We’re in Mexico, the last but largest leg of this South of the Border trip. Been a bit reticent about returning to this fantastic country in view of all the reported violence and will be doing all possible to manage the risks of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Read this morning that the police have found 26 bodies and rescued 48 kidnap victims in Durango. The people were dragged off buses travelling north, victims of the gangs’ forced recruitment campaigns of migrants from Central America trying to reach the US. Now we spent time in Durango on our 2006 Backblocks America roadtrip – a hot dusty, desert area where we wondered how people could live there. But it’s a major transport terminus for migrants from the south. Well that whole Chihuahua desert area north to Ciuidad Juarez and east to Neuva Laredo has become the battleground of the Zeta and Gulf drug cartels who continue to vie for control of the drug trade. It was not exactly safe when we were there but is some much worse now.
We’ll not be going there but are passing through Acapulco (14 beheaded there in January) and Guadalajara (narc blockades of roads and grenading of bars in February) so am not so complacent as to think that there aren’t risks. And putting it in perspective, even on 2010 figures, the chances of being murdered in Mexico are 0.018%, compared to the same happening in Brazil (0.025%), Colombia (0.037%) and El Salvador (0.061%). New Zealand offers the chance of 0.002%. In all countries I figure there is far higher chance of dying from a motorcycle accident.
But Mexico is such a fantastic country and those of its 107m people that we’ve met in 2006 and so far this ride, so gregarious and engaging that we sincerely hope the country can overcome its troubles soon. Certainly the impression we have so far is that its economy is getting stronger and stronger – the roading attests to a country very much on the move, and we notice it is not as cheap as it was last time we were here – a sure sign it’s gaining on to NZ. I’ll never forget doing that comparison with South Korea – used to be cheap as chips when we went there in the 1980’s, nowadays it’s more expensive than NZ in many respects and its GDP per capita has certainly caught up to ours. Mexico is half way there and gaining!