To put it bluntly, it’s no secret that the stereotype of Mexico that exists in the minds of many Americans is that of a dangerous country afflicted by violence and drugs. Many of my friends who have made the move received more than a few questions from concerned parents and others. It is worth dissecting where those questions come from and how to address them in a way that is both honest and reassuring to the people who care about you.
Fighting the Stereotypes
The source of safety questions comes from Mexico’s reputation as a country of violence and corruption, a reputation that is reinforced by many media and politicians in the United States.
To be clear, violence and corruption does exist in Mexico, and the purpose of this article is not to claim that Mexico is a perfect utopia.
That being said, the stereotypical narratives about Mexico that exist in the United States paint with far too broad of a brush, and ignore the obvious fact that Mexico is a massive country that contains multitudes.
There are dangers related to drug trafficking, but those dangers are largely limited to the parts of the country where the cartels operate, namely certain areas in the north, and some places along the coast.
But most of the country, including Mexico City, does not suffer from the violence that makes the news in the United States.
Know the Neighborhoods
As for Mexico City itself, all common-sense precautions that come with living in big cities should apply. As in all major metropolises, there are areas to avoid and areas that are safe to walk through at any hour. Since the city is so massive, there are large parts that fall into each category and everywhere in between.
Most of the neighborhoods to the south and west of the historic center of the city are safe to roam. This is where many expats live. These parts of the city encompass miles and miles of territory and offer ample to explore. Other neighborhoods, such as the infamous Tepito and some parts of the State of Mexico, that’s the state immediately to the north of CDMX, are less safe and expats should treat visits with the same caution they would when venturing into unsafe neighborhoods in other major cities.
Personally, I have stayed safe by doing more or less the same thing as I would do in Washington, D.C. or NYC: paying attention to what parts of the city I go to and what time of day I visit there.
I answered questions from concerned friends and parents by showing them articles comparing homicide rates in Mexico City to homicide rates in major U.S. cities.
Mexico City turns out to have a lower rate. Crime statistics are rarely perfect indicators, and I always recommend staying smart and vigilant.
As in every city, risks to personal safety can vary based on several factors, including but not limited to gender, sexuality, race, and income level.
Anecdotally, I have felt equally safe in Mexico City as I have felt when I’ve spent time in any major American city while exercising similar precautions. In fact, I once made the mistake of leaving my debit card in an ATM after withdrawing cash. Two minutes later, someone chased me down, returning my card to me.
How safe do you feel you are in your city? What advice do you have for others?
by: Ian Scholer