More than 30 companies involved in Mexican real estate have banded together to try to counter what they call misleading news coverage about the country’s violent crime.
"Our greatest asset is the thousands of Canadians and Americans who currently live in Mexico and love it," says Christopher Hill, CEO of Stewart Title Latin America. "In the end, the reality of Mexico as a great place to live — full- or part-time — will shine through."
Increasing media reports of violent, drug-related crime have given the false impression of a countrywide epidemic, says the Mexico Real Estate Coalition.
But it is only occurring in a few areas — with most of them close to the U.S. border, says the group.
Representing the multi-billion-dollar Mexican development industry, the coalition has launched a website at LiveMexico.org.
It explains why Canadians and Americans should buy a retirement or vacation home in Mexico, or continue to invest in property, in what has been a popular tourist destination for decades.
Mexico presents an "incredible lifestyle" for retirees and investors when compared with other Latin and Caribbean regions — as well as with U.S, retirement destinations, says Hill.
"However, we are going to have to put some work into correcting some of the unfair damage done to the image of Mexico recently in the media."
The coalition kicked of its education campaign earlier this month.
Members include high-profile developers like Grupo Questro and Querencia, which operate in the Los Cabos region.
They also include RCI International, which has exchange vacation locations throughout Mexico, and Stewart Title Latin America, which helps foreigners purchase property in the country.
Other members come from Playa del Carmen, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Ensenada.
The coalition has been endorsed by Calgarians living and working in Mexico.
They include former Olympic skier Cary Mullen, who is developing Vivo Resorts in Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
He supports the coalition’s goal of telling the world that Mexico is basically a safe country.
"We are fortunate to be far removed from the borders and removed from the spring breakers and drugs, etc.," says Mullen.
"When people are considering coming to our area, we say" ‘Come and feel it. Don’t just see it, feel it.’ When they feel it, they get how safe it is in Puerto Escondido."
But the safety message has to be spread.
"Just as there are safer and less safe areas of every city, there are safer areas of Mexico — and Mexico on a whole is statistically still safer than many U.S. cities and other neighbouring countries," says Mullen. "I feel the coalition is finally a voice sticking up for the industry."
Mike and Brenda Kelly of Calgary have owned a home in Mexico for seven years and they enjoy the quiet lifestyle the country affords them.
"In all our time in Mexico, we have never seen any crime, or worried about our safety — and that includes the many long drives from Cabo to Loreto," says Brenda, who operates her own marketing company in Calgary.
The couple purchased a home in Loreto Bay in the town of Nopolo in Baja California Sur in 2004.
With retirement still a few years away, Brenda says she and Mike have one regret — "we’re too young to retire and don’t get down there often enough."
Fernando Aramburu, a native of Mexico City who now specializes in finding Puerto Vallarta real estate for Calgarians through Royal LePage Foothills, says there are regions in the country that should be avoided — cities that border onto the U.S., and anywhere in Chihuahua state in northwest Mexico.
"Canadians can be confident and comfortable in Puerto Vallarta," he says. "There hasn’t been much crime there."
The Mexican real estate industry has found it difficult for the past while, says Beverly Hunt of Laguna Real Estate, which is in the town of Ajijic south of Guadalajara.
"Of course, the negative media has hurt us," she says. "First, it’s the drugs and second, it’s the violence the drugs bring. However, people still come to visit, love Mexico and don’t want to leave, just like my husband and I did."
Realtors Tom and Diane Barroll are former Calgary residents who have been living and working in San Carlos, Mexico for more than a decade. They are quick to come to the defence of the country. "We feel that the media has been painting a rather inaccurate picture of Mexico," says Tom, who along with Diane are co-owners of Re/Max First Choice Realty.
Yes, there are murders and crimes in the country, he says. But he has statistics showing Canada and the U.S. are actually worse in things like car theft, assault and robbery.
"Even though Mexico receives millions of tourist visitors each year, the media portrays the country as rife with bandits and drug dealers, with machine guns on every corner," he says. "The implication is that in order to cross the border, one must wear a Kevlar vest and travel in an armoured car. This is not so."
Juan Diaz Rivera, marketing director for the Capella Pedregal resort near Cabo San Lucas, says the overriding goal of the coalition is clear and simple: To promote the many benefits Mexico offers to people looking for a retirement destination or to own a second home.
"The over-arching goal of (the coalition) is to educate and excite people about the benefits of living, retiring and investing in Mexico," he says. "But Mexico has certainly suffered some challenges over the past year and we plan to address these head on and put Mexico back in the spotlight."
Benjamin Beja, a vice-president with the coalition and a developer in Puerto Vallarta, urges people living in that area to use the coalition website to spread the good news. "Looking at the hard numbers, Mexico, in general, is safer than the U.S. or Canada," he says. For the most part, areas where Canadians and Americans migrate to in Mexico are safe, says Mullen.
"The greatest testimonial to that fact are the thousands of residents who still live there and know it and feel it," he says. "In fact, the foreign residents are some of (the coalition’s) biggest supporters. They want to see someone push back again the reports that insist all of Mexico is dangerous."
Mike and Brenda Kelly
Background: Mike is vice-president of customer operations for Spectra Energy. Brenda is president of Kelly Project Management Ltd. The Kellys bought a home in Loreto Bay in Baja California Sur Mexico in 2004 and took possession the following year. Brenda says they bought there because it is "the most relaxing place we have ever visited."
They were so taken with the area that they made their purchase. "We have never regretted the decision." says Brenda. "We purchased for retirement, which is still a little ways off. But we still manage to get down there about four weeks a year." In terms of personal safety, she says she and her husband have never seen any crime or worried about their safety.
More than 30 companies have joined together to form a coalition to promote real estate investment and residing in Mexico.
The goal of the Mexico Real Estate Coalition is to promote the benefits offered to people who thinking of buying a vacation or retirement home in that country, but who may be concerned about recent negative news from some of its regions.
The coalition has launched a website at LiveMexico.org. It aims to educate visitors through things like testimonials about the benefits of living in Mexico.
The website also provides information on Mexican real estate, and reviews facts and figures on issues affecting the country.