Why do Canadians still vacation in Mexico?

A staggering 35,000 people have been murdered in Mexico since December 2006

Beaches. Buffets. Bullets.

Mexican police keep a close watch on one of the beaches in Acapulco Pedro Pardo

The Plaza Sendero shopping mall on the outskirts of Acapulco has a fabric store, a shoe shop, and a movie complex, screening Tron: Legacy, The Tourist, and Gulliver’s Travels. A red-eyed dog lies asleep in the shade of the mall entrance, and nearby a man sits on his haunches, awake but equally motionless. The parking lot is scattered with bright orange shopping carts. Across the adjacent highway, shanties cling to an eroding hill, where the scorching sun has singed off almost all greenery. Smoke drifts upward from a cooking fire or burning rubbish.

A pedestrian bridge spans the highway. On it someone has pasted a flyer for a local church that promises salvation for those who suffer from vice, broken families, curses, or sicknesses with no known cause. Fifteen bodies were dumped here in January, most with their heads cut off and bodies mutilated. Six more were found stuffed into a nearby taxi. Their hands and feet had been bound. Two police were shot and killed the same day.

Handwritten posters at the crime scene link the murders to one of the drug cartels in the midst of a war for territory and export routes in Mexico. The victims almost certainly belonged to rival gangs. They are among more than 1,000 murdered over the past year in Acapulco, a popular vacation spot for Canadians.

The violence in Mexico began to soar four years ago, when President Felipe Calderón intensified a crackdown on drug cartels. The cartels fought back, but also turned against each other, where previously a sort of fragile truce had persisted in the interest of mutual profit. The growth of domestic narcotics consumption drives the escalating competition. “The size of the pie has increased,” says Jorge Chabat, a specialist in Mexico’s drug cartels at CIDE, a Mexico City think tank. “There are more reasons to fight.” A staggering 35,000 people have been murdered since Calderón took office in December 2006.

Terror and cruelty have exploded along with the death toll. Decapitations are now commonplace. A policeman or soldier involved in taking down a drug lord, if identified, risks losing his family. Dying first won’t save them. Mexican marine Melquisedet Angulo died during a 2009 raid against a cartel. He was celebrated as a hero. Hours after his funeral, gunmen burst into his home and murdered his mother, aunt, brother and sister.

Now, members of elite anti-drug units wear masks and die anonymously. Even street-level police patrol without ID. “The most dangerous thing is not knowing who might attack us, who we should worry about,” says one local officer, standing on an Acapulco sidewalk with a submachine gun. “If the criminals wore uniforms like us it would be too easy.” He declined to give his name. “I’m afraid of reprisals.” It’s more difficult for senior officers to hide. Gunmen in Acapulco attacked the home of a local commander last month. He, along with his son, survived. Politicians are likewise threatened. At least 14 Mexican mayors were murdered last year.

Many in authority are also corrupt. Faced with choosing between promised death and an offer of cash, some politicians, bureaucrats and security officials choose the latter. Calderón’s government has purged thousands of compromised police and law enforcement officials, including from top levels of the country’s security apparatus. But no one believes the problem has been eradicated.

Beaches. Buffets. Bullets.

Photograph by Rodrigo Cruz

“The strength they have is not their military power, it is money and their ability to corrupt,” says Chabat of the cartels. “They can corrupt low-level policemen, middle policemen, sometimes top policemen. And that’s all they need. All they need is one local chief of police. You don’t need to corrupt the president to survive.”

Partly in response to worries about police corruption, and partly because municipal, state and federal police are outgunned, Calderón has enlisted the country’s armed forces to confront the cartels. Truckloads of marines roar through Acapulco streets. Some armoured vehicles have heavy machine guns mounted on their roofs. Calderón describes his government’s conflict with the cartels as a war. It’s one he can’t claim to be clearly winning. There are areas, particularly near the U.S. border, where cartels openly rival state security forces for control.

“When the government fails to provide security, there is a sense in the public that it is failing in one of its core missions,” says David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. “When it cannot send off a violent threat, that is of grave concern for the population, and it does raise serious concerns about the long-term well-being of the state.”

According to Samuel González, who from 2006 to 2008 ran the anti-organized-crime division of Mexico’s attorney general’s office, Mexico’s violent drug cartels are a sign of deeper problems. “It’s not the sickness, it’s the symptom,” he says. “The real sickness of Mexico is called a weak state.”

Unlike previous administrations, Calderón’s is not pretending the problem doesn’t exist, leaving the cartels alone in exchange for kickbacks, or at least stability. But that doesn’t mean the Mexican state has the means to best the cartels. “You don’t have the institutions, you don’t have the people, you don’t have the power,” says Chabat. “The police are inefficient to catch these guys. The judiciary is inefficient to process them and put them in jail for a long time, and the prisons are inefficient to keep them in jail. As long as these problems last you will have this kind of violence, because the criminals just don’t have fear of the state.”

Back at the Plaza Sendero shopping mall, near where the headless bodies were dumped, there is a small snack bar where two women fry quesadillas on a hot plate, for customers who consume them standing up or on one of two rickety plastic chairs placed in the dust, a few feet from the highway. “They’re mostly young men,” one of the women says. Her grey hair is pulled into a bun. She wears a thin apron and a long beaded crucifix. “It’s sad. Some of them don’t have jobs. They want money to buy drugs and don’t have any,” she says. “I have grandchildren,” she adds. “Thanks to God, they’re fine.”

The other woman, who owns the makeshift kitchen, says she doesn’t worry about her safety. “The bodies were of other drug traffickers. They don’t target us, those of us who do regular work.” But then she says she doesn’t go out at night—you never know when you could get shot. And like virtually everyone else in Acapulco interviewed for this article, she doesn’t want to be named.

José Luis Ávila, mayor of Acapulco, wants Canadians to understand that his city isn’t dangerous. Tourists, he tells Maclean’s, are Acapulco’s most important treasure, and he wants to keep them safe. Come, even for a day, he says, and you will always remember it forever like a dream. “While we recognize that there are outbursts of violence, the city has not been affected in its day-to-day life. The schools, the restaurants, banks, tourist areas, have not been changed. Cultural events have not been cancelled,” he says. “Normally the people who become victims, they don’t belong to the city and its daily lifestyle.”

It’s an argument made by many who wish to promote Acapulco and Mexico. They acknowledge the violence—and Ávila stresses that any death is a tragedy—but it is as if those slaughtered live in a parallel world of gangsters and drug dealers. They don’t belong to the city. But of course they do.

Maclean’s visited the local morgue, where all victims of violent deaths are brought. There, Dr. Keynes García Leguizamo has the job of determining the cause of death, and of stitching bodies back together. It’s a gruesome job, but García brings a detached and clinical mind to his work. He uses scissors and paper to demonstrate how dismembered bodies can be reassembled like a jigsaw puzzle, so no pieces are unaccounted for or sewn on to the wrong body. He knows friends and relatives of the dead may eventually see his work. “We classify them. Some are shot, some decapitated, some beaten, some hanged, some burned. These days most are shot. And they are mostly young men,” he says.

Beaches. Buffets. Bullets.

Toru Hanai/Reuters

The door to the morgue is covered with posters of missing men. García has been able to match bodies with the images on the door. Other times family members hear on the news that bodies have been found and show up to identify them. “It’s better to know, than to have a kidnapping or a missing person in your thoughts,” he says. García says about 60 per cent of the bodies he receives are locals. The rest are murdered elsewhere and dumped in Acapulco. Of the 1,009 bodies he worked on last year, all but 120 were claimed. The dead mattered to someone.

Mayor Ávila’s contention that tourists are unlikely to be affected by the violence sweeping Mexico is accurate. Canadians visit Mexico more than one million times every year. Most are untouched. But at least 17 Canadians have died in Mexico since 2006, and more than 120 have reported being assaulted to Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs (last year saw six murders and 35 assaults). These figures are higher than those for other top winter vacation spots, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Compared to other destinations, tourist facilities in Mexico are often more closely integrated with local communities. And Canadians assaulted and murdered in Mexico include those targeted in and around such supposedly safe enclaves, with the attacks frequently bringing responses from authorities that victims and their families consider to be incompetent, or worse.

In February 2009, travel writer K. Jill Rigby was walking from a friend’s house in San Miguel de Allende, a town in central Mexico that is popular with artists and tourists—”a pretty perfect little place,” says Rigby. Late afternoon, in bright daylight, Rigby was mugged in an attack that was so violent she hobbled on crutches afterwards for weeks.

“When the police came, one of the witnesses to the crime disappeared because she was too afraid. As it turns out, everyone is too afraid,” she says. “As I was lying there in pain before the ambulance went away, they brought two guys in the back of a pickup truck, to try to identify them. I said, ‘I think it’s possible it could be this man.’ Then one of the police guys said to me, ‘The one on the right couldn’t have done it, he had a loaf of bread, and it’s still warm.’ [The investigation] became comical.”

On New Year’s Eve, Rebecca Rutland and her fiancé Richard Coleman allege Rutland was gang-raped and Coleman beaten by Mexican police in Playa del Carmen. Mexican authorities deny the allegations. They say the couple was arrested after getting drunk and attacking each other.

Andy and Crystal Foster, from Orillia, Ont., were staying in the resort city of Mazatlán last December. They left their hotel on a guided ATV tour in the countryside. A group of eight or nine young men with guns and bandanas covering their faces ambushed them. They tied up the tour guides and made Andy kneel while they placed a pistol against his neck. “I thought in three minutes I was going to die and they were going to take my wife and rape her in the bushes,” he says.

The young men took Andy’s wallet and watch, and Crystal’s digital camera, before driving off on the ATVs. The two tour guides walked to a nearby farm and called the police. Because the farmer didn’t want them to wait on his property, they had to hitchhike back to the hotel. A truck driver who picked them up didn’t want to carry them once he reached the highway. Andy says when they finally made it back and called Foreign Affairs’ 24-hour emergency line, they were told not to go to the Mexican police until they had consulted with Canada’s local consulate.

The next day the consulate advised them to see Mexico’s tourism police. The regular police, called by the tour guides at the farm where the robbery took place, never contacted the Fosters and, according to the tour guides, didn’t show up at the scene of the mugging until 4 p.m. The Fosters flew home three days later. “I’ve never been so happy to have a vacation end,” says Andy.

The Fosters are lucky to have survived. Ottawa-area businessman Daniel Dion, CEO of a Mexico-based company that produced purses made by Mexican prisoners, was murdered in October. Dion’s charred body was found in the trunk of his rental car 140 km northeast of Acapulco. A former employee has been charged with aggravated homicide.

Renée Wathelet, 60, of Montreal was stabbed to death in her flat on an island near Cancún in 2009. In 2008, Bouabal Bounthavorn of Burnaby, B.C., was shot dead by gunmen who broke into his hotel room in Cabo San Lucas and also wounded his girlfriend. Last November, five Canadian tourists and two Mexican workers died in a hotel explosion in Playa del Carmen. The attorney general for the state of Quintana Roo says a gas line had been illegally installed.

Statistics for Americans, who visit Mexico in greater numbers, are worse. More than 200 have been killed there since 2007. The numbers are climbing. Forty-eight were murdered in the first half of 2010 alone.

The Department of Foreign Affairs advises Canadians visiting Mexico to “exercise a high degree of caution due to a deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country.” It also advises against all non-essential travel to the U.S. border areas “due to continuously high levels of violence linked to drug trafficking… Shootouts, attacks and illegal roadblocks may occur at any time.”

Beaches. Buffets. Bullets.

Photograph by Rodrigo Cruz

These warnings, and the violence that provokes them, have not kept Canadian tourists away. The number of Canadians visiting Mexico increased steadily from 2005 to 2010, with 1.46 million going last year. (Indeed, December saw the highest monthly number of Canadian tourists ever: 194,128). Gary Ralph expects another increase this year. He is the director of communications and marketing at the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, which has just partnered with Mexico to promote travel to the country. Ralph said the worries are overblown, and that “every country has its bad parts. Mexico is sun and sand. I’d be concerned if I were going to Tijuana and Juárez. Would I be concerned about Acapulco, Cancún, Cozumel? Not particularly.”

In Acapulco, the local secretary of tourism, Jessica García, told Maclean’s hotel occupancy was up in 2010, compared to 2009, and she points to a similar increase in visits from cruise ships. This year may tell a different story: the Mexico City newspaper El Universal recently reported that Acapulco tourism could be down as much as 88 per cent this year. And long-time visitors to Pie de la Cuesta, a small town near Acapulco, say there are fewer visitors. When Maclean’s visits, the beach is mostly empty. Two fishermen cast nets into the surf. Local teenagers on horses ride up and down the beach looking for customers. Claude Fiset, 72, from Quebec City, relaxes at a restaurant. He comes to Mexico every year and says the upsurge in violence doesn’t worry him. “If you take care of your own business, you won’t have a problem,” he says.

Another Canadian, who spends six months a year in Acapulco, says news media have exaggerated the violence. Almost every morning, he says, he drives out of Acapulco to golf, and he’s never had a problem. His Mexican wife interrupts: “But now, not alone.”

The notion that things in Acapulco are not as bad as they appear in news reports is echoed by Acapulco’s mayor and secretary of tourism. On Jan. 20, authorities even announced that they had apprehended the cartel member believed to be behind the January killings. But on Feb. 10, three more people died, their bodies dumped in Acapulco. One was chopped into 11 pieces. On Feb. 13, another three men were found dead in a car parked in a local prison parking lot. A fourth man, shot in the face and neck, survived.

What is most remarkable about the Mexican coverage of the drug wars is how shallow so much of it is. This isn’t because Mexican reporters aren’t good at their jobs. They simply don’t want to die because of them.

“If there are corpses on the street, we write about it,” says an editor at one Acapulco daily. “But we don’t investigate what happened or give our opinions. We wait for the government to confirm it. We don’t want to risk our staff’s lives.”

The editor, who did not want to be named, has reason to be cautious. Journalist Amado Ramírez was murdered here in 2007. He had aired a report linking the murder of local police to drug traffickers. One of his co-workers said Ramírez had received death threats. A man convicted of his murder was sentenced to 38 years. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, one witness told the court he had been coerced into identifying the convicted man in a police lineup.

In November, gunmen forced their way into the offices of Acapulco’s El Sur newspaper, shot it up and dumped gasoline on the floor. Juan Carlos Moctezuma, the news editor, says his paper is critical of the police, and he suspects politicians or state authorities, rather than cartels, were behind the attack.

Beaches. Buffets. Bullets.

Photograph by Rodrigo Cruz

According to Ricardo Gonzalez, a journalist protection officer for Mexico and Latin America at the press freedom group Article 19, Mexican journalists are at greatest risk when they report on links between the drug cartels, governments and security services. He cites the case of Armando Rodríguez, a crime reporter in the border city of Ciudad Juárez. In 2008, Rodríguez was shot dead in his car while his eight-year-old daughter sat in the back. Days before, Rodríguez had written an article accusing a local prosecutor’s nephew of links to drug traffickers. The federal investigator assigned to his case was murdered in July 2009. His replacement was killed a month later. “We are living in a general state of impunity,” says Gonzalez, who claims 90 per cent of cases of aggression against the press go unpunished. “It’s a mixture of a lack of capacity and lack of political will.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 30 Mexican journalists and media workers (drivers and delivery workers) have died or vanished since December 2006 in incidents that are confirmed or may have been directly related to their work, making Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a reporter, and limiting those probing what is arguably the most important story in Mexico today to those willing to risk their lives doing so.

Still, most of the dead in Mexico’s drug wars are gangsters, or police who fight them. That makes it tempting to downplay the conflict’s impact on the rest of Mexican society, as indeed many try to do. But the conflict cannot be isolated. The cartels are expanding into other areas such as kidnapping and people smuggling. Mexicans who have nothing to do with the drug trade have reason to fear them. More fundamentally, the mayhem the cartels are able to inflict, and the impunity with which they do so, erodes Mexicans’ faith in their state institutions. Violence has a “spreading factor,” says Samuel González, the former head of Mexico’s anti-organized-crime division. “If there is impunity, people tend to believe that they can also kill without any problem. So it is really changing Mexican attitudes.”

How Mexico can reverse this slide is unclear. The narcotics business was not so bloody in the past because governments left the cartels more or less alone. This is no longer an option. A democratic government will not be seen as legitimate if it is complicit in illegality. Tackling corruption is a necessary first step, and Calderón, along with many local politicians, say they are doing so. There are programs to screen and train police, who will also be paid more in an effort to eliminate some of the temptations to take bribes. Ávila, mayor of Acapulco, says he hopes 100 per cent of the city’s police will pass through such a program by 2012. He has already fired 55 officers for failing drug tests.

“What you’re doing is changing the balance of risk versus opportunity,” says John Bailey, a director of the Mexico Project at Georgetown University. “So that if you’re a police officer and you know that the context you’re working in is changing, it begins to affect your calculations on the payoff of corruptions.”

But the drug trade doesn’t exist in Mexico because police are corrupt. It exists because people, especially in the U.S. and Canada, want to consume drugs. One Mexican, a wealthy engineer of 69, tells a story about a senator friend who met with one of his U.S. counterparts some 20 years ago. The American told the Mexican he should burn down the farms of peasants growing marijuana. The Mexican senator agreed, on the condition that the U.S. burns the homes of everyone who consumes the drug.

The story may be apocryphal, but it speaks to a larger truth: as long as there is a demand for Mexican drugs, there will be those willing to supply them. And as long as consuming those drugs is illegal, the suppliers will be criminals. The most anyone can reasonably hope is that in time—and with luck and skill on the part of the Mexican government—those criminals will become fewer, weaker, and less murderous.


Why do Canadians still vacation in Mexico?

  1. Why do Canadians still vacation in the U.S?
    How many people have been murdered or killed by gunfire in the U.S. since December 2006??
    I'm betting you won't post this comment.

    • Murders and accidents using guns run at about 10,000 per year in the US, so you are correct that since Jan 1 2006, there has likely been about 45,000. people killed in the US. (If you count guns used in suicides the number would be much higher. ) I guess you could say this makes the US about 1/3 as dangerous as Mexico when their respective populations are considered.

      I am not sure why you thought Macleans would be unwilling to post your comment, it is hardly offensive, but just to be safe you should stay clear of casinos.

    • You can't really compare the two, because the authority structure in the states can still be trusted. When I travel the states, I don't have to be concerned about being pulled over by a police officer for nor reason, just so that he can stuff his pockets with my money.

      • The point is :

        How many people do you know had a bad time in Mexico ? None. So people still vacation there. It's a nice place, nice people, and it sure beats Cuba and Dominican Republic if you talk about "corruption".

        The article title is completely unwarranted.

        • Cuba has more corruption than Mexico? That would be news to virtually everyone I know who vacations there…year after year after year. Meanwhile, I know lots of people who love Mexico and Jamaica, provided you don't stray too far from the resort.

          Oh, and how many Cuban resorts have exploded recently?

        • I actually know of several that have been "held" up by the Mexican cops. They were stopped for no reason, but after paying the asked bribe, they were let go.

      • The authority structure in the states can still be trusted.
        Really? While you might not worry about the average copper, the non-accountable guys in suits at the airports and the penchant of those in power to cover their mistakes up is scary.
        Also I guess you can ask those renditioned about adherence to the law and its equitable application.

        • you get MY upvote! :)

          I don't think the US cops are trustworthy let alone their leaders. lol

      • You must be caucasian.

    • Wow, writing "I'm betting you won't post this comment" simultaneously makes you look like an arse AND someone who doesn't understand how the internet works!

      • YOU must not know how the internet works. MacLean's filters comments that may count as offensive, defamatory, or pointless, or any of that sort.

    • This is an article on Mexico yet half the comments I see here are critcal of the USA. Well now I am going to talk about Canada. I have travelled to many countries around the world over the years and time after time, I can say without any doubt or hesitation that Canada is the most unfriendly country in the world to American tourists. People I know from other countries tell me that Canadians are cold people. And people of color who live in Canada tell me the Canadians are very predudiced. What gets me are these Canadians who move to the USA to get out of paying Canadian taxes to support the paradise Canadian social welfare system and then say great Canada and how bad the USA is. My most telling experience regarding Canadians was when i was in a hotel elevator in Edomonton and someone standing next to me noticed the American address on my suitcase and then called me a “dirty American — and go back home!” Don’t recite how bad America is, we are talking about You, Canadians.

      • Exscuse me Beagleman, I believe Americans are the rude ones. Canadians are appreciated all around the world since the great war. You have probably only taken the opinion from ONE person, not several. I’ve been to several countries also,and especially in Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican, I have witnessed Americans be ignorant to the people working in the resorts, ext… like they think they are any better than they are. Stop hating on Canadians… at least we know more about the US way more then a lot of Americans know about us. I have been ask a few times if I live in an igloo for goodness sake!

      • Oh and by the way, I don’t hate Americans, I just think half the time you just wanna believe all this nonsense.

        • i’m canadian also but think about if we ever get invaded by another Country  who do you think are going to back our ass you know it  United States  we are lucky in a sort of way that we have the Americans so near

  2. How many people in the States vs. Mexico , brainwave. How many, besides the Mexican mafia victim in Arizona have been beheaded anywhere in North America. How many towns have had whole police forces resign and countless numbers of police chiefs murdered? Realaity just ain't a bit 'thang' to you, is it?

    • At least one near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Perhaps a moment using your considerable brainwaves to reflect on your own bizarre choice of statistics would be a better idea than throwing insults first thing in the morning.

      • The beheading near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, was done by a mentally ill man, so you can't really use that as an example.

        • An example of what?

          Regardless of the reasons, beheadings are a very rare event in Canada, the United States and Mexico. For that matter, a beheading in Arizona is still a murder in the US even if it was committed by Mexicans.

          You're writing as the question at hand is whether Mexico is somehow "bad". If there are people who don't want to go to Mexico because of police corruption, fine. But the question being asked above is whether the high number of murders in Mexico shouldn't be discouraging travel there. If that's one's concern. the obvious answer is that while the murder rate is high in Mexico, it's not an unsafe place to which to travel. The murder rate is higher in Jamaica. The murder rate is FOUR TIMES higher in New Orleans!

          • I lived in New Orleans for a bout 3 years. The murder rate in New Orleans is no where hear that in Mexico. I have no idea where this person is getting his figures. I have also lived in Mexico for a number of years. I would live there again even thought it is a dangerous place to live, because I accept the risk. Millions of people drive on our U.S. highway drunk each year, but I still drive even though I could be killed at any time by a drunk driver. Driving drunk is dangerous and so is living in Mexico, but you accept the risk.

  3. 12,900 people a year are killed in the US.

    8,800 people a year are killed in Mexico.

    Mexico has about half the population of the United States.

    Unilke the United States the vast majority of the increase in violence in Mexico has occured in particular areas and between specific people (cartels and government).

    So where's the story about why are people still traveling to the United States?

    • Hey RayK, if your intent is to draw an accurate comparison, then why not make sure you actually do so? You say "the vast majority of the increase in violence in Mexico has occured in particular areas and between specific people (cartels and government)." That is probably true. But, you fail to mention that crime statistics for the U.S. show that the vast majority of murders are black-on-black, drug-related crimes. One of the next largest categories is murder by a known person (i.e. family member, friend). If you're not black, not involved in the drug trade, and don't have a spouse or boy/girl friend out to get you, you are statistically very safe in the U.S. as well.

  4. Make drugs legal and leave the cartels to do their business.

    • Why go only half way?

      Make murder legal in Mexico and ka-pow…you've got a damn near crime-free country to vacation in!

    • I agree. If drugs were legal and taxable, it would be business as alcohol and cigarettes. Druglords will change to CEO of a company and the illegal market would finish. It is still illegal because lots of people are making too much money. I will say, legalize, put in the open market and shareholders will make lots of money. At least, drugs could be more controlled and they would have more awareness like alcohol and cigarette. people will still use it, doesn't matter what but at least less people would fight over it.

  5. I think Canadians visit Mexico because it's cheap and warm.

    • That's why I went and it was a grand time

  6. Looks like the cruise ships have Mazatlan on their list of Mexican cities not considered safe as well. The local police are getting worse. My neighbour was stopped driving on the highway just outside Cancun in December and he demanded $1,000 U.S!!

    "We are working closely with the Mexican government and local officials to review their plans to improve security in all of the main tourist areas," Carnival said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Monday. "Once we are comfortable with their plans and implementation, we expect to return to Mazatlan."

    • i have lived in playa del carmen for the last 5 years and i have been stopped once by a cop because i was speeding. it cost me $10.00 . yes it is corruption but at the end of the day i was in the wrong and i prefered paying right away than getting a ticket and having to go and wait somewhere to pay it and so on. No demerit point. I look at the good side of living in Mexico and let me tell you there is a lot more plus than minus. I feel very safe to walk at night here. I have noticed that this kind of article always comes out in the US and Canada during spring break … Coincidence ?

  7. "Why do Canadians still vacation in Mexico?"

    To check out the same kind of chicks the police are in the photo.

  8. The point is :

    How many people do you know had a bad time in Mexico ? None. So people still vacation there. It's a nice place, nice people, and it sure beats Cuba and Dominican Republic if you talk about "corruption".

    The article title is completely unwarranted.

    • If not completely unwarranted, at least disconnected from the article content. There have been some high profile issues with Canadians in Mexico. Certainly it has also happened for other nationalities. An intelligent article linking the degree to which violence in Mexican society spills over into vacationers would have been an interesting read. It simply was not there in this article.

  9. I love Mexico, I spent 4 months in Mazatlan and I will increase to 6 months in the near future. It is a lovely place and crime is here like is in Vancouver, Toronto etc. People are friendly, food is good and cheaper, sunshine all the time. Corruption? yes. Any different than Canada? Well, depend how you see it. Do we really know what the politicians are doing with our money? They use taxpayer money like it belongs to them. At least in Mexico we know the corruption is there, in Canada, it is under the carpet and people believes that it is not happening there. How many contracts are giving to friends of politicians? It is corruption, just using other name. Mexico needs lots of work and the people here is trying hard to overcome their problems. At least they are trying hard and they really don't need bad publicity. This author has being in many cities in Mexico? Did he lives between the mexican people, every day and see the beauty of the cities and the people in Mexico? Or he write what he sees in the media and statistics. I can be in Surrey, BC and get shot during the day,so what is the difference? I feel safe in Mazatlan and other cities in Mexico. I can't say the same thing about some neighbourhoods in Detroit.

    • I totally agree with you Vania, I live in Playa del Carmen and i love it .

  10. Mexico is a wonderful and safe place to visit if you are smart. I wouldn't walk at night in a shaky area of any American or Canadian city, and I choose my vacation spots just as carefully. The people in Mexico are welcoming. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) has deemed Puerto Vallarta the best place in the world to retire because it is the safest, most foreigner-friendly, and most affordable. Vallarta is a little piece of paradise with almost no crime, great beaches, spectacular sunsets, and delicious restaurants. Why go anywhere else?

  11. We are just nearing the end of our 4th six month winter residency in old Mazatlan. The people here are gracious, welcoming, and much more distressed about the violence than the Canadian or American visitors. It is destroying the economy and hurting everyone. Having said that, we certainly do NOT feel unsafe here. Yes, we are a little more careful about walking around some areas at night, and we don't flaunt money or jewelery, but we do the same in Canada or the States. In Mazatlan, we shop, go to entertainments, restaurants, visit friends, go to the beach, etc. without worrying. We sincerely feel that any danger to tourists has been grossly overstated by the media and are very concerned about the effects of this on our many Mexican friends. Yes, there is violence but if you are not involved in the narco trade in some way, chances are you will never see it. Will we come back next year??? A resounding YES!

    • Close friends of ours ( both widows ) spent 3 seasons ( Nov.- March. ) in San Filepe and fell in love with it so much that they sold their properties up here in B.C. and have decided to spend out their years in San Filepe. The local community have embraced them, and made them feel very comfortable and secure in their new surroundings.One of the ladies told me she feels more secure going for a walk down there in the evenings than she did up here in B.C….for me, the thoughts of a ''huge'' plate of fresh Seafood and a beer for around $ 4.00 makes me think about joining them……

  12. Because people don't put much thought into their vacations. Oh, the girls at the office had a blast in Mexico/Cuba/The Dominican, that's where I'll go.

  13. I love it when spokespeople say "It's a war." Mostly because it's absolutely accurate, but then no one but the Cartels behave as though it's a war. Is it really any surprise that they come out on top? Should the Mexican government actually start to behave as though they are dealing with a rebel domestic force they might make some head way.

    Also for those that believe legalizing drugs in Mexico would solve the problem, I find that idea hard to credit. While their illegality certainly contributes to the problem, the problem itself is independent of drug legality. In other words, were drugs suddenly to become legal the Cartels would still be there trying to maintain power. Not to mention that it is actually the US that would have to legalize drugs in order to actually have a precipitable effect.

    As for why Canadians still travel their to vacation? They don't perceive it as dangerous obviously. I think they are factually wrong, but that has no effect on whatever their perception happens to be.

  14. Mexico is a dangerous country to travel to period! Many tourist deaths happen inside of the resorts and are a direct result of poor or nonexistent safety standards. To read tragic Mexico vacation death stories, as well as stories written by victims that “survived” their Mexico vacation, go to: http://www.mexicovacationawareness.com

    • Have you ever vacationed in florida ? I went to buy something around 11 pm at a convenience store near West Palm Beach a few years back and there was 3 young man waiting at the door and looking at me in a way that made me actualy scared and for the first time in my life i really felt threatened (i was 45 at the time) . I never felt that way having lived here in Playa del Carmen (Mexico) for the past 5 years. I wonder how many killings, muggings etc… there is in Florida. It is spring break time which means it is …. let's scare people about Mexico time so they can spend their money in Florida…. PS: is there a site about victims that "survided" their Florida vacation ?

  15. To me the issue is something like the issue of smoking. People know it can be dangerous yet they continue to do it with the "that won't happen to me" attitude. I will never go back to Mexico because I consider to be a high risk area now plus it's way too commercialized now. I've found a few other spots that are safer, cheaper and less crowded than Mexico and until the rest of the world discovers them, I'll continue to go there. In the meantime, if you want to Mexico, none of my business.

  16. This is a silly article. Unless you walk about Tijuana, your 5 stars hotel is pretty safe in Cancun or Acapulco!

  17. I think the Macleans writers are watching too much cable news. This is all about an attack on the Mexican Tourist Industry to bolster the economy. Sure the US offers the same "sun,surf and sand" but stay away from shopping malls and high schools or you could be shot. And while walking the beaches you better be armed

  18. Most of this artical doesn't even seem to address tourists at all, it would have been better to name it Mexico's War on Drugs, or Mexico's Cartel violence. It seems that the actual tourism aspect was only a side note, and at that doesn't tell the whole storey on tourism at all. While there have been a few deaths, when you compaire it to the number of people going, it is very minor. I am pretty certain that more then 20 people have died in violence in Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, etc since 2006. I just returned from the Mayan Riviera and felt very safe the whole time I was there.

  19. are these canadians crazy there are safer places

  20. What utter inflammatory nonsense!  Canadians were killed at a rate of 1 per 400,000 in Mexico last year.  Thousands of Canadians live in Mexico now ~ a wonderful, cost-effective place to retire from the “safe haven” of Canada on their Canadian tax-depleted and bank meltpdown retirement resources.  In Mexico in 2010, 21 Canadians died in accidents and 76 died of natural causes, many among the 60,000 retirees who live there, and yet that isn’t reported – just the murders.  Our overly sensationalist media finds every opportunity to write screaming headlines like this because they are too lazy to actually parse the facts.  I live in Edmonton where the murder rate was 45 for less than a million people – far worse than the number of Canadians killed on vacation in Mexico but yet I am not treated to repeated calls to leave the city.  Why is that?  Because that would be considered idiotic and reckless jpurnalism yet why does this sort of reporting get splashed on the front page of our “national” magazine.  Because it sells papers.  I call it irresponsible and if I led the Mexican gov’t I would happily sue.

  21. what im wondering about is why is there such a negative publicity attack on mexico ?
    Yes there has been thousands of murders between rival drug cartels (Not tourists)  far away from most resorts..
    Yes there is corruption with the police and government but there is with all of these “poor countries”
    Talking murder rate in 2010 i beleive 6 canadians out of 1.6 million tourists were killed (Most were involving drug usage)  and in Edmonton Canada (My city) there was 46 murders out of only 1 million people — its more dangerous in Edmonton  –This article should read why does anyone go to Edmonton anymore
    Murders in the dominican ? who hears about that ?—> read this http://dominicanwatchdog.org/page-Too_many_tourists_killed_in_the_Dominican_Republic
    talking coruption http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_Perceptions_Index
    mexico is ranked 100 out of 182 for most corruption —  ive road tripped all over mexico and other central american countries,  and ive been pulled over by the police–(For doing illegal traffic acts)  and yes they do want you to pay their “fine” to them and be on your way but the correct way they do tickets is they take your license to the police station and you go there tomorrow and pay your fine and get your license back — id rather pay the officer 20 bucks and be on my way 

    Ive been to a lot of different countries off the beaten path and I can honestly tell you Mexico feels like one of the safest places to be away from the resort…. the citizens are not as poor as other countries and when a “Rich tourist” meats someone with absolutely nothing in the middle of nowhere you feel safer with the mexicans who have some material possessions

    In conclusion Mexico is a great tourist location if you are not into drugs —yes it has its problems but every country does — just be aware that you are in a strange country and act accordingly you will have the best vacation ever

  22. there has been more canadians murder in florida this year ,than in mexico in the past 7 years look it up

  23. I guess the question is this…..how many Canadians tourists are killed in Mexico? The answer….22 since 2005. More Mexicans have been killed in farm accidents in Alberta alone…that average is about 15 per year. Dont come to Alberta……they kill Mexicans here!!!

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