We are having an on-going discussion among friends who live in Mexico and in the U.S. about whether the news media in the U.S. is complicit in creating fear about travel to Mexico.
On March 18, 2012, The New York Times published a story about kidnappings in Matamoros, that borders the U.S. The headline was: “In Mexico, a Kidnapping Ignored as Crime Worsens.” I wrote to Damien Cave, The New York Times Bureau Chief in Mexico City, responsible for the story, complaining about the headline. Here is our series of replies, most recent one first:
Enviado desde mi iPhone
The New York Times Enviado desde mi iPhoneOn 18/03/2012, at 11:29 a.m., <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Comments: Damien, this headline is incorrect and irresponsible sensational journalism. It implies that kidnapping and crime is rampant throughout Mexico. This story is localized in Matamoros, a border town. What you are promoting is fear of travel to Mexico. Most of Mexico, including Oaxaca where I live, is safe. PLEASE revisit your approach and those of other NYTimes reporters to make sensationalized headlines. It is poor reporting and does a disservice to accuracy about travel to Mexico. Sincerely, Norma Hawthorne, oaxacaculture.com
On March 14, 2012, a CNN web page published a report with the headine, “No End to Mexico Violence.”
Friend and photography instructor Frances “Sam” Robbins, who teaches our Oaxaca Photography Workshop–Market Towns and Artisan Villages, responded:
“It would be so much better if your headlines specified WHERE in Mexico the violence is happening. There are still wonderful, very safe places for people to live, to visit and to enjoy. Referring to the whole of Mexico in a headline with the word violence continues to build a sense of fear for the entire country. That’s just wrong.”
Perhaps as a result of Sam’s comment, CNN changed it’s headline banner to read:
Violence in Juarez ‘not going away’. Sam emailed me to say she was thankful that someone on the editorial staff was responsive. But that’s not always the case.
My sister Barbara and I just completed a week-long, public bus trip around the states of Puebla and Tlaxcala. I traveled from Oaxaca on the ADO bus — solo. She landed in the Mexico City airport from San Francisco, California, got on an Estrella Roja bus to Puebla and met me there. The next day, we were the only gringas on the bus to Cuetzalan. From there, we bought a one-way ticket to Huamantla, where we transferred to a collectivo to Tlaxcala. In Tlaxcala, we hired a taxi driver on the street to take us on a round trip to a Olmec archeological site. The next day we traveled back to Puebla on a local collectivo bus. Again, we were the only foreigners.
Never, during this travel experience, did we feel threatened, at risk, or in fear of our safety or security. Local people were always helpful and wanting to give us directions or asking if we needed advice. When it rained and the streets were slippery in Cuetzalan, men came up to offer their hand to help us across the street or down a steep stairway. Their extended arms are a symbol of welcome and warmth.
The Washington Post published a December 2011 feature on where it is safe to travel in Mexico and where it isn’t. This is a MUST read.
So, I’ve been thinking about why it is that there is so much fear by Estadounidenses (people from the United States) about traveling to Mexico, beyond what might be reasonable or rational.
All your comments about this important issue are welcome.
**Footnote: Sweeping generalizations tend to grip our sensibilities and bypass reasonable thinking. We forget that random, isolated incidences of violence occur everywhere. Our own judicial system has broken down, too. I think of all the criminals out on parole because the prison system doesn’t work, is overloaded, and the parole system is lax. Case in point: The murder of Eve Carson, student body president at UNC Chapel Hill by a convict out on parole who shouldn’t have been.