“Ugh, I Hope You Come Back Alive.”

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These words were spoken to me on graduation by the boyfriend of one of my classmates; I had just been introduced to him, and my classmate had noted that I was moving to Mexico.  His reaction is not unfamiliar to me–it wasn’t even the only time I would hear it that day.

Many people seem to think that traveling to Mexico is some sort of death wish and that opting to live there makes me the perfect candidate for the insane asylum.  It is very disheartening for me, as I love my city and the other towns/cities in Mexico which I have visited.  If I speak honestly on the matter of safety, I would have to say that I feel safer walking in Pachuca than I ever did in STL.

I can remember walking on the sidewalk somewhere downtown with my family after a show and having two men walk behind us, harassing us and talking about my father’s watch.  We fully expected to be attacked or robbed until a police officer randomly rounded the corner; this happened in broad daylight.  One evening, when I was about 20 years old, a man followed myself and a friend from a small concert and demanded money. I can recall driving in the southern areas of the county and having an angry man try to run me off of the road because I was driving a Toyota–and this has happened more than once.

Even in a bordering suburban area–St. Charles–I was harassed both alone and with groups of friends when walking from our college campus to main street; once a man tried to pull a friend of mine into his car.  And when I went to college in Nevada, Missouri, the locals would scream obscenities at us as we walked to class and even tried to run us over when passing through the crosswalk.  I narrowly avoided severe injury by a speeding car which floored it the moment I stepped into the cross walk; I managed to sidestep the vehicle and get to the other side as it came back in reverse so that the two young men inside could scream utter filth at me.

In Pachuca, I have not had any issues besides speeding cars, but no one was ever trying to hit me–it is just the way they drive.  No one has ever harassed me on the street there except to peddle a product.  Certainly, no one has ever tried to pull myself or a friend into a car.  Once, I was spit on by a man in Actopan; while it was certainly vile, I never felt any fear for my safety.

In the last year and a half, I have spent three weeks in the Pachuca/Actopan area.  I also spent three weeks in Juarez.  Before arriving in Juarez, I was afraid for my life.  Everyone and everything had me convinced that I might as well be stepping into the red zones of Baghdad.  For my first week there, I never left the property of the hotel.  I spent my time cooped up with my husband as we went through the steps required by immigration, ate in the lobby when food was served there, and went to the restaurant on site.  All other moments were spent in our room together.  As we were closing in on a week of this routine and still waiting for his packet to arrive at the DHL office, I lost my mind.

I could not take it.  My husband was making me crazy, the food–while excellent–was pretty much the same stuff every day, and the windows did not open more than an inch so I was stir crazy for some fresh air.  I finally looked at my husband and said, “I don’t care if they kill us, I want out of this hotel.”

And so off we went, walking down the street towards the consulate.  We stopped in at a little shopping center, ate some tortas and walked around looking at some shops.  I found a sushi place that would end up delivering us our dinner that night.  We then continued on and ended up crossing the street beneath the footbridge that was under construction to go to the mall.  Inside we spent hours walking around, going in and out of stores, and I became far too excited to experience my first trip to Sanborns.  We watched a movie, and no crazed gunmen came jumping out of the darkness.  No one cared that we were there, no one even looked at us funny.  The only person who spoke to us was the lady at the candy shop where I purchased a bag of sweets that I had never before seen in my life.

We walked back to the same, non-existent fan fare that had taken us to the mall.  During my hours in Juarez outside of my hotel compound, I never so much as stubbed my toe.  It was an pretty uneventful trip, but it saved me my sanity.

I think that the truth is, no where is safe if we look at safety as meaning that nothing bad will ever happen, ever.  Someone just might do something terrible to me in Pachuca, though according to various reports it is far more likely to happen in STL than there.  I will not be living my life afraid of the “potential bad” and I will not be limiting myself just because, maybe, something might happen one day.  Things have happened already and I don’t live my life paralyzed with fear.  I live on the outskirts of what has been ranked the most dangerous city in the US and have barely escaped assault in a small, Missouri town.

And I am pretty sure I will be coming back alive–but only to visit, because in a little over a week, Pachuca will be my home.

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5 responses »

  1. Your countown is getting closer and closer!!! I agree with you. My family would always tell me how worried they were because of everything they heard on the news and how dangerous it would be for me. All I told them was that it would be just as dangerous for me to walk down an alley in compton or Long Beach. Anything could happen to me no matter where Im at and I was always more scared to walk alone anywhere in the US than I have ever been here.

    • Getting under the two week mark was huge for me! For whatever reason, that was when it all started feeling real and attainable.

      My family has been worried, but they hold back about it until it explodes. I think they are finally feeling better now that I read them news reports from the state I will be living in and will be living in a privada in a busy but middle class area. The news reports have been big, though, because there is so rarely any violence there and when there is, it is on par with what is here–most times it even looks hilariously minor in comparison. Like the guy a few blocks from where I will be living who got mad at his wife, grabbed a knife, and then ran around outside with it. He didn’t attack anyone, just went running with a knife.

  2. I have a suspicion the news media here in the US blows the violence way out of proportion. I’m not saying something bad can’t happen, I’m saying if something bad does happen they the media runs with it.
    I think the outlook you have on things is a good one to have. You can’t stay inside every single day! Living life is way more fun.
    I can’t believe your move is so close!

    • I know! It is so crazy how fast everything is going by. I cannot believe that there is only one more weekend to go before I am out of here. I’m really getting into the nervous/scared stage–pretty much all about luggage and getting to the house. Silly to worry, because it will all be fine in time.

      I agree that it is blown out of proportion, but at the same time, any reporting on it would stand out to Americans–or so I think. For example, how many Americans thought about Norway until Friday? Probably very few, and now what they know is violence. For me, before actually going to Mexico, there was little I knew about it beyond my husband’s memories and a few stories I would catch here and there on the world news segment of the local news. Yet those images stuck with me because they were all I was being given.

      As you say, something bad can happen. Bad things do happen. And they happen everywhere, including here in my US hometown.

  3. Since I live in a small town, not much gets published about here. But, if there are things that happen that are bad, I just don’t report them to the people that care about me.

    My findings are that most bad things that happen happen to those that are involved, not innocent by standers. Not that innocent people don’t sometimes get wrapped up in it. But, for the most part, if you keep to yourself and don’t get involved with the wrong type of people, you have no worries.

    But I do tell my mom that I am more likely to get in a car accident if I still lived in Indy than having anything happen to me here. I feel really safe. But, as we know, the news like to have a field day with making things, no matter where they are, look worse than they actually are.

    The US media has definitely given Mexico a bad rap.

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