Should I visit Mexico?

I’m really excited to introduce a our newest columnist, Stuart Gustafson. His weekly feature, “Should I Cross That Line?” dovetails with his area of expertise: international travel. Gustafson spent his career in corporate sales at HP and today is an acclaimed novelist and sought-after public speaker. I can’t wait to see where he takes us next .

It’s the dead of winter. I bet you’re tired of the weather by now, and the prospect of six more weeks of cold. I know I am.

So where’s the easiest place to find a little warmth?

You know where — just hop on a plane and head south, crossing one national border if you’re in the United States and two if you’re in Canada.

But should you go?

Your answer will probably be “No,” or even a resounding “Heck, no!” if you follow the news.

It’s not just the kidnappings. What about the missing students whose story keeps resurfacing over and over again? Isn’t that enough to scare you away?

But those are just isolated incidents, and there’s nothing to worry about, right?

Well, if that’s the case, then why did the U.S. State Department issue this travel warning? That should be enough to convince even the bravest international traveler that it’s not safe to visit Mexico. That’s just the type of scare-tactic headlines that we don’t like on the supermarket tabloids, so why should we accept them from the United States government?

You have to read further in the article to find out exactly where the unsafe places are, but the overall tone of the travel warning is biased against going to Mexico.

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Here is what that travel warning says about the area where I’ve been going each year since 2003:

Baja California (Sur): Cabo San Lucas and La Paz are major cities/travel destinations in the state of Southern Baja California – Exercise caution in the state capital of La Paz. According to the Department of Interior of Mexico, in 2013 Baja California Sur registered its highest homicide rate since 1997. Many of these homicides occurred in La Paz, where there has been an increase in organized crime-related violence.

Most visitors to the southern part of Baja don’t go to La Paz. They are going to Todos Santos, San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Those areas thrive — actually they survive — on the tourists and expats who have spent, and continue to spend, a lot of money to fish, eat, party, enjoy the sun, party, relax, and maybe even party some more.

“Is it safe?” is a question I’m frequently asked about going to Mexico. My answer is that it’s as safe as any hometown I know of in the U.S. or in Canada.

Are there any problems in either of the two Cabos? Of course, there are. But then, I’d be happy to wager that you can find problems in your town if you’re out at 2 a.m., coming home drunk, and maybe even willing to pick a fight. But that can happen in Boise, Idaho, Peoria, Illinois, Calgary or any other city you can name.

The people I know who visit Mexico aren’t out partying all night long and creating a ruckus on their way back to the hotel, condo, or timeshare. I’ve never had a problem and neither have they. If you act decently and are respectful, then you should be fine.

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I certainly wouldn’t knowingly and willingly go to any part of the world where it’s obvious that I’d be stepping into a killing zone. But I think it’s the people who don’t know the facts who are painting the overall negative picture of Mexico when the problems are confined to a few easily identifiable and concentrated areas.

If you believe the State Department’s warning about La Paz (and indirectly all of Baja California, South), does that mean you wouldn’t visit Washington, D.C., that sees an average of two killings each and every week of the year?

No. You’re smarter than that — at least I hope so.

Would you visit Mexico?

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Stuart Gustafson

Stuart Gustafson is a writer, world traveler and professional speaker. He's channeled his love of travel into writing travel-based mystery novels.

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