So I got a little paranoid/upset the other day when my friend, with whom I am planning a roadtrip across the border to Austin to visit my sister and buy stuff, contacted me expressing dudas about the trip. I thought she was thinking of flaking out.
She was worried about a couple things, one of them being road conditions in Nuevo Leon because of Hurricane Alex and, I think, also because of increased checkpoints. She has since told me she heard it’s not all that bad.
So I was looking into it, finally. I have of course known there are issues… I’ve been working for the Human Rights Commission, in particular translating some stuff about authority missteps regarding methods of combating violence (including one that killed two little boys), and I also recently edited a couple of reports for a political risk consultant on drug-related violence. But other than that I haven’t really explored the issues.
i.e., I have avoided exposing myself to the more paranoid sources of news, such as the US State Department. But I decided to take the plunge today and read what they have to say, via a recent consular warden’s report. It seems pretty rational. In context of mentioning that thousands of US citizens travel in Mexico safely every day, they also tell you what’s been happening in hotspots, where to avoid, and why.
With respect to the pending cruzafrontera trip, this was the pertinent passage:
Travelers on the highways between Monterrey and the United States (notably through Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros) have been targeted for robbery that has resulted in violence and have also been caught in incidents of gunfire between criminals and Mexican law enforcement. Travelers should defer unnecessary travel on Mexican Highway 2 between Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo due to the ongoing violent competition between DTOs in that area. Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Tijuana. U.S. citizens traveling by road to and from the U.S. border through Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, and Sinaloa should be especially vigilant. Criminals appear to especially target SUVs and full-size pick-up trucks for theft and car-jacking along these routes.
Nothing supersensational sounding about that, I realize.
I read on, though, and spotted two things that I find useful in gauging whether or not to be frightened out of driving:
1) “…effective July 15, employees of the U.S. Mission in Mexico and their families are prohibited from traveling by vehicle across the U.S.-Mexico border on either personal or official travel to or from any post in the interior of Mexico.”
Ok, wait, prohibited? I guess… maybe that makes sense. Maybe they could be more targeted because of being State Department affiliated…
2) “American employees of the U.S. Embassy are prohibited from hailing taxis on the street in Mexico City because of frequent robberies. U.S. citizens are urged to only use taxis associated with the organized taxi stands (“sitios”) that are common throughout Mexico.”
WTF. No way. Seriously? No… and, no. I only take sitios at night and only when I am alone. They cost double! TAX DOLLARS. Maybe this thrift is related to why I have never come close to being robbed in a taxi, but I don’t think Embassy employees can possibly be that much more ballin than me. Or dumber. “Frequent?” No way. This warning is definitely unrealistic. Mom and Dad, you rode in street taxis while you were here.
Embassy employees prohibited from hailing taxis –>
State Department overstating threat–>
State Department has unrealistic perceptions of threats–>
Still okay, maybe even smart, to read their warnings, but know that their responses to problems are not what I consider appropriate.
Conclusion from State.gov travel warning: it’s okay to take a roadtrip across the border and up to Austin, just don’t be dumb/drive an SUV. I feel like that’s generally advisable under all circumstances anyway, so…
Yes, I will carry my visa with me this time.