Most Mexicans are friendly. Whether my husband and I are out for our morning walk or sauntering through the village before noon, we receive an abundance of voices sharing buenos dias. It is the rare occasion when a Mexican passerby doesn’t throw out a welcome, no matter what time of day. Of course, we always reciprocate, and this season, we attempt to greet them first, whether it be a buenos dias (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon) or buenas noches (good evening). Sometimes, we slip out an hola (hi/hello) instead.
Although the people haven’t changed, things are definitely not the same as in previous years. More crime has found its way here, and non-Mexicans aren’t out as much in the evenings or frequenting the restaurants in the village as they once were.
My husband and I don’t feel any more afraid this year than we have in other years. We still go out walking, morning or night, but we are more cognizant of our surroundings and safety lingers in the backs of our minds. Most of the fear we do feel is due to the talk from other ex-pats; we haven’t experienced anything firsthand (knock on wood). We have always locked our doors and watched where we walk.
There is no question that crime has increased here. A google search of “Ajijic” and “crime” will attest to that.
Crime has also increased in our home of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Last year, in 2011, there were 19 murders, up from 11 in 2010. Statistics Canada reports 594 murders in 2007 in all of Canada.
The National Post in November 2010, stated: “According to Foreign Affairs Canada, 112 Canadians have been killed in accidents, murders, drownings or suicides since Mexico started an aggressive war against its various drug cartels in Feb. 2006. From that number, 15 Canadians were murdered or died in suspicious deaths.” In 2010, out of 1,626,200 Canadians visiting Mexico, there were 4 Canadians murdered.
The website www.disaster.com states there were 14,748 murders in the United States in 2010. Twenty million Americans visit Mexico every year and approximately 50 of those are killed during a violent crime, according to the U.S. Department of State (December 23, 2009). One travel advisory issued by the U.S. State Department in 2011 reported that 111 U.S. citizens were killed in Mexico in 2010.
According to the CBC, there were 18,601 murders relating to drug killings in Mexico in 2011, which is about fifty-one killings every day, whereas the year before the average was nine or ten per day.
The population of Mexico is over three times that of Canada, and the population of the United States is over three times that of Mexico. Comparing these statistics, the rate of killings is definitely higher in Mexico, but most of the crime in Mexico is in certain areas and executed by a select few – places tourists don’t usually frequent and people they don’t normally cross paths with.
One has to take responsibility for how one acts, where one goes, what one does, no matter where one lives.
Back home in Canada, the radio wakes us every morning to the news of yet another stabbing or gunshot or robbery. Most times, we don’t lock our doors there, however we do here. Prospective robbers have a tendency to see an opportunity and take advantage of it, like an open window or an unlocked gate. It is more of a necessity in this area to secure one’s home, although my husband and I have agreed that we will begin locking our doors when we return home to Canada.
Mexicans are aware of their foreign neighbours and immediately spot a newcomer. Apparently, even when unfamiliar Mexicans enter the village, the villagers notice and keep a watchful eye on them.
The unspoken philosophy is: treat the Mexicans well, and they will treat you well. Be friendly to them, they’ll be friendly to you. They will watch over your home, unbeknownst to you; they want their neighbourhood as safe as you do. The majority of Mexicans are normal, law-abiding citizens, like the rest of us.
My husband and I walk back home in the Halifax area. No one gives us a “good morning” or a “hello”. No one even takes notice of our passing, most times. Even most non-Mexicans here in Ajijic shout out a greeting when we pass. Perhaps it has more to do with the perfect climate and a less stressful life than the people. Who can not be happy in a paradise such as the one we winter in?
But…why can’t people be friendlier at home, like they are here? Why can’t the world be a kinder, gentler place?
(This is the unedited version of the article which appeared in the March 15, 2012, issue of The Lake Chapala Review.)