Losing Your Head Over Crime

Every so often, the United States Embassy in Mexico sends out Warden Notices, warning American citizens of danger. A few days ago one was issued, repeating a prior warning
from months past, alerting U.S.citizens to the “rising level of brutal violence in Mexico.” In the message, which curiously expires on
April 27, 2007, the Embassy warned:

U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Mexico should exercise extreme
caution when in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Public sources suggest that narcotics-related violence has claimed 1,500 lives in Mexico
this year. In recent months there have been execution-style murders of Mexican and U.S. citizens
in Tamaulipas (particularly Nuevo Laredo), Michoacán, Baja California, Guerrero and other states.

Last year the U.S.media was all atwitter over some loose heads dropped at the stroke of midnight
on the dance floor of a bar frequented by taxi-dancers and those who dance with
them in Uruapan.
The New York Times jumped on the story, and National Public Radio rushed a
camera crew to the bar, only to find themselves less than welcomed.

A customs agent at the Houston airport grilled me last month
about why I lived in Michoacán, punctuating his speech just a little too often
with “you people.” As I tried to explain
to him that Morelia’s a delightful colonial city, a UNESCO World Heritage site even,
he insisted that it was dangerous and crime-ridden, telling me that he knew all
about “you people.” He claimed that Michoacános were a wild and lawless bunch,
words which made me choke. Of course, I was in no position to complain as he
pawed through my luggage in search of contraband that just wasn’t there, but I
offered up that there were some places in Houston you just didn’t enter. I left the customs area feeling violated.

His attitude mirrored that of many who do not live here. Beheadings
made for good stories, but no one paid attention to the backstory, a feud
between rival gangs. No one at the bar was injured. This was no Main Street venue. It was an event as distant from mainstream Mexico as any everyday drug killing or drive-by shooting in the U.S.

On a Mexico-related mailing list, a few weeks ago one woman

So many malls caused me to ask my
Mexican contacts where all the money came from and the answer is drugs. This is
Michoacán, after all.

There’s a huge tendency among the envious and the ignorant
to connote nice shopping malls and housing with drug money. Hard work,
perseverance and business acumen drive those investments, just like anywhere

You’ve read those product safety warnings telling you not to
eat the contents of a laser printer cartridge and to keep your bare mitts off the
moving parts of a chainsaw. Just as manufacturers have to identify every known
risk, the embassy warning necessarily has to go to great lengths warning of
every potential danger to its citizens. But how many can distinguish between
over-warning and reality? Whatever happened to common sense?

jennifer in Morelia


3 comments on “Losing Your Head Over Crime

  1. Colleen says:

    But does “the embassy warning necessarily ha[s]ve to go to great lengths warning of every potential danger to its citizens”? If so, then why an expiration date? I can’t imagine a reason to spread the fear and ignorance. When last back in the US for a family matter, a retired school teacher asked me if we had electricity!! I was actually polite with him and didn’t say what I felt. Our electricity in Guanajuato is a lot more reliable than the electricity in that part of WI on that particular week when there were a great many storms. I find the news from the US really scary. What city doesn’t have serious gun crimes? We’re living happily and safely here in central Mexico. It’s fine with me if the embassy scares the Americans from coming down. If I wanted to live among Americans, I’d have stayed in the US. I’m enjoying the blog.


  2. Solosezzer says:

    Why would a radio network have a camera crew?


  3. The comments regarding the INS agent in Houston comes as no surprise – they are absolute Nazis to a man, abusing their uniforms.
    Once, when I passed through Houston IAH, in June 2000, on the way to Mexico to get married, the INSNazi pawing through my passport, and minutely inspecting my through-ticket to Mexico, opined that my spouse-to-be should be grateful that I was providing her with a ‘meal-ticket outta that shithole’ – I choked back a suitable response and toyed with the idea of finding the man’s superior officer…
    Strangely enough, the Hispanic INS agents on the border crossings all seem to have chips on their shoulders as well.


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