside, and friendly people. Nearly 14 months and thousands of miles covering all of Baja and the vast majority of the mainland. During our time there, we have been disheartened again and again with the negative media regarding this most beloved destination. The myths of Mexico as highlighted in the media are profound.

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We meet very few Americans and, those that are in attendance, are generally the heartier souls at the beginning of their long drive down the Pan American highway. Before we left we faced the questions…. is it safe? Are you sure you can’t just ship around Mexico? Of course, we ignored all naysayers and headed across the border for one of the best years of our lives.

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We meet many a Canadian, entire campgrounds of them. A good percentage of travelers we encounter are European fully committed to ignoring the naysayers in the news. To be sure. Mexico has its problems. The ongoing cartel wars and border disputes will likely never end. The government is no stranger to protests of corruption. Crime does exist.

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However, in looking at the statistics and in our own experience, we feel far safer in Mexico than in the United States. The difference? A large percentage of homicides are due to the drug wars and, quite frankly, if you aren’t involved in said activities your odds of being in danger are lower than in the US.

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This last month the government spiked the tax on gas causing tales of gas shortages, lines, closed stations, rioting and protests. Did they exist? Of course they did. But as with most media crazes the drama was far less widespread than reported upon and for the most part ended quickly. As an example, during the time of the protests and rioting, we drove from the Guatemala Border to San Cristobal. Then to the coast at Veracruz. Inland to Puebla and San Miguel and then north to Zacatecas and Durango before heading west to Mazatlan.

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Throughout those few weeks and thousands of miles crisscrossing the country we saw not one closed gas station, gas lines, protest or riot. Nor did any of the dozens of other travelers we spoke to.  Now, before the comments begin let me just reiterate that these events did occur. Mostly in Mexico City. And yet, people were literally leaving Mexico early, or avoiding coming in at all, because of the overly dramatized reports while we continued to enjoy one of our favorite countries with no issues.

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I write this now overlooking the tranquil Sea of Cortez, contemplating the past 14 months. We visited astonishing sites, both ancient and new. We ate ourselves silly with some of the most delicious food on the planet, most of it extremely inexpensive. We spent time with friends and family and also met dozens of wonderful new friends. We went from sea level to 10,000 feet and navigated at least 4 billion topes.

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In all of those months and miles we have been stopped at countless military checkpoints and several times by the police, who simply wanted to say hi and shake our hands. Just once, ONCE, were we been shaken down for a bribe, and we have never felt anything close to danger.

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I end this with a quote from our friend Nathan of the Wand’rlys who recently shared his thoughts on the ridiculous wall and immigration ban on Facebook~

“Sure, there are drug wars and assholes in Mexico. There are gang members and cartel nutjobs, thieves and liars. All of those things apply to our entire government, both Republicans and Democrats alike, though. The real people of Mexico could teach each and everyone of us a lesson in what is actually valuable in life.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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13 thoughts on “The Myth of Mexico in the Media

  1. I can’t believe it’s been 14 months, but I’m betting you’ve been thinking the same thing. A very timely post!

    We’ve been to El Cardinal in southern Baja twice and LOVED our time there. Our friends built a home literally on the shores of the Sea of Cortez. Beautiful country, beautiful culture, beautiful people.

    • I know… a crazy ride 😉 It is wonderful. I must admit that mainland Mexico has my heart… the culture and history is so much more intense, along with the diversity…but the beaches of Baja are so great.

    • I also know your friends in El Cardinal I was the house sitter when they traveled for a few years. I am sorry they sold it! Since then I have been a house-sitter/Pet-sitter 2 months last year for other friends in the area and go back often each year to explore even more. Best part it does not cost me any money because I offer a free service along with peace of mind for the home owners. Its just a great way to be retired.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this post. All the cyclists and overlanders we meet say that Mexico is one of their favorite countries. We’re in Colombia right now, also deemed a dangerous country. I’ve feel completely safe. Last year, we were in Turkey, when the bombings began and people said it was dangerous. We have met the most wonderful, kind, welcoming people who have taken us into their homes in these countries. Like you, I feel more unsafe in the US at times. The media like to tell us what they think they know or what they want us to know, but the reality is that the person reporting or the writers or the producers have probably never experienced these places first hand.

    • You are going to love it. And we can not wait to check out Columbia! We can exchange notes in a couple of months:) Sadly, the media is a business, and drama sells. Its up to everyone to do their due diligence before simply believing it.

  3. Hi Jim and Rhonda,
    Don and I met you over a year ago in Baja. We were two kayakers paddling the sea of Cortez in sections. After paddling the Inside Passage this summer we returned to Baja to finish up the coast. We just completed the La Paz to Cabo section and think that our paths might have crossed again in La Ventana. We read your blog and saw that you were recently there. We agree with your comments. Enjoy your adventures!

    • Hi Don & Donna. So great to hear from you but I can’t believe we missed you! Are you still in Baja? We are in Ventana and Los Barriles for another 4-5 weeks. Hope to catch up with you.

  4. This is such an interesting post. I haven’t been to Mexico yet but I’m not at all surprised that the US media make it sound way more dangerous than it actually is. I was talking a US couple the other day who mentioned that it was too dangerous to drive over to Mexico and I was dubious about that. I know that SE Asia doesn’t have quite the same rep as Mexico, but people from home still sometimes think this is a dangerous part of the world. I always tell them that we’re safer here in Thailand than we are in Europe or when we lived in London!

    • Yes… its terrible what the media is doing to this country, and even sadder that all the naive out there are believing the negative hype.

  5. We’re considering a move to Mexico for a few years after we get our financial lives sorted in NZ—still our favourite country of the whole PanAm journey.

    We usually tell folk from the US who are worried about Mexico that when we left NZ the only country my Dad was worried about us travelling through was the USA. He asked us check in every time we drove somewhere new because that place is full of criminals and gun nuts 😉 He breathed a real sigh of relief when we safely crossed the border in to Mexico 😉 FYI, we encountered no crime and weren’t even shot at once in our time in the USA!

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