Are we really safe in Yucatan?
Merida: designated capital de la cultura, ranked 4th in the Lonely Planet's Top Cities of the World to travel described on LP website as a “dizzying array of live music, art shows and dance performances, and the booming culinary scene is hotter than a Habanero pepper.” It is the relocation destination of countless foreigners as well as Mexicans from all parts of the Republic. It has an alluring charm and many get caught in the Merida spell and never want to leave. So what is the deal with Merida? Cause I`ll tell you one thing, it sure ain`t the sweltering heat.
Looking at any website, magazine, or overhearing the gossip at any local gringo party, one understands that people come here for many reasons. It is a growing metropolitan city where you can find almost anything you need to live very comfortably. It has an astonishingly rich colonial culture. It is 20 minutes from beautiful beaches and a bustling beach life. Yet, among those great positive sides to this city, I would say that one of the top reasons Merida is so darn popular is it is an incredibly safe city in which to live.
Most of our family members back home have a terrified look on their faces when we tell them we are moving to Mexico, they assume we are moving to a town where there is a toque de queda (curfew) and dead bodies lying around in the streets as we go for our morning walk to Café Punta de Cielo to get coffee. They think that we will be kidnapped or violently attacked. Our usual reaction is to look at them like they are crazy, laugh and think: we are going to Merida. Nothing happens in Merida. Or does there? Are we really that safe in Yucatan?
Two weeks ago, I went to a talk by Alejandro Legorreta. This time the topic was on safety in Yucatan and what the citizens can do to keep Yucatan safe. It was a community reach-out, coordinated by those who are part of a movement of concerned citizens of Yucatan, comprometidos con el futuro del estado de Yucatán (committed to the future of Yucatan). They are conducting research as well as educating and encouraging citizens to get involved in the present and future of Yucatan. Those who attended the talk were mostly university students, government officials and concerned citizens all of whom felt that Yucatan is feeling less safe. They informed us that Yucatan has the lowest murder rate in the country, comparable to Belgium and Canada. Also most of the crimes committed stem from conflicts between people who know each other and usually involve drugs or alcohol. For a city of a million people, this still sounds ultra safe to me. A more pressing concern seems to be a growing problem with youth gangs whose members are marginalized, poor and make their money by stealing from homes or stores. According to the panel, this is a budding problem and if prevention and youth outreach programs are put into play, many of these street kids might have a chance to turn their life around.
All in all what I left the talk with was a feeling that we are still undeniably safe here.