Despite dire warnings from friends, family and strangers on the street, we headed south to Mexico where according to friends, family and strangers on the street, we were in danger of being carjacked and held for ransom by highway banditos. Would they, they wondered, receive one of my ears in the mail?
In an effort to allay their fears, I downloaded and highlighted the February 8, 2012, travel advisory from the U.S. State Department. I looked at Mexico in general and Sonora in particular.
According to the State Department, although carjackers will take anything to include junkers, they prefer dark-colored SUVs. Sometimes they will force your car off the road (to include the toll road on which we travelled).
Running the numbers, the February, U.S. State Department advisory warned me that “47,515 people were killed in narcotic-related violence in Mexico between December 1, 2006 and September 30, 2011, and the number of U.S. citizens murdered in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011.”
None of this was cheery or reassuring. The warnings continued. We should be wary of checkpoints. We should expect regular checkpoints but also “unauthorized checkpoints” where tourists had been “killed or abducted .” It is imperative to stop and “cooperate” at all checkpoints. (That would be regular and irregular checkpoints.)
Got it! If we had been stopped, we should have smiled and handed over our worldly goods. As it was… no one stopped us. And here we are… on the beach… supporting the local economy populated by good people.
As puny and as ineffectual as it is, it feels good to have made a stand. We did not get caught in drug cartel cross-fire, and we are here to appreciate all that Mexico has to offer.
These State Department warnings are good… on the other hand…
I remember a trip to Russia. I was travelling independently from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the night “milk train.” At 2 a.m. or so, I left my compartment and stepped into the corridor to see the station at which we had stopped. Was I close to my destination? As I was peering out the window, three soldiers came down the corridor, and I (rather than do the smart thing and step into my room and lock the door) backed into the doorway to let them pass. And as they passed, each of them groped me. They never paused; they never broke step. My jaw dropped. I was speechless. How could I be so stupid? How could they grope me without breaking step? I was shocked by my own stupidity. I was impressed with the soldiers’ expertise.
It was only after I returned home and happened to be renewing my passport that I read the travel advisory pertaining to night train travel between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Such travel, I learned, was high-risk and to be avoided. Hum.mm.m. If I had read that precaution before I traveled, I may not have taken the trip. As it was, I took the trip and survived to laugh about it.
We can hunker down in fear, or we can exercise due caution and not cave in.