How Unsafe is Mexico, Actually?
August 17, 2011

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.