RESPONSES FROM READERS OF KAT'S KORNER

REGARDING YOUR SAFETY IN AND DRIVING TO SAN FELIPE - JANUARY 8, 2009

 

Received today 3/13/09

Marcia Bandera:

The choice to not bring Spring Breakers to some parts of Mexico is ill conceived!!! I have lived 14 km south of San Felipe for three years full time. No problems, no violence and a great place for Spring relaxation!!My sister and I just finished a 2100 mile trip down Baja as far as Todo Santos - no problems, no hassles, great people,no danger!!! There are so many parts of the U.S. we would not go - certain parts of Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Salt Lake, Chicago, New York, Florida - the list goes on!!!!!!! Why pick only on Mexico?? The U.S. has a huge problem with drugs, rape, murder, etc.!!!!! Many parts of Mexico are perfectly safe!!!!!!! If a person uses common sense and smarts, you can travel anywhere, including MEXICO!!!!! The U.S. new reporters and others have painted Mexico with a broad brush of negativism which is unwarranted and misleading!!!!!!!!!!!

Received today 3/11/09

Gary Burnham:

To our San Felipe friends. As you know the pull back of all the spring break buses is devasting to our little town. I encourgage each of you to eat out and buy in town as much as possible and within your budget constraints for these next two month when most of us are here. As many of you may have, I have received inquiries from family and friends who were planning to come down to visit and are now very apprehensive. I am forwarding a letter that I wrote to them and thought I would share it with you. Possibly if we each sent out something similar to our friends and relatives then we could do a little to lessen the blow of the media frenzy about safety in Mexico. Just sharing your own truthful experiences and reflections can go a long way to balance the news.
Que le vaya bien,

DEAR FAMILY AND FRIENDS


As you know for a number of years San Felipe has been the destination of choice for busloads of college spring breakers and San Felipe greatly relied on their revenues. The reason San Felipe was so popular was closeness for travel and the total safety in our little fishing hamlet. Well nothing has changed here. No violence, no unusal activities or unsavory characters. Just sand, sun, shrimp and margaritas. The inspection station is closely checking everyone coming in and out of the area which is a good thing. For everyones' safety extra tourist police are in town on holidays and race weekends. In the recent weeks, I have had reason to cross the boarder in Mexicali/Calexico, San Luis/ Algondonas, and even the news crazy Cuidad Jaurez Crossing and every passing was absolutely routine, non eventful and placid. Slow but completely safe.

I am including the news statement that the spring break organization put out to the parents about why they are canceling San Felipe this year. It had nothing to do the the real safety here but had everything to do with parents being concerned about news reports of trouble in Tiajuana and Cuidad Juarez. We are hundreds of miles away from Cuidad Juarez and 200 miles from Tiajuana.

I hope this puts a more balanced perpsective on the news frenzy and how it is adversely affecting the town of San Felipe. Many of our family businesses will be devastated and will probably need to close their businesses. Spring break makes or breaks the year's business here. It is very sad for us that the news has given such a biased report about what is really happening. Just like all areas of the United States are not the same, so every part of Mexico is not the same. I am sorry to hear about the massacre in Alabama, but I don't think that should keep people from traveling to Alabama for spring break either. So to family and friends, do not worry, come down and have a fun spring break. And know that we are perfectly safe and having the time of our lives. Gary and JeanSWAT company, news release about spring Break Change of Venue"

"We have all been bombarded the last few weeks with a barrage of negative media reports about the travel alerts in Mexico. We have received an unprecedented amount of calls and emails from students who are concerned about, or not being allowed to, travel to Mexico. SWAT has ALWAYS been about the safety and well-being of our customers and friends, and San Felipe is one of the safest destinations in all of Baja California and Mexico. However, because so many of our existing customers and their families are concerned by the recent Mexico travel alerts issued by various agencies, SWAT has made the decision to provide our customers with peace of mind for their SWAT Spring Break 2009 experience".

Received today 3/9/09:

GARY & CINDY GILBERT

Mr. O'Reilly:

Just wanted to let you know that our entire family and travels to San Felipe, Mexico MANY times throughout the year and we have NEVER witnessed or felt threatened or unsafe in our surroundings. We believe the news reports about Mexico are over exaggerated!

San Felipe is a wonderful town with some of the most friendly, gracious, and caring people we have ever met. As a matter of fact, SF has a extremely low crime rate and it is much more safer than the city we currently live in in Northern California. We love San Felipe and look forward to retiring there when our youngest child graduates from high school.

Received the other day:

From Sandra: who doesn't live here full time;

Hey Kat,

I just read an email you received that was posted in your column and was very concerned about your reader's information. Your reader claims that there have been 205 murders in Mexico in just this year alone. Well, in just the city of Los Angeles there have been 56 homicides from January to present. If you were to add in the whole United States as your reader has, I am sure that there are well worth over 205 murders from January 2009 to present. If you only consider Los Angeles (56), New York (68), Miami (16), Chicago (39), and Detroit and New Orleans (which will not post their statistics, but are sure to be at least 56 which is what Los Angeles has), the homicides for them alone is 291 which is 1/3 more than all of Mexico. I also agree that the media and the information they are receiving, are all part of a plan to scare people into not going to Mexico. They have been trying to deter people from going by: making the lines to cross longer, requiring you to use a passport, putting up alerts in their websites, and giving false information to the media about the so called "killings." I agree that there is violence, just as there is in certain parts of Los Angeles; however, I have been traveling to two times per month to San Felipe and two times per month to Rosarito for the past 10 years and have never had any problems. I have a house in San Felipe and Rosarito and have never experienced anything; however, I no longer take the toll road to Rosarito through Tijuana, but rather through Otay and then the new Corredor 2000 which is straight into Popotla. We have never had any problems. I have seen in just the last six months, how much the media has influenced the tourists and how much the economy for San Felipe and Rosarito has declined. This is a very sad situation for all of Mexico's people and us American's who love to be in there. I will continue going and telling people that it is not as bad as the media lets it out to be and I will always tell them that if I had a choice, I would definately choose Mexico over the United States and can hardly wait to retire to be there permanentely.

A fan of Mexico

http://www.lapdonline.org/assets/pdf/cityprof.pdf
http://chicago.everyblock.com/crime/by-primary-type/homicide/?page=2

Gordie and Faith Middleton


We have been coming to San Felipe since the mid 1980's and have been here twice, for thirty day stays, since last October. We have never had concern for our safety nor do we now. Folks simply need to take ordinary precautions, as they would in any U.S. hometown, and show respect for the people to whom this country belongs.
In addition to the news of 'drug violence', our local news carried numerous reports about the elderly man (from our area in Washington State) who was erroneously imprisoned in Mexico recently. This was a horribly unfortunate event, but could have happened to anyone anywhere in the States as well. It is our understanding that the drug situation in Mexico is isolated to a few towns and neighborhoods, just as it is in the States. We have a friend, who has lived in San Felipe over 40 years and owns several local businesses, who has always told us this is one of the safest towns in Mexico.
It is too bad that a small, quiet town like San Felipe is going to suffer such a setback by loosing the Spring Break crowd. Any college student would be as safe here as in Palm Springs; we just came through there on our way here last month. The reality is that there are far too many college students who are not yet mature enough to be Spring Breaking anywhere other than back home with Mom and Dad, and who will create their own unsafe situations regardless of where they go.
One might suspect that the news of gang violence came at a convenient time since the U.S. has already been trying to encourage people to stay in the country and spend their tourism dollars at home. This may be a good thing for some people to do in our declining economy, 'stay-cations', but it should not be as a result of scare tactics and at the expense of our good friends south of the border. Generally people who are able to travel outside the country are also spending a fair number of discretionary dollars at home.
We are not afraid to be here and plan to keep coming. We are more at risk of getting buried alive by flying plastic bags than of getting shot.

From Judy Carolll:

Safe Travel to and from San Felipe

Hi Kat,
As you know I've been living in San Felipe for many years and for the past 9 years I've lived alone here.

I have been traveling to and from the U.S. for almost 30 years. For the past 15 years I've traveled alone most of the time. If not alone, I have had lady friends who have traveled with me.

For the past 2 years I have had to travel to and from for medical reasons. I have to go to a clinic in San Diego once a month and I make the trip alone most of the time. Once in awhile I take a Mexican National lady up with to me visit her son who lives in El Centro.

The last trip up to the states, I was driving down Adams street in El Centro and I was making a right had turn into a lube and tune place, I must have been going too slow to suit the fellow behind me because he leaned on his horn and made very threatining gestures and cussed at me in a way that has never happened to me. I had a friend with me and she was truly frightened, (she lives in El Centro) I was just plain angry. I told her that in over 30 years of living in San Felipe, I've never had such an incident. On the contrary, anytime I've needed help on the roadways or the city streets there has ALWAYS been a Mexican National willing to help an old lady out. I can't count the times I've had car trouble on the highway such as flat tires, and have never had to wait for long before a National comes along and offers help. I live alone and have never been afraid to live here. I simply can not imagine living in the U.S. I love the United States of America and I worry about the states of affairs there now but I would not be able to live here and feel safe. I think that the United States is in for some really hard times and I truly believe that because of the hard times petty crime will sky rocket. While it seems that hard times here in Mexico brings a certain comradary that softens the blow. While I have absolutely no desire to be filmed on your U-tube events (which are wonderful) I would like to contribute with my story and comment.

Sincerely,
Judy Carroll

 

And this from Adam Jester:

Hello Kat,
I just read your "Kat's Corner" regarding Mexico Bashing:
" It's a known fact that millions of dollars a year are spent in Mexico and they want that money to be spent in the United States and it's not above them to use scare tactics or scare tantrums. There are a lot of scared people in the world because it's a world wide recession. I'm sick and tired of reading old news about Mexico or the Baja with every crime ever committed rehashed. And I'm not the only one whose angry about this Mexico bashing. Even family members of people who live here are wondering what's up, because of what they read and if it weren't so blatant." I live in San Diego and have been traveling to and from Baja and Mainland Mexico for more than 30 years. I can understand your point that San Felipe is still a safe place to live and visit and that it is being negatively affected by the escalating crime in Mexico, but to suggest that the American Media is in cahoots with the Government to scare Americans out of spending their money in Mexico is just ridiculous. People are afraid of the facts. They are afraid of a murder rate that has doubled in the last year and is still rising. Take this for example:> More than 1,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence this year. In 2008, the toll doubled from the previous year to 6,290. Both the U.S. and Canada have warned that murders related to drug activity in certain parts of Mexico, particularly along the border with the U.S., have raised the level of risk in visiting the country.
And this:
> Security in Latin America, published by Southern Pulse, provided some very interesting, as well as troubling, security related news about Mexico in their 02/2009 edition:
>
> * Over 5,500 people died in Mexico in 2008 from violence which is more than the total number of US military deaths in Iraq since the US invasion. Since the beginning of 2009, there have been 205 murders which is nearly twice the number than this time last year.
>
Or this:
> What a way to begin March: a month that could possibly be the bloodiest we've seen on record for Juarez.
>
> This border city has registered the highest number of so-called "narco-executions" in the country, with 2,750 in the past 14 months.
>
> Nearly 8,000 soldiers will be used to not only secure one city, but completely remove all presence of any drug trafficking organization from Juarez, said president Calderon.I know Ciudad Juarez is a world away from San Felipe, but Tijuana is right in your/ our front yard.> For 2008, the city [Tijuana] has confirmed 843 murders (56.8 murders per 100,000 people, and more than twice as much as 2007)Over 100 percent increase from last year while the homicide rate in the US has dropped 4.4 percent. Those of us in San Diego who would take a day trip to Ensedada or take the "Scenic Route" to San Felipe now seriously rethink our options. You may be right that the trip down (or up) from Mexicali is still safe, but for how long? I do realize that there are hundreds of places though out Baja (including San Felipe) that are still safe, possibly safer than my home town, but it's the border regions we have to get through to even experience those places. What I am saying is that there are facts, not just media hype. People are now weighing their risks before deciding to go to Mexico. For some, the risks are too high. I feel for all the people in San Felipe and Mexico as a whole who rely on tourism to support their families. I hope that the Mexican Government can eventually bring down some of these drug cartels, but until they do, many Americans will still feel that driving through Baja is too much of a risk. Can you really blame them?
Sincerely,
Adam Jester


Sources:
Top US military officer: Mexico violence a crisis, Associated Press - March 7, 2009 7:13 AM ET
Security in Latin America, published by Southern Pulse,
FBI: Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report 1/12/09
Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report
" Tijuana's bloodiest year". San Diego Union-Tribune. 2009-01-04.