Drug cartels! Home invasions! Shootouts in the street! Why would anyone visit a border town in northern Mexico now?
With the increase in Cartel-related violence over the last few years, the US Government has issued a blanket safety warning to travellers covering the entire North of Mexico and all of the border regions.
However, not all of northern Mexico is affected by the surge in crime – Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco) hasn’t experienced any change in its already low crime rate, and the thousands of American tourists who flock to this breathtaking destination year after year remain puzzled as to where exactly this perceived danger is hiding. Not to mention that accommodation costs are cheaper than ever, I used Sonoran Sea Rentals for my stay and had the most awesome time.
The US Consulate recently published a warning which claimed that unauthorised checkpoints were being set up by modern-day highwaymen on the roads between the border and Rocky Point. The US media picked up on this and used Puerto Peñasco to demonstrate why you aren’t safe anywhere in Mexico any more.
This claim was strenuously denied by both Mexico’s intelligence services and Highway Patrol and later retracted by the Consulate, who admitted that the warning was made by a volunteer and that there was no evidence for the supposed robberies.
By then, though, the damage had already been done. The warning, combined with sensational news coverage of drug cartel-related violence in other parts of northern Mexico, created a negative association which hit Rocky Point’s tourism industry hard.
The truth is, nothing has changed in Rocky Point, except it’s a bit quieter these days and there’s a more notable police presence. Just last month, I stayed at (link) and I had a great time; I didn’t encounter any Hispanic highwaymen and I hardly saw any beheadings.
The only danger I faced was overdosing on colossal shrimp and Tacos. It seems that – shock horror- the usually thoughtful and balanced US media might have blown this all out of proportion. Who’da thunk it?
The only checkpoints I saw on the drive to the resort were soldiers and police who were there simply to provide visible reassurance to the reams of American tourists flocking there.
Of course, nowhere is 100% safe and obvious precautions need to be taken. Get Mexican vehicle insurance if you’re going to be driving, since an American policy is invalid here. Don’t stumble around the streets at midnight alone, drunk, and with a $2000 camera around your neck.
Basically: don’t do anything you wouldn’t risk doing at home and you’ll be fine.