Good Question: Is Mexico Safe?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Last year 200,000 Minnesotans left this frigid, snowy land for the sun and the beaches of Mexico. But with a U.S. State Department travel warning still in effect, is Mexico safe?

“My boyfriend’s mom had some concerns, a lot of my friends’ parents were worried,” said Amanda Benarroch, a University of Minnesota student preparing to go to Cancun for Spring Break.

She said safety is something she checked out “after others seemed hesitant. I see we have a travel warning.”

Parents of students right now are asking questions, like Meg Brownson, who noted that “My son is going [to Mexico] for Spring Break … I’m very nervous about it.”

It’s understandable that there’s concern with recent headlines about beheadings in Acapulco and U.S. immigration agents being shot near Monterrey.

“You hear so much about crime going on but you don’t see it in the resort towns,” said Dave Ostlund, who talked with us while on vacation near Puerto Vallarta, overlooking Banderas Bay.

“We don’t see any crime here,” said Ostlund.

In September 2010, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Mexico and a spokesperson said that warning remains in effect.

But the warning focuses specifically on cities near the U.S.-Mexico border where the drug trade and organized crime has resulted in severe violence.

“I’d say it’s perfectly safe to travel to Mexico on a vacation,” according to Rodrigo Esponda, Midwest Director of Mexico’s Tourism Board.

Esponda said that there are concerns over crime in Mexico but he argued that they’ve been blown out of proportion.

“Cities like New Orleans have a much higher homicide rate than most of the states in Mexico,” said Esponda.

But he acknowledged that the border towns are potentially dangerous.

“Juarez has been a particular point of concern,” he said, while noting that Juarez is about 2000 miles away from Cancun.

Indeed, the travel advisory specifically singles out border towns, pointing out that millions of Americans safely travel to resort towns every year.

“Tourists are not a particular target,” said Esponda.

That doesn’t mean that tourists aren’t victims of crime in Mexico. Jim Guentzel and his wife Karen are headed back to New Prague from their vacation in Mazatlan.

According to Guentzel’s daughter, Lindsay, Jim Guentzel was robbed at gunpoint last week.

“He was going to the marina during the day to help out a local friend and as he was walking down to the docks, three boys on bicycles road up to my dad,” she explained.

“One of them pulled out a gun and demanded his wallet. My dad gave them his wallet, they took out the cash, threw the wallet down and road off,” she said.

“We completely regret that kind of activity,” said Esponda, in response.

But according to the U.S. State Department, crime in tourist areas is no worse than crime in many major American cities.

“You would be safer in an all-inclusive resort than anywhere else in a city,” said Esponda.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • eo

    whomever wrote this article should use spell check – “road off”?/??

    • Tom Willard

      And you should check your punctuation. – ?/??

  • foolish to go

    Here is the correct US State Dept. ‘travel warning’ link for spring break in Mexico:

    U.S. citizens should be aware that many cases of violent crime are never resolved by Mexican law enforcement, and the U.S. government has no authority to investigate crimes committed in Mexico.

  • itseverywhere

    Stay here and hang at IHOP near the MOA. Much safer.

    • KEASHA


    • YesITis

      Yes…3 people shot at a local IHOP is just as bad as the 30,000 brutally killed, tourtured or beheaded and displayed in Mexico last year. Yep, great comparison by an obviously very intelligent, rationale human being. Your powers or reason and deduction are only rivaled by Hannible Lecter. You are, in a lot of ways, a modern super hero with your amazing analytical capabilities…wow…i bow down!!

      • NurseRACHETT

        YesITis: Take your medications, finish your vegetable suprise, and we will transport you to recreation soon.

      • uly

        Talking about rational comparisons; if you were to compare the +30,000 violent deaths in Mexico it would be against the +46,000 violent deaths in the US in the same period (this is a round estimate over a 3 years period).
        Relax, it was only a joke!

  • Bobby Hidalgo

    I will not go to Mexico until the gang Drug wars cease. I am told by my Mexican friends over there that it is very dangerous…

  • Skeezer

    Viva mexico !! I’ve been to Mexico 19 times and have no intentions of stopping due to an advisory. If you look for bad, you find bad. You can have the same problems here. Act dumb, look dumb, and you will become prey in ANY city in the world.

    • LOLSkeez

      Skeezer…you are obviously extremely savy and a seasoned traveler. You’ve been to Mexico 19 times!!! WOW…that is impressive. In fact that is AWESOME. Did you hear that everyone…this guys been to Mexico 19 times!!!! Well, if Mexico is safe enough for Skeezer here….it is sure safe enough for the rest of us. Way to go Skeezer. Your super awesome 19 trips to Mexico were not only awesome, they served as your ancedotal evidence to offer your opinion about whether or not Mexico is safe. God you are brilliant, smart and i admire you and all you have done. I only hope one day i can make it to Mexico…and i dare i dream of making it there 19 times!!!! I love your advice

      • uly

        LOLSkeez, yeah, I’d follow your advice instead, based on internet readings, gossip and a friend’s friend type of stories

  • I. R. Dumb

    I road my bike down the rode. Spell check isn’t enough to make up for a sub-par education.

    • Rick

      I can only assume you have never made a spelling error in your life.

  • NOPE

    I grew up on the boarder,traveled the resort towns, no way would I go back, the place has gone down its now a hole

    • Common cents

      Border – not boarder. Common mistake. Your (ha) not alone.

  • Your Morning Coffee — Secrets of the City — Minneapolis + St. Paul

    […] Good Question: is Mexico safe for kids on Spring Break? […]

  • Mike Hunt

    Yea!!!! So let them bring it here. No? You say they’re just looking for a better life?

  • Been There

    It is absolutely wreckless to say it is safe to go to Mexico. I have friends there that say otherwise. Indeed, the majority of violence is along the US – Mexico Border. However, it has spread to the resort towns as well. Should one decide to go to Mexico it is advised to be very aware of your surroundings and not travel too far from your resort.

    • kelsey grammar

      No car wreck here. Reckless.

  • Common Sense

    Why would anyone who has even a small sense of self preservation, and common sense, want to go to that area of the world? Two groups of friends of mine went to resorts, and both had very dangerous experiences. Hard to believe, considering they were in very prestigious resorts. Trouble preys on people visiting those places….have nots vs. have more than they do. Wait a few more months, and enjoy the midwest area where you hopefully won’t be killed, raped, or robbed. Any parent who lets their college kids go to that country, should really consider the worst that could happen, because maybe it will. Kids are so much more prone to get into trouble without even trying.

  • Amy

    Good thing WCCO asked the director of Mexico’s tourism board if Mexico is safe for tourists. Not like he has anything riding on people thinking Mexico is perfectly safe for travelers!

  • also been there

    Been There is correct in saying that it has spread to resort towns. Just last week there was a shooting outside the lobby of a hotel in Mazatlan that IS used by Delta Vacations. People had their throats slit at the Barcelo Maya (by the security guard), people were shot at the Riu in Cabo. It IS happening, it is just that the truth is not getting out. I have also been to Mexico many times but today it is in the middle of a civil war like Columbia in the 80’s. Yes, you can go and nothing may happen.
    But this is the new Mexico and the climate IS dangerous. Wake up people.

  • ila

    I am Mexican born and raised, I am just temporarily in the USA, and going back soon to my lovely hometown. I know my country is more dangerous nowadays than in the past, just like many other places; and too many American people might see it even worst than what it is, because of the way American News give out the information about what is really going on in Mexico, Egypt, Afghanistan etc. Ignorance is for sure the main reason for prejudices and stereotypes.
    However I believe each person has their own experiences, is good to listen to other people and take their advices, but don’t let it get to you to the point where you give up the things you want to do. My only advice is to be aware and let yourself being the judge of your experiences.

  • Paulette Warren

    Mexico, like the rest of the world, suffers from a hyperactive media seeking sensational headlines 24/7. Yes there is serious crime and it is possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time..just as is true of most parts of the world. If you’re not looking for trouble (drugs) or seeking exotic thrills (drunken orgies) you’re unlikely to find it. What you will find is amiable locals, great food,music, art, poetry, culture, sunshine, beaches. I’ve been in the states of Guererro and Michoacan since Feb 3 and enjoying every second of it.

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