Manzanillo Sun article

It’s A Crime

2013 Living in Mexico May 2013 Suzanne A. Marshall

By Suzanne A. Marshall from the May 2013 Edition

You’ve heard the phrase ‘the more you know, the more you don’t know’? That’s close anyway if not exactly how it’s stated. I also think that the more you know, the more naive you can feel about the influences in your life that may have altered your behavior towards many things. In some cases a person can actually feel ‘duped’ having bought into what seems like the truth or seems to be pretty darned real. Even the word ‘paranoia’ could be tossed out there now and then.

So I’m going to use the word ‘media’ in the general sense of the word but of course we are influenced also by the people we live and socialize with, books we read and so on. I think we’ve all come to realize how instantaneously we can receive news from all over the world in this day and age. And of course our first reaction seems to be that this information is

‘gospel’ especially when you see or hear it on the national news or read the headlines in local newspapers or via the internet. But we mustn’t forget that the ‘media’ needs viewers and readers and listeners. This is what keeps the business alive. They need it for ratings, paper and magazine sales, hits on the websites, advertisers and sponsors. To grab our attention it seems to be necessary to grab and flog the most current and sensational events. And I do mean flog. We hear about a specific story ad nausea for weeks and then all of a sudden it disappears because, guess what? Some new and outrageous or horrific or amazing event has occurred and the first story is now old news and ‘dead as a doornail’.

For example, let’s consider climate change and man-made Co2 emissions leading to carbon trading and all sorts of new studies, ‘green’ enterprises and product manufacturing that was heading up the news media stories ceaselessly for a very long time. But let me ask a few questions: How much have you heard about Al Gore lately? Have you noticed the relegation of climate issues to the back-burners these days? The answers are ‘not much’ and ‘a whole lot less’. Why? Even though it’s a critical issue, it’s old news and for now status quo isn’t rocking the boat. Nor, is getting the viewer ratings which sells advertising and supports the media industries etc. etc. But, the minute a new and controversial study is released, it will be in the headlines again. I believe we’ve all been left with an impression. ‘True or false’ will continue to be determined as the probes and debating carry on. In the meantime, my assessment would be that the majority of North Americans believe that global warming and climate change are a worrying fact.

Other examples, is coffee good or bad for you? Is hormone therapy good or bad for women? Is red wine good or bad for you? Well I can’t and won’t lay down an answer here but I’m sure part of the answers will be ‘it depends’. It depends on how much, at what age, how you use it and so on. All of these topics have been flogged in the media. And probably all of us have formed impressions or opinions that may even alter our behavior as a result.

So this brings me to the main focus of this story. About a month ago, a friend e-mailed an interesting if not surprising statistical comparison of various crimes carried out in Mexico versus the United States. I found these to be very absorbing and thought to myself; I wonder how Canada stacks up with these comparisons. And so off I went on my internet research again, to check out the figures and rankings of crimes statistics on the North American continent: Mexico, United States and Canada.

It is very important to understand that these statistics cannot be viewed or compared at face value because there are huge differences in the way in which each country reports crime, their laws, the methods of policing, cultures and customs and populations. In Canada for example, there exists a regulated Uniform Crime Reporting Survey system. This helps to maintain a more accurate tracking of specific crimes and what constitutes a given crime. In Mexico, this uniformity does not exist. Policing is different among states and as we’ve all ‘heard’ corruption among officials is apparently a common practice and many people can ‘buy’ there way out of a situation. So naturally it follows that crime reporting is probably not so accurate. I could not make a comparison with gun crimes since they are not legalized for personal use in Canada like they are in the USA. But I don’t really need those-stats to underscore the issue I’m discussing.

Even so, the point that I am making is that the ‘impressions’ we are motivated by, may well be the seeds of news stories about events in Mexico that are endlessly flogged by the media.

As a result, the masses seem to have assumed that the whole Mexican country is unsafe to visit and is likely why tourism has now dropped dramatically in many beautiful Mexican Riviera’s. The thing that really bothers me though is the innate and unspoken assumption that we are safer in Canada or the United States. Is it that the news information about incidences that do occur there don’t seem to get the same type of coverage? Perhaps it’s not as ‘sexy’? Maybe, we’ve just tuned out because there is so much crime that it isn’t all that unusual.

Crime Statistics


Pop: 112,336,538* Pop: 313,914,040** Pop: 34,482,779***
Car Theft 141,007 1,246,096 161,506
Ranked 5th Ranked 1st Ranked 4th
Drug Offences 23.6 per 100,000 560.1 per 100,000 92.6 per 100,000
Murders Committed 5,991 8,226 143
By Youths Ranked 5th Ranked 3rd Ranked 28th
Murders Committed 15.3 11.0 1.7
By Youths per Capita Ranked 5th Ranked 14th Ranked 40th
Murders w/ Firearms 2,606 9,369 144
Ranked 3rd Ranked 1st Ranked 9th
Prisoners 172,888 2,019,234 35,519
Ranked 3rd Ranked 1st Ranked 17th
Prisoners per Capita 169.0 per 100,000 715.0 per 100,000 116.0 per 100,000
Ranked 49th Ranked 1st Ranked 73rd
Software Piracy Rate 61% Ranked 54th 20% Ranked 107th 33% Ranked 91st
Total Crimes 1,516,029 11,877,218 2,516,918
Ranked 8th Ranked 1st Ranked 6th
Populations @ 2010* 2012** 2011***

lright, now we add endless stories about Mexicans fleeing the country for a better life, crossing borders illegally, movie plots and television dramas that play to the Mexican bad guys, drug cartels or impoverished border towns and we begin to subliminally think or believe that the entire country is this way, all desert and cactus and dust. Well my experience, living here is quite the opposite. Life goes on like anywhere else and I love it here in Manzanillo. The climate is absolutely fabulous, the variable landscapes in Mexico are from mountainous, to tropical and lush as well as desert. The people are friendly, warm and genuinely helpful. Mexicans have families, get groceries, take care of each other as best they can and support one another. However, like at home in your own country, you don’t put yourself in harm’s way. You find out where you shouldn’t go, especially at night. You don’t leave valuables in your car and you lock it. You don’t walk alone down dark streets at night and you pay attention to what is going on around you. It’s all common sense.

I think we must also consider the locations that most snow-birds, retirees and tourists are choosing to spend time in. These are ocean resorts, vacation tour destinations, warm and sunny areas where perhaps other people of ‘like’ roots are living and so forth. Just like resort areas in our own countries, these attract thieves and pick-pockets who have a better chance among the throngs of grabbing a wallet or stealing a camera etc. etc.. We are choosing to be in more targeted areas, yet the crime rate in Manzanillo is one of the lowest anywhere. Still we expect to feel as safe as we do in our homes and neighborhoods back home. When we attend our own local concerts, celebrations, carnivals, exhibitions and such, do we not lock our cars, watch our wallets, and take a few extra precautions? We avoid unsafe or troubled areas in our cities. And we carry on and have a really great time and live our lives.

When I put the above statistical table together, I have to admit I was a bit stunned by some of the numbers. The car theft stats for Canada are really shocking. And you might note higher than Mexico even though our population is ¼ of Mexico. It may have a lot to do with insurance systems and claims which are possibly not as rewarding in Mexico. But all the same, Canada is ranked 4th. I previously had no clue. Now let’s look at drug offences. These statistics are ‘per 100,000’ which somewhat levels the issue of population discrepancy. It looks like the Canadians really like their drugs! And yes,

Mexico may be softer on crime in this area, I really don’t know but these figures show Canada at 3 times higher than
Mexico. Here I should also note that the USA has both Canada and Mexico beat by a long shot on both car theft and drug offences. I will leave the rest of the statistics for the readers to ponder because again I think I am making my point.

So the big question still remains. Why do the majority (my guess) of Canadians and Americans feel safer in their own countries? Here are some additional points to consider:

  • The common English language. I find that the more Spanish we learn however, the more comfortable we feel. And now Mexico is truly our second ‘home’. (though our ‘Spanglish’ still needs a lot of work)Similar cultural influences. Politics, economies, currency.
  • Food. (although I love Mexican food and so do many others) It’s different and takes some adventuring and adjusting for many.
  • Medical care. An unknown until you need it. Our first-hand experience with small emergencies and general health care, has shown us that there are really well trained doctors and dentists in Mexico. The prices are unbelievably economical thanks to a lower standard of living cost and exchange rates.

And so I’ve titled this article ‘It’s A Crime’ because metaphorically it is! Mexico is a fabulous place to visit. Its beauty and charisma are intoxicating. The people are warm ,smiling, welcoming and very helpful. The language is beautiful, the Latino music is an anti-depressant for sure. The folklore, customs, manners and traditions of the people are engaging. The architecture, history, arts and artisans are amazing. Don’t let unwarranted fear rule out this and other wonderful destinations. It is a crime if you do. You’re missing something wonderful and everyone should have this experience over and over again.

I rest my case.

Download the full edition or view it online