Safety in Mexico May 1
In Mexico, Safety Comes Through the People
Not being attuned to, and exposed to the major safety problems of a new country, when you first arrive you can feel a false sense of security. Mexico is a safe place, but this comes in different ways than in the US and Canada.
Safety is an important issue to most Mexicans. Those who study English often misuse the word “insecurity” to describe “safety issues.” In Spanish, the word “inseguridad“ means the opposite of security. It is something that they talk and think a lot about. Early in 2005 there was a march of thousands of people from all over Mexico in Mexico City to protest the amount of inseguridad that they are forced to live with.
I feel less safe in Mexico than I did in the US. I often try to challenge myself to think about what is driving this perception. It’s all perception anyway. As we all know, we feel like it’s safer to ride in a car than an airplane, while statistics tell us that it’s the opposite. Besides, I force myself to admit that we leave our gate unlocked and our front door open all day and late into the night. The fact is, it is my neighbors and our mutual trust relationship that makes me feel secure in my home.
Here, if anything happened, there are about 6 people within shouting distance. They would all come running to help me out, if I needed it. In the Pacific Northwest, I never even had that many neighbors who knew my name! I spent 10 months as a college student in a basement apartment and didn’t know one SINGLE PERSON on the whole street!
On the other hand, I’ve heard more news of tragedies in the three years since moving to Cuernavaca, than I ever heard in all my 25 years living in my home state. Granted, I never lived in the inner city, but still the contrast is a shock.
In the United States I put my trust in services, such as 911 and the police and fire departments. Safety services in Mexico are under-funded and understaffed. The personnel who administer them are likely under-trained. There is also less public education about the use of these services. The general public expects the worst out of the police departments and expects very little out of other departments. Therefore, in Mexico I put my trust in the people around me. You should create a network of people around you. You should also learn which public safety services are available in Mexico.
The good news is that statistics tell us that most crimes are committed against cars. If you have a car in Mexico you MUST learn about car security in Mexico.
When I first moved to Mexico I was overwhelmed by the amount of home security in evidence. People have 20 foot high walls with razor wire on the top and exposed windows are tightly barred. Protecting your home in Mexico is very important due to the lack of public security services namely the police.
Hands down, the most terrifying crime common in Mexico is kidnapping. There are a few things you can do to Minimize your risk of becoming a kidnapping victim and to protect your children.
All of this said, I have an anecdote that shows perfectly how things always work out very well in Mexico. My husband was riding his bike at about 30 miles per hour down a hill (wearing a helmet, by the way) when a taxi driver pulled out in front of him and he hit the taxi. He launched into the air and hit the ground with a painful scream. This is the bad part. The good part is that right at that moment a man happened to be crossing the street. The man was a paramedic. My husband received stellar, professional help right in the moment he needed it. This may sound like a lucky break. It’s not. Take it from me, lucky breaks are to be expected in Mexico.
David Eidell has a wonderful article on safety in Mexico. He explains the way the people themselves are your best safety providers.
Here is a web site dedicated to safety in Mexico.
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