Is the travel situation getting worse in Mexico, or is it just that the media is picking up more stories about the drug cartels, gangs, and other generally illegal acts in our neighbor to the south? We posted earlier about the US State Department’s travel advisory against taking vacations in certain parts of Mexico. At that point, two suggestions was to stay in an all-inclusive resort, or to travel to the most popular tourist destinations, like Cancun and the Mayan Riviera. But a Canadian tourist was recently shot inside his hotel room in Cabo San Lucas (Calgary Herald) and the increase in criminal activity in Tijuana is well-known. UPDATE: New 2009 Mexico Travel Alert.
On the Gulf side (the Yucatan), Cancun and the Riviera Maya are gorgeous tourist destinations, with white sandy beaches and archaeological marvels that would make Indiana Jones drop his hat. The Riviera Maya starts at Playa del Carmen and ends in Tulum. Certainly worth considering for a family vacation, right? Consider this: The “hotel zone’ of small charming hotels and restaurants in Tulum is experiencing a scene right out of the Wild West.
One of those charming Tulum restaurants, owned by an Australian-born US citizen, was literally invaded last week by a group of men working for a corrupt local politician. John Kendall, who bought the land six years ago, already has a certified local presence in the Mayan Riviera; his acclaimed Mezzanine hotel overlooks the sea in along the same historic stretch of Mexico. The Mexican politician, Gaston Alegre, has called Kendall the “Devil of Tulum” and sent police (and 30 private security guards) into Kendall’s beachfront restaurant to take the property by brute force. The restaurant, El Pez, was filled with tourists and customers; they were kicked out, and the restaurant was completely trashed. When Kendall attempted to take back his property, corrupt police from nearby Playa del Carmen fought him off. Kendall has said, “Gaston Alegre still thinks he’s in 1930’s Mexico.” Kendall will get his day in court, of course, but clearly corruption runs deep in many travel destinations here. This illegal land grab illuminates the need for stronger anti-corruption laws in Mexico (or at least that the ones on the books be upheld).
Criminal activity in Mexico has not just increased in recent months, but also has begun to spread into popular tourist destinations. Pack more than just your bathing suit and sunblock for a vacation south of the border; take some extra precautions as well. Watching Indiana Jones on the big screen is one thing. Finding ourselves in the middle of frightening battles in real life, quite another.