Is It Safe to Live in Mexico?

I receive at least one or two emails a day asking me about crime and/or safety in Mexico. The interesting thing is that the emails rarely ask about a particular city or town; rather, they are asking if the nation as a whole is safe.

That question always makes me shake my head a bit because if we turned the tables and I asked them if it was safe to live in the United States, the likely response would be something similar to, “Depends on which part you’re talking about.”

Well, the same thing goes for Mexico.

Cartel Violence

When most people are asking me about safety, they are generally referring to the cartel violence that makes international headlines. The majority of these incidents occur in small number of Mexican states.

If you want to quickly identify dangerous areas of Mexico, I recommend referring to the U.S. Department of State’s website. It contains up-to-date travel advisories.

Where We Live

It’s important to note that Mexico is a very large country. In fact, it’s ranked #14 in size out of 196 countries in the world.

We live in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which is more than 1,000 miles away from the majority of the hotbeds for cartel violence.  To put it in perspective, that would be similar to the distance between Orlando and New York City.

Ed. note: Equally, Puerto Vallarta is a 1,000 kms or more from the most active cartel areas.

Population

When you see a headline, or more often than not a Facebook post, about a homicide or incident in a particular area of Mexico, take a moment to look up the population for that particular area before deciding to panic and cancel your trip as a result.

Here is an example, one reader wrote me and said that she was going to cancel her trip to Cancun because she read that two known gang members were found dead. Of course, the headline sensationalized the incident by using the buzz word cartel.

Cancun has an estimated population of around 722,000 people. To put it in perspective, that is a higher population than the following U.S. cities: Detroit (672,795), Washington DC (681,170), Seattle (704,352) and Memphis (652,717).

So, you have to ask yourself: Would the murder of gang members in those cities make international news or cause tourists to cancel their vacations there? My guess is, probably not.

Beware of Media Bias

Lately, the media has been focused heavily on the Mexican state of Quintana Roo which includes the tourist areas of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos and Tulum. The state is fairy large and it takes a little over five hours to drive from the northern tip (Chiquila) to the capital in the south (Chetumal),

News outlets across the U.S. have been reporting that there is an increase in violence between criminal organizations. They also reported that 131 people have been killed in Quintana Roo this year. Of course, not all of these deaths were related to organized crime. Some were the result of arguments between people or domestic disputes. Nevertheless, the statistic sounds scary to some people back home.

Maybe some tourists would feel more comfortable visiting Central Florida, the home of multiple tourist attractions and theme parks. Oh by the way, the Central Florida area has had 123 homicides this year — most died as a result of gunfire. Funny how that statistic didn’t make international news.

Prior to becoming a blogger, I was a deputy sheriff for 25 years in a busy jurisdiction in Florida and retired at the rank of lieutenant. After a career spent facing dangerous situations and people, I wanted to find a safe place for my wife and I to retire. I definitely found it here in Mexico.

The recent increase in violence between criminal organizations hasn’t changed that. This area is still safer than many parts of the United States. In fact, I feel much safer here than I did living in Florida. That’s saying a lot considering that I used to carry a concealed firearm with me everywhere and no longer do.