Traveling in Mexico: Good and bad tourists


Mexico is an extremely popular destination for Americans. The Los Angeles Times reports that American travelers logged 19.4 million overnight visits in 2007, and that’s not even counting the quick day trips that are made to close border cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

Anyone who has caroused down Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion might be able to understand that not all tourists behave well abroad. On the other hand, not all tourists are treated fairly by Mexican authorities. And in some cases things go really badly for tourists.

 The Feb. 3 Los Angeles Times story by travel writer Christopher Reynolds notes that in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, 687 Americans were arrested just in Tijuana. Reynolds has other figures for Mexican cities that you can read in the story (link above, or here). The San Diego Union-Tribune reported one recent Tijuana example: The arrest of two U.S. sailors on attempted homicide charges.

 Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle looks at the  number of U.S. citizens killed in Mexico since 2004 in this Feb. 8 article.  The newspaper does a commendable job of pulling together a database of all those deaths and raises good points about the low number of arrests. However,  after noting that some of these 200 deaths are drug-related or due to the victims’ own involvement in criminal activities, the article adjusts  the number of people who are in Mexico for “innocent reasons” to be “at least 70.” Per my own calculations, that means the rate of death for these more typical visits to be  roughly 17 per year.

I don’t diminish the personal impact of each death, but when you consider the millions and millions of visits each year to Mexico I am left wondering what exactly this tells me.

Photo of tourists walking down Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion, behaving properly.

11 responses to “Traveling in Mexico: Good and bad tourists

  1. This is another symptom of our fear based society. What would a story on the number of Mexicans arrested, imprisoned, killed or even executed in the U.S. read like?

  2. I would agree with your assessment of the Houston Chronicle piece. Lots of hard work, but exactly what is their point?

  3. I was in Tijuana just 3weeks ago ,the streets were bare i saw a few asian tourists and one other american couple.It is sad that all the news from there is so bad that people are afraid to go ,we had a great day and never once did i feel afraid and yea im a country girl from missouri and have traveled all over mexico .It had been 12 years since i had been to tijuana i have to say its sad to see all the closed down shops and hotels and the irony is all staying away does is hurt the people trying to make a living there which in turn helps the drug lords.

    • I am Mexican, Middle class Engineer. Really, I do not see an easy solution to the drug peroblem at Mexico. And the main problem is not just Mexican mafia. This is a very complex problem because others countries like Colombia are expending money to have control of the cities. It is enough, i am sure that id USA convinces all the others countris to control Mexico for cleaning corruption, Most of Us will not mind because it is a non end story. We are tired of this, We are tired, We do not believe our goverement, We want decent people there, no just few getting rich without helping the country. I do not care about any national festivity I just do not care about our goverment. Please help Us to r build our country, We are goos We like to work, We are honest people, kind, happy, friendly, you know, but It is time to put real pressure to the Narco helpers, most of the politicians are helpin the drug bussiness, We REALLY NEED HELP. If we improve then USA will improve better, We are side to side, please help. I know this sounds funny or something, but it isn’t there poor people, most it.

  4. Thanks for sharing your observations of Tijuana’s (dwindling) tourist scene.

    The Los Angeles Times also recently sent someone to Rosarito Beach – and found the place pretty empty:,0,949869.story

  5. I studied and lived in Queteraro for a year. When I went home to southern california I had the hardest time reintegrating into the US. One of my roommates from mexico and i would travel to Tijuana almost every weekend just to be in Mexico. I have never had any trouble. I have cousins who act like most tourists on Revolucion and have been shaken down for $40 by the police. But I have never experienced. I credit much of that to be respectful. Tijuana is an amazing place!

  6. Hi, Sarah. thanks for writing. I tend to think the more common situation likely to be faced by tourists is the police shakedown. In the past, all I had to do was show my press pass and it was like showing a vampire a cross – they shrank away. Now I don’t have that sense of protection, but I also haven’t run into the problem lately.

  7. comparing arrests and crime rates of Mexicans in the US with Americans in Mexico is an apples and oranges thing. Americans in Mexico are well heeled enough to be vacationing abroad and aside from the occasional drunk, are law abiding. An infinitely greater percentage of Mexicans in the US are poor, unemployed, illegal and generally far more likely to be either engaging in random acts of illegal behavior to survive or are
    actively involved in gangs etc. who’s only raison d’être is to survive by preying on the weak.

  8. Having written about crime in Tijuana for seven years, I’ve come across my share of stories of U.S. citizens who have gotten themselves into trouble with the law. I would have to say that the border-crossing crowd along cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez includes a wide range of characters and more than just the “occasional drunk” down there.

  9. Hi, NONE. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the drug trafficking problem. After writing about drug-related crime for seven years along the Tijuana-San Diego border I can say I share your frustrations. There are lots of good people in Mexico trying to lead a decent life and it’s unfortunate that corruption and illicit activities have such allure. The problem is certainly not limited to Mexico…but it becomes a bigger problem, I think, when opportunities are limited.

    Carol Council wrote:

    We’ve been going there frequently for 5 years. We stopped when the violence got bad, but we’ve gone back for the last 4 months and felt perfectly safe. The crime rate in Rosarito has dropped steadily in ALL categories for 8 months!!!!!!!!!!
    Let me guess, you are getting your information on crime in Rosarito from the tourist bureau, right? Try reading the Mexican newspapers, you know, the ones who are not trying to sell you something.

    Theft soars in Rosarito
    Crime in homes increases 30%
    El Sol de Tijuana
    November 11, 2009

    by Adán Mondragón

    Tijuana .- Burglary in the town of Rosarito has increased by 30 percent in 2009, said Rafael Gonzalez Cervantes, Assistant Attorney General for Playas de Rosarito.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s