How Unsafe is Mexico, Actually?

Impoverished community in Tijuana, Mexico

As an American, traveling to Tijuana, Mexico is frowned upon.  Most people treat Mexico as a forbidden country where Americans simply should never go.  However, I ignored the horror stories and words of warning this summer when I took on an intern position that required trips to Tijuana.  Skeptics warily attempted to persuade me not to go, but I was determined to make my own opinion about a country so many are quick to stereotype.

Inevitably, my first visit of three was accompanied by worry.  I crossed the border into Mexico with wide eyes, watching for any sign of danger.  However, the fear was quickly replaced with intrigue.  Tijuana was a different world compared to San Diego, and I believe it’s this stark difference in cultures that scares so many people away from the borders.  Yes, there were several people begging for money at stoplights, but don’t they do that in Atlanta too?

Small children play with donated toys in the dirt road in front of their house.

When I began talking with the locals, I realized that most of them aspire to have a better life and are hardworking people.  They just do not have the resources or knowledge to pull themselves out of poverty.  As Americans we stereotype Mexicans, but the truth is, they are more grateful for much less than Americans.  The Mexican locals I spoke to showed a humility that is much rarer to find in America.

Overall, my trip to Mexico gave me a higher respect for a group of people living in conditions out of their control.  Most Mexicans are just as scared of the drug cartel as Americans are.  They want the violence and crime to end too!  I truly hope that more Americans will feel compelled to not only visit Tijuana, but help the people.  There are many organizations through which Americans can get involved.  The locals thoroughly appreciate all the efforts Americans have made to help them.  I promise that you will leave with a vastly different perspective and respect for the Mexican people.

Of course, I would strongly recommend against visiting Tijuana alone or after dark.  Find a reputable organization that know the area well and can guide you.  Travelling in a group is a fool-proof way to avoid conflict over the border.  I personally recommend Corazon Inc., the nonprofit that I interned for over the summer.  Visit Corazon’s website or call 714-547-0357.


3 Responses

  1. Tijuana is pretty much a tourist destination for southern CA. I’ve visited places that aren’t Cancun or “touristy’ spots and trust me, it’s a completely different world than what you’ve visited. The people living there usually run the shops and everything else you see there, and the kids that ask you for money are working. Those aren’t the poorest people in the country, and if anything, are much better off than the rest of the nation.

    I feel more for the families that send their children there for work than the shop owners themselves. But yes, as a whole, it is a rough place.

  2. My husband and I currently live in Laguna Hills and we’re thinking about going to Mexico for the long weekend in September. I appreciate reading your article and an actual, first-hand perspective on the real Mexico. After careful consideration, we’re in the final stages of planning our trip.

    Hopefully, I will have an equally rewarding experience. Watch for my post in a couple of weeks. 🙂

    • That is so great! It’s a worthwhile experience. Corazon actually runs out of Laguna Hills. Hope your trip goes well, and I’ll definitely be watching for your blog.

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