The Countdown to Mexico Mailbag

February 15, 2011

I get a fair bit of mail at from people who write me directly via the Contact Us page.  I thought I’d give you a sampling of what an average couple of weeks is like in the Countdown to Mexico mailbag.

Question:  I would appreciate it if you could include my new Mazatlan Mexico Business Directory in your site. I am a SEO professional and Web Developer moving to Maz in a few months. (website link not shown here)

Answer:  I’m sorry, the @Maz page (in the menu bar at the top) is for sites I think will be useful for people visiting or living in Mazatlán.  Countdown to Mexico has a lot of information about Mazatlán, but vacation planning services aren’t among them. I also don’t plan on putting advertising on the blog anytime in the future.

Question:  Recently we have been concerned about safety as we have begun to see the uptick in violence (even reaching Chapala and Guad.) Is it overblown? What is your experience with safety?

I am about 2 years from retirement. It is time to begin planning more in earnest like you did. We will probably plan some vacations and a test extended period to see if we will feel safe and if we could live in Mexico.

Answer:  The most frequently asked questions in our mailbag always relate to violence and safety.  The people who wrote the question above are sincerely trying to evaluate their comfort level with Mexico, a very good thing to do as you research places to live.  I also get lots of inquiries from people planning or who have already booked their vacations – wanting to know if they’ll be safe getting from the airport to their hotel, etc.

I sometimes feel a bit testy with these questions, for a couple of reasons.  The first is that there is no way that I can know what they will experience.  Just as shoppers in Tuscon, Arizona never expected to be caught in the crossfire, none of us can know the future.  There is certainly crime here and I know a few people who have been victims of street crime, but overall it feels well removed from normal life.

Paul and I live conservatively – we don’t go to discos, pick fights in bars, drive around unfamiliar places or stay out way late at night.  I seldom carry a purse at night but we walk a couple of dozen blocks home in the evening without worrying about our safety.  We seem to think and talk about security more nowadays just because Mexico gets such bad press NOB and it has caused a real decline in tourism… and when tourism is down, the financial pressure filters down and petty crime goes up.

The drug cartels do have a presence here – there have been targeted killings – one in which a Canadian man was unfortunately in the area and was hit in the knee not that long ago.  A government building was shot at one night recently (while no one was working) in an apparent message to the administration.  But there is a large presence of police – federal and city – and a large contingent of tourist police, too.

Sinaloa has a new Governor and Mazatlán a new Mayor as of the first of the year and from what I can see they are working very hard to control the violence and increase public safety.  We walk practically everywhere and the thing we always notice more than anything is how friendly, welcoming, and smiling people are here.

Question:  We are looking at coming down soon for a medical vacation as they call it , for some dental work. Do you have any pro/con advice on a good dental surgeon in Mazatlan?. I must have my wisdom teeth extracted & someone familiar might give us a good reference. Keep up the fine living in Mexico as we are living vicariously thru ya!!

Answer:  I think the best advice I can give for anyone with a specific question like this is to join some of the local forums and ask your question there.  You’ll get advice from a lot of different people with pertinent and current experience that I couldn’t possibly provide.  Check out the @Maz page for links to several of the forums.

Question:  I am a graduate student at the University of _______. I’m writing a paper on the growth, decay, and gentrification of the Historic Center of Mazatlan due to the effects of tourism. I was hoping that I could use some of your photos from your rehabilitation updates for my project. I’m not able to take a trip down there before the semester finishes, but your photos are exactly what I’d like to exhibit in my paper. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Answer:  Of course you can use them, no problem!  And will you send me a copy of your paper when it’s done?

Question:  My husband and I are moving to Sayulita, just north of Puerto Vallarta. We are heading down next _________. I see you guys live in a place we will be passing through. I just wanted to get your thoughts on the drive. We are entering through Nogales and just taking the west coast all the way down. Do you have any warnings, advice or tips for us! Any help would be greatly appreciated as this will be our first time to actually drive down instead of flying! Thank you so very much for anything!

Answer:  Congratulations on your move!  Like one of my answers above, I would join some of the Mazatlán forums and also any forums in Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta.  People who have actually made the drive in recent history would be much more helpful than I would!  We have never driven from here to Puerto Vallarta and the only time we drove from Nogales to Mazatlán was when we moved here three and a half years ago!

Question:  I have been reading your blog for the last few weeks. My husband and I had planned a trip to Mazatlan for our 5th year wedding anniversary. He was here 10 years ago and fell in love with the city and has been trying to convince me to come here since we met. I have to say I have fallen in love with this city as well. I started researching Mazatlan before taking our vacation and came across your blog. Thank you so much for all of the valuable info you have given over the years of moving here. You two are truly living the dream. I keep asking my husband how we can move here since we arrived. Unfortunately, we won’t be retiring for many years, but I hope we can come back soon for another visit. I just wanted to let you know how much I have been enjoying your blog. Keep it up!

Answer:  You are so welcome, have a wonderful anniversary trip!

Question:  Hello, I have been going through your blog and have enjoyed the day to day aspect you have given. My girlfriend and her parents have bought a house on the beach, and they are moving down in __________. They  are “working” on me to come as well. I am not opposed to the idea, and have been to Mazatlan before. What I was hoping you could help me with is what sort of social and extra-curricular activities can I expect? I have a background in coaching swimming, as well as like physical activities. Are you aware of anything in Mazatlan that might keep me busy? ie: self defence schools, competitive swimming organizations?

Answer:  I would love to be able to supply this kind of information, but sometimes I just don’t know.  There is a swimming club of people who swim in the ocean each morning, but again I think participating in the forums might be your best bet.

I hope some of these questions and answers will help more than just those who wrote to us.  Thanks, everyone!



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More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

    1. Hi Nancy and Paul,

      We get much the same email over here. A lot of it! We have had to take to replying with a boiler plate reply covering the BIG issues like safety; handled in much the same manner as your method – violence and drugs are here and we have no idea how to predict where it will happen and a few safety pointers.

      But, most of the questions can be found on the Blogs or Forums and taking the mass of time needed to personally address these people really is not something we can do.

      I think some time people are looking for some personal on the scene assurances that in reality none of us can provide.

      Your responses are kind – I think I am going to send my inquirers to you 😉

      just kidding.

    1. Good blog. I am agree with your answers and John’s (comment). The most asked question is always about safety. How can we be responsible for another’s safety?

    1. Someone can make some money buy selling a get acquainted with Mexico kit via Amazon or something….
      (But sounds like too much work)
      Great post, and even better answers!

    1. My friends know I go to Mexico a lot and they always ask about the security situation. I always ask them if they feel threatened by crime in Detroit. They always say no. Then I point out that Mexico is a big country and that there’s plenty of room for horrible things to be happening that are far, far away. You couldn’t pay me to drive around Juarez, but I feel perfectly comfortable in Mazatlan, Mexico City, and other places I’ve visited.

      But to your point, there is also a large element of the “luck of the draw,” and I point that out too. While I love Mexico City, it is a big, bad, dangerous city, and shit happens. You have to keep your guard up at all times.

      I love your blog. Please keep writing.


      Kim G
      Boston, MA
      Where, generally, it’s boringly safe.

      1. John, No fair sending me your mail! Ha ha! I do think that the fact that these are personal blogs – people feel like they know us – so some feel they can ask us anything!

        Contessa, In my past life I managed apartments and we always had to be so careful when talking about security since it is impossible to guarantee.

        Zoe, Aw, shucks!

        Tancho, Paul keeps telling me I should write a book, but I’m with you!

        Kim, It really is aggravating, and the US really pushes the “Mexico is unsafe” mantra. Paul just read me an bit of an article on tourism being up in Hawaii because of the bad weather in the US and problems in other warm weather places like “drug ravaged Mexico.” Makes me so mad!

    1. As always, you have provided some nice common sense answers. I was just on a tour to Mexico City (where I met Kim for a far-too brief drink). We were ruminating over some of these same issues. You were a good guide for me when I moved down. I am glad you are here.

      Just one side note. On our bus tour (mainly part-timers in Melaque), each time people started to head out on their own, they would ask: “Is it safe?” Of course, that translated to: “Can you guarantee that nothing bad will happen to me?” I often wonder how often people ask the same question in their own country.

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