If you were viewing the original blog there would be a photograph for demonstrational purposes. It is of a lobby that is empty. It is the welcoming foyer area of a five star hotel on Isla Mujeres, a beautiful tropical island just off the edge of Cancun. I took this photo in October of 2009. It was, obviously, not taken for aesthetics, but my little way to make a point. The place is gorgeous and it was deserted.
I need to start off by mentioning that I do not stay at five star hotels due to budgeting issues. I am, basically, poor. I have enough to live here in Mexico comfortably, but I clean my own home, often walk instead of taking taxis, and shop at open air markets. So, I guess I am poor and healthy, but, back to the point. To stay at such a hotel had to mean something had to have changed drastically because I did not win the lottery.
The change was the lack of flights to the “epidemic ridden country of Mexico,” and, yes, that is a quote from a 6 o`clock news show in the states. We read about it daily, saw the dozens of photos of masks, and the always touching shot of the small child who looks undernourished and with one foot dangling, visual metaphor intended.
The reality? Worldwide statistics state that 18,000 people died from this strain and that is a lot of people. I do not wish to trivialize anyone`s loss in any way. However, statistically speaking, those deaths came to approximately 4% of the total deaths from all flu viruses worldwide in that same year. Yes, please do the math. Simply put, 96% of the people who died from the flu in 2009 did not die from H1N1., “the flu from Mexico.”
I live here and all I ever saw were a few frightened people wearing masks. I also remember one amusing moment when I had a bit of a cough while riding the water taxi from the island to Cancun. Just swallowed something wrong, but everyone moved to the other side of the boat. But, let`s get back to the luxury resort on the island. I was there because rooms at the hotel were discounted 75% due to the lack of tourists. So, I have all my shots of me in a white robe, posing by a marble jacuzzi on a private deck that overlooks a crescent beach and enjoyed myself tremendously. Meanwhile, most of the staff had been laid off, but I refused to think about that on that weekend. Now that is guilty pleasure, with a lesson involved.
It`s happening again only this time it isn`t the flu, it`s the violence. First of all, I freely admit that I can be quite naive when it comes to living on the streets. But, thankfully, I don`t have to live on the streets and can simply make the mistakes of the passionate one who often acts, then thinks. However, I am able to read, live in the country, talk to locals, or at least those who can speak Spanglish, and read the local papers. Trust me when I say that the papers leave nothing out and photographers here seem to believe the gorier the shot, the better.
Back to the violence. Yes, it occurs. Yes, we have drug cartels fighting and, in the process, they are holding the tourist industry hostage. They are in a war over who can sell the most drugs in the United States and I stand by that because most of the people here cannot afford drugs, they stick to beer. I live with them, I know. Simple common sense should tell us that if all the tunnels discovered are underground from Tijuana, or Ciudad Juarez, and their destinations were Los Angeles, and a variety of Texan locations, it`s not Mexicans with the habits.
Acapulco, a beautiful resort town on the Pacific side of Mexico, will probably never fully recover from last week`s events. Beheadings displayed for the benefit of other cartels, and the tourists, made all the papers, news programs, gossip shows, and every other format that one could think about. Once a haven for the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Cary Grant, it was also known as where Howard Hughes spent his last days. Recently it has attracted stars as diverse as the ever infamous Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and the rapper known as PitBull. Not a town to be taken down easily and it is luscious. There is no other word for me when thinking of Acapulco.
However, the cliff divers of La Quedabra, the billionaires`yachts in the harbor, and the nightlife that is world renowned will all face a dry spell since fifteen bodies, and a pile of heads, were discovered outside of a shopping area. A total of 28 deaths occurred and, although none of them were tourists, the industry has declined by a large percentage already. Action shots of Mexican Police in black masks were shown nightly in the states. They are a terrifying sight, I have seen them once or twice here in Cancun.
It is unfortunate that these cartels hold the purse strings of the tourist industry, which is 8% of their total income, but it is 100% of the many individuals I see daily here in Cancun. Are those deaths intolerable? Yes. Are those cartels anywhere near Cancun? No, and that is what is so frustrating. We, and many other lovely areas, are paying the price for events occurring so far away that it would take days to drive, but only if you drive very fast.
I am not sure if people from India assume that if something happens in New York City then San Francisco should be avoided. I only picked that country because of its faraway location, but what is the excuse for those who live in the United States, are supposedly well-educated, and own maps? An event occurred in Ciudad Juarez a few months back and I received emails and FB postings asking me if I was ok. I am grateful for the concern, but probably made them a bit nervous when I pointed out that they were closer to Ciudad Juarez, when driving, than I am. They live in the state of Ohio, I live in Cancun.
Mexico is a big place. But, it is in danger of becoming an empty place if people do not accept that fact. This new attitude in the states of placing blame for all misdeeds on a single population reeks of another time in history. Think of the 1920s, Berlin, and who was held responsible for the root of all of Germany`s problems. This isn`t melodrama folks, I debate with some of the hate mongers on a weekly basis. The only rhetoric that has changed is that the Jews are not being held responsible anymore, the Mexican immigrants are, as if they even had the power to do much of anything.
I like Cancun and hope to live here, or visit often, for many years to come. As far as Mexico is concerned, we have oceans, jungles, mountains, deserts and lakes accompanied by ancient ruins, and a history that has shaped us all. This is accompanied by a people who could teach us many things about family, art, music, and a respect for history that goes back for centuries. And all of this is being threatened by lack of geographical knowledge. Do I recommend visiting an area that has just seen such violence? Actually, now is probably the safest time, ironically, but just use common sense and a map. I guarantee that your stay will be economical, they are practically giving the place away now. For you three star hotel seekers, five stars it is! Â¡Salud