cancun, mexico, safety, feeling safe, voilence, hit men, experience, drug cartels, tourism, tourist
Mexico

Do I feel safe in Cancún?

The first thing that came to mind was typing “Mexico” instead of “cancún” in the title, but I changed it, for being in Cancún makes me realize that it is probably not a genuine picture of Mexico itself, with all the tourism going on. So I should be specific I figured.

I have been in Cancún for over a month now and I walk a lot around downtown since I do not live in or near the hotel zone where all the tourists stay. I rent a house in the middle of Mexican society and shop in the local groceries and eat in local eateries.

When I travel to the Hotel Zone I see a different world starting just before the sign Zona Hotelera. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and the palm trees next to perfect as is the pavement and the walkways.

A bit different from the rest of the city. But what is the same is the presence of the police forces. And the pick-up trucks driving around with armed military in the back, standing up, scanning traffic and crowds. I must say that upon arrival that did not make me feel safe at all. I know a lot of people relax when there are a lot of cops on the streets, but I am not one of them. I have worked in urban revitalisation and problem neighbourhoods for too long to know they have little to no value and it is just a feeling of safety they intend to create by showing off their power.

It can actually have an opposite effect and tempt certain groups to prove that they still can act violently despite all the law enforcement around

After a few weeks you get used to it, and as I know from travelling the world every new country comes with an uneased feel for a few days. You have to catch the vibe in the streets for yourself in order to decide whether or not you can feel safe.
Like in Rome I did not feel safe at all, the brute impolite way the special forces treat you there and their presence made me very uneasy when visiting high-risk tourist hotspots.

But on the matter of general safety: I walked around feeling very safe in the Netherlands when I went to visit there, only to read in the newspapers a few days later there had been a random shooting in a cable car in one of the bigger cities of the country. Many people got wounded and four of them died. So how about safety and feeling safe. It this society it is kind of irrelevant what you feel and what statistics say, for danger is lurking everywhere and can hot from unexpected corners.

Many people told me I was stupid about going to the trigger-happy-drug-cartel-ruled Mexico. For one of the reasons, I left the Philippines was the fact that I did not feel that safe anymore. People over there more and more take matters in their own hands, often violent, feeling okay to do so by word of mouth from the president who is known for his outspoken need for violence and the justification of it, urging his country to follow his footsteps.

And now here I am, in a country that has more assignations in a month than the Netherlands has in a year

When I was just over 1 week in Cancún, the newspapers had reported already 5 deaths in shootings. A bit scary right? But they also published video footage of one of those shooting and unlike in the Netherlands where the gunmen just fired randomly at people, here the hitman knew who to shoot, and approached that vehicle and made a direct very precise hit.

The taxi driver that drove me from the airport to the first house, told me on my question of safety at night: Do not go out after 10 PM, especially not as a woman alone, and if you want trouble, you can find it, anytime a day.

His wise words lingered in my mind pondering on the safety matter, for it is so true that if you want to get into trouble, you can, no problem at all. Just get very drunk, wonder about the streets in the night, cross little alleys and backroads and try to buy drug, for example.

I do feel safe in Cancún. The violence reported on here is not against visitors, but among the cartels, drug runners. And since I am not any of those or connected to them, I do feel safe. When I watched that video of the shooting and saw how precisely they shoot a person I feel safer here than I could in the Netherlands where they just enter a tram and shoot random people. Or in London where they place a bomb in a subway station, or in America, where often shootings just happen in crowds, schools or public places.

I use my gut feeling, my common sense and my logic, and those keep me safe. And for the rest: not feeling safe is a matter of perception. Some feel safe in an area that is marked totally unsafe while others can’t even feel safe leaving their own house.
If it is fear that is ruling your life or blurring your vision on worldly matters than you probably do not feel safe anywhere.

If you use your common sense and add some realism to it that living is dangerous, it was already during the era of the dinosaurs and has been ever since, than Cancún is a good place to be, not unsafer than any other city in the world we live in today.

For the rest of Mexico? I have no idea, but somehow I think I will be okay when it comes to safety.

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Jeanette, a Dutch female nomad, started to travel the world at the age of 17. Walker of beaches, shell searcher and iPhone photographer. Writer and owner of two websites Currently, she lives in Mexico. She is an emigration coach and works online.

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