If you look up "myopia" in TheFreeDictionary.com you will find it defined as "...a visual defect in which distant objects appear blurred because their images are focused in front of the retina rather than on it; nearsightedness." What you won't find there, but probably should, are pictures of almost every major U.S. cable and broadcast news network.
Most of us have long since figured out that the 24-hour news cycle demands a relentless stream of drama-dripping, nerve-jangling "Breaking News" alerts every half-hour. God forbid eyeballs should be allowed to wander. That reality is unfortunate on a number of levels but nowhere more so than here, where an entire noble nation is callously maligned.
Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that the media "has it in for Mexico." Not at all. This is not another rant against media bias. What I do maintain, however, is that in their insatiable thirst for the salacious, Mexico and its 112 million proud people are in the minds of the media – assuming they bother to think about such things at all – unfortunate collateral damage.
Just like the definition above, the media's image of Mexico is blurred precisely because their focus is on one relatively small, admittedly ugly reality and thus falls woefully short of the retina of responsible reportage.
As an unrepentant lover of Mexico, I confess it is hard not to take this personally. What if day after day you had to read gross exaggerations, half-truths and outright, and often outrageous, lies about someone you cherished?
You don't need to respond to my rhetorical question because we both know that it would make your blood boil. So imagine how I feel, laboring away in the vineyards of travel and being subjected to a flood of negative news reports about Mexico, a country of incredible beauty, rich history and some of the finest people God ever planted on this planet.
The Three Metrics That Matter
Let's turn our attention to three practical metrics you can use for measuring the safety of Mexico.
Metric One: Geography
Allow me to share a couple of realities that seldom get mentioned by the media. The first is the fact that the vast majority of the security problems in Mexico are restricted to towns along the border and a few other scattered sites. It is worth noting that Mexico has over 2500 municipalities and security problems have been concentrated in just 18 of them. You probably won't run across this embarrassing little jewel either, embarrassing to the US that is. It almost makes you question the wisdom of staying at home!
Click image to enlarge
The second fact rarely discussed is the immense size of Mexico (roughly the size of Western Europe) and the distances between historical hot spots and resort cities. Take a look at the map. You may be surprised to discover that it is roughly 1000 miles from Juarez to Cancun and almost 800 miles from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas. The white line is meant to suggest how head-scratchingly strange we here in the US would find it if a potential visitor from a foreign country shared with us that he was apprehensive about visiting San Diego because he had heard of a recent ugly incident in New Orleans.
Metric Two: Statistics
Here are a few interesting facts you probably have not heard in the media:
• The Mexican Ministry of Tourism revealed that 2011 was a record-breaking year for tourism with. 23.4 million international travelers visiting Mexico in 2011.
• The Mexican Ministry of Tourism announced that 4.99 million international tourists visited Mexico between January-April 2012, representing an increase of 5.3 percent compared to the same period in 2011.
• Mexico is currently rated 10th in the world rankings for most international visitors and has publicly set a goal to be in the top 5 by 2018.
• There are currently no US travel advisories in place for popular tourist destinations like Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum, the Riviera Nayarit, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende, Leon or even Mexico City.
Metric Three: Experience
If you were to ask me the number one reason I believe Mexico is safe I would say it is based on my own personal experience. I have been traveling there for over 25 years, multiple times many years, without ever once being threatened or harassed. My story is but one of millions as the statistics above corroborate.
If you would like to hear some real stories from real people talking about the real Mexico, just visit the Mexico Taxi Project. These are unscripted comments from consumers just like you on their way home from the airport upon returning to the US. OK, there may be a couple of folks in those clips still feeling the negative effects of over-indulgence but hey, hangovers don't reach the threat threshold set for this blog post.
I hope I have demonstrated that striking Mexico off your list of vacation destinations based solely on money driven media reports is, dare I say it, illogical, irrational and well... myopic. The real shame is that you are depriving yourself of one of the most value centered travel experiences available anywhere in the world. Mexico has world-class hotels, incredible dining, exciting activities and rich traditions all tendered to the world by humble masters of unparalleled service.
Unfortunately, this humble blogger doesn't have a prayer by himself of making the least dint in the news coverage of Mexico. Unbowed and undeterred, however, I shall keep on lending my own voice to many others crying in the wilderness. I shall attend Mexico, I shall defend Mexico, I shall recommend Mexico!
My only hope is that your decision, fellow traveler, when it is made, will be based on a basic grasp of geography, a familiarity with a few simple statistics and a confident reliance on the consistent testimony of a legion of travelers to Mexico with irrefutable firsthand knowledge. Whatever you eventually decide, I will fully respect your decision. But please, and again I say please, don't let a myopic media's thirst for mayhem rob you of experiencing one of the world's great treasures. Take if from one who knows, you will be the poorer for it.Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel of Fort Worth, Texas.