The first time I was in Mexico was in the mid-70s and I was 25. My brother who was recently divorced had a taken a job in Mexico City as an engineer and my mother wanted to see her favorite and most intelligent son. She brought me with as a traveling companion. I have lots of memories from this trip, but the following strand out.
Visiting the Museum Anthropology with many exhibits especially ones on various Mexican Native American cultures.
Going to major market and standing behind a woman from the US who was bartering with vendor and she did not speak Spanish. She turned to me and he does not speak English. I said, you know your are in Mexico, right? She said yes but they all should speak English. Wow.
Seeing and climbing Aztec pyramids at Teotihuacan which were likely built by civilizations before the Aztecs conquered the area and are truly a wonder of the world.
My brother took my mother to see some friends one day and I hung out in the Zona Rosa. At a coffee shop, I saw a very attractive young lady. Channelling my inner high school Spanish classes I asked her to have coffee with me. She too one look at me and said no. For the amount of time it took me to formulate the sentence, she could have at least said no gracious.
A couple of years later my wife and I went to visit my brother and he drove us from Mexico City to Vera Cruz where he then worked. HIghlights included visiting catholic churches which were built in the 1500’s after the Spanish conquered the country. Many churches were built on top of Aztec worship areas. Another highlight was at my brother’s suggestion I tried a raw seafood cocktail. After several days of continual weight loss and wondering if I was going to live or die I decided never again.
For a number of years I had a “conference” in various resort city throughout the country. Let’s be clear, spending a week at an all-inclusive resort other than the cab ride from the airport, is not “seeing” Mexico. But it is a great way to safely visit various beautiful parts of Mexico and to a limited extent, have some opportunity to enjoy the people and the culture.
After my son finished teaching English in Peru he and I did a mountain bike trip in Copper Canyon which is four times the size of the Grand Canyon. Don’t believe me, look it up. We started at Creel, biked down to Batopilas and then out again. The gravel road on which we biked to Batopilas was built in 1957. Before that mules were used to transport goods. Batopilas is now somewhat considered to be an outlaw city, but at one time in the late 1800s it was the third wealthiest city in Mexico. An American, Alexander Shepherd, formed a mining company using only donkeys mined the area for primarily silver. He built a three story house in the city including a grand piano which was carried down to the city by the donkeys. Also, the Native American tribe called the Tarahumara lives in the area. They are know as the running tribe and basis of a book called “Born to Run” written by Christopher McDougall. One of the places we biked thru was Valle Bisabirachi (Valley of the erect penises). Yes, the valley is full of towering monoliths of stone which resemble very large penises and is considered to be a fertility area. We had great food, saw beautiful scenery rarely visited by tourists and had a wonderful time. Spending ten days with my son biking in a remote area is is one of my best lifetime memories.
When people ask me if I know Mexico, I say no. A few short visits does not let you know a country. But I do have a better understanding and appreciation of all of Mexico then most tourists and anybody who has never been there.
Is it safe? Other than eating a raw seafood cocktail or mountain biking over boulders which were way beyond my skill level, I have never felt unsafe in Mexico including the the last time I was there which was a few days ago. Granted, I stay in relatively safe areas and avoid high risk places. I do the same in the US.
Mexico has a higher poverty rate than the US. There several reasons for this including the economic and political agendas which favor the rich. Almost 80% of Mexico’s wealth is controlled by the top 10% of the population. If you don’t think the increasing wealth disparity in the US is not a problem, check out Mexico.
Mexico has a much higher murder rate than the US, however, according to Data Panders, there were only 8 school shootings in Mexico compared to 288 school shootings in the US over the same time period.
The reality is a large percentage of the violence in Mexico is drug and cartel related. A bigger reality is the illegal drugs flow north from Mexico to the US and the guns and cash flow south from the US to Mexico. In 2019, it was estimated economic value of illegal drugs sold in the US was almost $150 Billion. It is also estimated 70% of the guns in Mexico come from the US. The vast majority of illegal drugs which come into the US come thru Ports of Entry and only a small percentage is confiscated. I would suggest any solution to the drug problem in the US and Mexico that does not include reducing consumption along with eliminating the profits of illegal drug trade and taxing guns at both the manufacturing and sales levels is a waste of time.
Mexico has problems, but it also is doing some things right. Health care is generally good to excellent and either free or at a very low cost to workers. Their public schools are relatively good and one item which is impressive to me is beginning in elementary, the schools teach the effect of climate change is having on Mexican environment and economy now and going forward. They also discuss possible solutions to the crisis.
Mexico is incredibly beautiful and the beauty includes coastal areas, mountains, canyons and jungle. The vast majority of people I have met have been great. I realize there is risk in Mexico, but there is risk everywhere. I plan to go back as many times as I can.