Tag Archives: travel safety

Oaxaca and Family Travel

A reader just wrote to me with the following questions: Is Oaxaca safe for families? and What do we do once we get there?

I think you will find Oaxaca a very welcoming place for families.  A friend, her husband and two pre-teens lived in Oaxaca for a year “on sabbatical” to have a different cultural experience and learn the language.  A colleague of mine at UNC Chapel Hill who is a cancer researcher returned from Oaxaca over the winter holidays where she went for two weeks with her husband and high school-aged daughter.  Another reader just spent several weeks in Mexico with his family, starting in Mexico City, visiting Puebla and Oaxaca, and staying in Teotitlan del Valle.  We see families in Oaxaca all the time.  Of course, the caveat is that it is important to be mindful of your surroundings where ever one travels; the same precautions you take for Europe apply to Oaxaca.

Off the top of my head, there are many things for children to do and enjoy in Oaxaca:

  1. The Ethnobotanical Gardens
  2. The archeological sites of Monte Alban and Mitla — climbing the pyramids
  3. The Museo Textil de Oaxaca (the textile museum)
  4. A stay in the family-friendly village of Teotitlan del Valle to hike, learn about weaving and take a cooking class with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz
  5. The hubbub of market days; nothing beats popping a crispy chapuline in your mouth!  Fried, spicy grasshoppers never tasted so good.
  6. Cooking classes for kids with Pilar Cabrera at Casa de los Sabores Cooking School and Bed & Breakfast
  7. Francisco Toledo kites at IAGO and a visit to the paper-making studio in San Augustin Etla
  8. The sights and sounds of street vendors and musicians
  9. A steaming, frothy cup of Oaxacan hot chocolate at a sidewalk cafe on the Zocalo

Plus lots more.  A feature was written in the last year or two about the most family-friend places to visit and Oaxaca came to the top of the list.  I don’t have the link but you could research that.  I wrote about it on my website.

The textile museum offers regular workshops for children and for parents and children together.  You could take a weaving workshop together in Teotitlan del Valle and learn about natural dyes.  There is also an English speaking Spanish tutor in Teotitlan that I can refer you to, if you wanted to spent a few days out there at Las Granadas in the tranquility of the Oaxaca countryside.  Las Granadas is a family owned and operated bed and breakfast, with two pre-teen boys!

All in all, I think you and your family would love it.

Saludos,
Norma

Readers:  Do you have any other suggestions for family travel and fun in Oaxaca?

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Undiscovered No More: San Juan Teitipac, Oaxaca in the New York Times

http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/

Oaxacaphiles will cringe or love that Seth Kugel has written a Frugal Traveler story in the New York Times travel section about this lovely, small village outside Oaxaca city.   Enjoy!  Article comes complete with map and a video.

Personally, not many but the most adventurous would undertake this type of travel.  There has been a discussion on the comments section of this article about the personal safety of going in to an unknown village and presenting oneself.  Most advice is to be cautious and to know the territory.  The Tlacalula Valley people, where Seth explored San Juan Teitipac, are usually friendly, warm and welcoming to visitors.  We did not find this to be the case in San Mateo del Mar on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  It was very easy to read the glaring eyes.

There is also an issue of safety in the Mixtec regions of the Oaxaca highlands where remote villages have been in an indigenous human rights struggle with a repressive central government.  It is too easy to get caught in the middle.

So, as always, use your judgment!

Is It Safe in Oaxaca? Update May 2010

First and foremost, Oaxaca is safe.

It is May and the annual tradition for the threat of a teacher’s union strike repeats itself.  Those of us who love Oaxaca remember this time in 2006 when the governor (a PRI conservative representing the party in power with a lock-hold on the state for over 80 years) sent in troops to quell the traditionally peaceful demonstration and all hell broke loose, lasting for six months.

The news coming out of Oaxaca now is localized to the mountainous Triqui villages where there are human rights abuses and as recently as April 28, people have been shot by paramilitary squads.  Victims have been targeted because they are activists trying to change the system.  This is far from the city center, though, it is important to keep a pulse on what goes on as elections approach.  You have to know the political, social, cultural and historical undercurrents in order to make a judgment about whether Oaxaca is “safe.”  The power struggle is between the PAN party (represented by the president of Mexico) and the PRI, and the paramilitary gangs that represent the oppressive governor.

All this being said, it is important not to be alarmist or to change your travel plans.  Oaxaca city and its environs are safe.  I want to state this emphatically.  Oaxaca is safe.

http://www.globalissues.org/news/2010/04/29/5436

What My Friends in Oaxaca Say …

There is no trace in Oaxaca city about the events in the Triqui region, not even in the national media.  For a lot of people from Oaxaca, unfortunately, these events have become “common” so there is no follow up by the local government.  There are local activists who are concern about the event, but are not able to do much.

The fights in the Triqui region of Oaxaca have been happening for a long time.  Historically, this region was one indigenous community without political parties.  Then, since the political parties started to take control of the community the division started.  Now there are two Triqui regions: Alta y Baja (upper and lower or south).

There is no tension in the city, no fights or demonstrations.  The elections are close, so we presume the government is doing “$$everything $$” it can to keep things calm until the elections.

Bottom line, if you are a tourist interested in visiting the nice attractions of Oaxaca , you will not have a single problem, unless you ride on a bus from the city for six hours to get to the Triqui region.

Oaxaca, Mexico–Safety 2009

The news is alarming and the media is giving hyper-attention to the drug cartel killings and kidnappings happening in the states that border Mexico and the U.S.  The media talks as if this was a universal problem across Mexico — and this makes me angry.  Yesterday, I listened to the Diane Rehm show on NPR while driving my car on the interstate.  Guests and callers talked about Mexico in sweeping terms and the more they talked the more  frustrated I became.  Parents called in asking if it was safe to send their college children to Mexico to study language.  I wanted to call or email the show (difficult to do when driving) to protest the perception promulgated that Mexico is not safe.   The situations hyped by the media are localized and most often between warring drug factions.  The very, very wealthy in Mexico City are concerned because they have always been at risk for economic kidnapping for ransom, and now with the increased drug violence, they are more at risk.  This does not trickle down to affect the average traveler like me or you.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article (a random WordPress link is below) by Jack Kurtzman saying that Mexico is on the brink of collapse and attributes this to failed state control of internal corruption and lack of economic well-being for its citizens.  In my view, his assessment is over-reactive and full of half-truths.  Mexico’s economy is closely tied to that of the U.S. and was healthy and on the upswing until our banking collapse.  NAFTA, too, has done muc to erode the Mexican economy and the well-being of its citizenry, making it more vulnerable to the drug masters on both sides of the border. The U.S. has as much responsibility if not more for the current state of border affairs.  The market drives demand in a capitalist economy and there is much demand for drugs in the U.S.

I’m not saying there isn’t a problem or that we shouldn’t be concerned.  I am saying that Mexico deserves our support and attention, and the worst thing we can do is over-react.  I also pose this for consideration:  For those of you who have not been to Mexico, ask yourself if you are influenced in your perceptions by popular stereotypes that portray Mexicans and Mexico with negativity, especially since undocumented immigration has been a hot political potato in recent years.

I live in Oaxaca in a Zapotec village part of the year, and travel back and forth from North Carolina several times a year, often by myself.  It is perfectly safe.  I travel by bus all over southern Mexico, from Puebla south, and it is perfectly safe.  Often, I will hail and take a taxi on my own, travel via local bus from Oaxaca to Teotitlan, and go to villages independently.  My Spanish is not perfect and I am definitely a middle age gringa.  I am not any more afraid than if I were to travel to Chicago, Los Angeles or South Bend, Indiana.   I am aware of my surroundings where ever I go, and take precautions by keeping my money and credit cards close to my person in a small bag that hangs across my shoulders.  I don’t wear expensive jewelry.  I don’t keep large amounts of cash on me and withdraw what I need frequently from ATM machines.

If you have travel plans to Mexico, please don’t change them.  It is a wonderful place with a rich culture, warm and generous people, and lively traditions.  Enjoy yourself.  I think the fear of the current economic crisis is instilling a fear in many of us that is permeating into other parts of our life … and this might be one of them.  Mexicans, and the Oaxaquenos who I know, welcome us and want us to have a great experience in their country.  Go… and have a good time.

Postscript:  this with sent to me and I thought it is worthwhile to share with you — more perspective on the Mexican safety issue…
BLOG: The Real Travel Story for Mexico by Tim Leffel
Here’s the fundamental problem when it comes to talking about safety, travel, and Mexico: most people are terrible at understanding statistics. This seems to go double for TV newscasters, who will take a sensational soundbite over a reasoned bit of logic any day. Once I dug around in the actual data, most of Mexico is far safer than my own home town–and my own home town is right in the middle of the U.S. pack in terms of crime.
You often hear something like “200 Americans were killed in Mexico in the past four years.” But if you really look into those numbers, as the Houston Chronicle did, you find that all but 70 of those victims were either criminals or were part of a drug buy gone bad. So around 70 completely innocent tourists died—out of 58 million visitors over that time period.
That equates to 1 in 842,857, or 0.0000012 percent. To put that in perspective, those odds lie somewhere between your chance of dying in an airplane crash (1 in 659,779) and being killed by flesh-eating bacteria (1 in 1,252,488).
But it gets even better. Most of the slain Americans were killed in just three cities: the border towns Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo. Things there are truly out of control and it’s a war zone. But if you avoid these border areas where heavily armed drug cartels are at war, your chance of being a victim of violent crime decreases to a statistical point near zero, down there with dying from a deadly rattlesnake bite or from the Bubonic Plague.
Exactly one American on the State Department’s list of deaths was killed in Mexico City over a four-year period. ONE! As best I could tell, everyone who died in the popular resort areas either drowned, wrecked a vehicle, or committed suicide, and again that’s out of millions upon millions of visitors.
So next time Aunt Millie tells you it’s unsafe to spend Spring Break in Mexico because she saw it on Fox News, tell her to go watch her own local news tonight instead and report back on how much bleeding is going on just on the other side of town. The truth is, you’re more likely to get caught in the crossfire of a local robbery at a convenience store than you are to suffer harm in Mexico—unless you walk around wasted in Tijuana and try to score some coke…
NPR News Report, March 18, 2009:  Phoenix, Arizona, has almost as many kidnappings and murders as Mexico City.