This Is Our Home
Residents answer the question, How safe is Los Cabos?
By Sandra A. Berry
How safe is Los Cabos? It’s a question I posed to members of the Tomatoes ladies social group I’ve belonged to for 17 of the 20 years I’ve lived in Los Cabos. This question came in response to the August 23, 2017, travel warning the U.S. Department of State issued. It cautioned U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of México due to activities of criminal organizations in certain areas, and it mentioned Los Cabos for the first time.
The state of Baja California Sur, including its municipalities Los Cabos and La Paz, was cited as experiencing a higher rate of homicides compared to the same period in 2016. The statement hastened to say that most of the homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations and turf battles between criminal groups.
“How has this affected you as a resident, as a frequent visitor to Los Cabos, and to your family and friends visiting from the U.S.?” I asked. Here are some of their responses:
“The way I see it, it is no different from living in the United States or Canada,” Grace Suen said, before describing drive-by shootings in her native Canada. “Los Cabos is as safe a place to live as anywhere. It doesn’t matter where we are, we need to keep our wits about us and exercise good judgment.”
“I have read all about the murders in Cabo, and, of course, I am upset,” Gloria Taradash said. “However, I plan to go to Cabo and stay as long as I usually do. Many friends and family are concerned for me, but I am optimistic.”
“I have read newspapers about the happenings in Cabo, and it has not affected me at all,” Rhoda Campbell said. “As a six-month resident for 16 years, I’ve never had a problem. The Mexicans are wonderful people, the beaches are clean and safe, and I’ve never been bothered or seen anything that would cause me to be apprehensive.”
The U.S. Department of State warning came as foreign tourism to México rose by 12 percent this year, including an 11 percent rise from the United States, according to México’s tourism secretary, Enrique de la Madrid. About 60 percent of foreign visitors to the country come from the United States.
Drug violence in Los Cabos drew big headlines in recent months. In August, a violent incident left three people dead. Baja California Sur reported nearly four times more slayings than last year during the same period. Nevertheless, it’s critical we must keep things in perspective. When you compare these figures with homicide rates in major U.S. cities, they appear small. In numbers of murders, Chicago’s 328 people killed during the first half of this year is frightening, but you don’t see news bulletins coming from the United States advising a travel warning to that city. The tourism secretary said México sees the warning as a “wake-up call” for the country and that it must be more effective in combating organized crime.
When we spoke, Barbara Smith, who has lived in Los Cabos for 47 years, had just returned from Minnesota and relayed what she did every morning while on vacation. “Turning on TV, the first thing we would hear is how many murders had occurred in the city overnight. And these are citizens against citizens. The biggest problem in Los Cabos that I can think of is being accosted by a time-share OPC [off-property contact].”
Pam Tellier and her husband live in Cabo eight months a year and have no plans to curtail their activities. “We choose to live our lives or we choose to live in fear,” said Rochelle Dietz, who has been coming to Cabo for 23 years. She considers Los Cabos her second home. Added Sherry Garcia: “Fear is a powerful emotion that can be exploited by the media to sway public opinion.”
It is unnerving to hear some of the stories coming out of our generally safe and secure haven, but alas, we live in a threatening world. These are frightening events that deserve attention. But they should also be put into context with what is going on in the United States, Canada, and around the world. We’ve been very lucky to not have had problems to the extent that other Mexican tourist destinations have had. Because of recent incidents of organized crime, we’ve had an influx of federal police, and we welcome them. They are here to help keep us safe.
Let’s face it. Where in the world is safe? We have to go about the business of living our lives. We can’t just put our heads in the sand and let the world pass us by. Los Cabos is as safe or safer than many places elsewhere. What happens here gets blown out of proportion by the news media, and some of it may be political. That’s not to say we don’t have reason to be worried. Travel warnings are just that: warnings. We who live here do not like what is happening, but it has not had a direct effect on us residents or tourists. When I’m asked whether I am afraid of living in Los Cabos, my response is that I’m more fearful of storms that cause loss of life and property
My advice is to come and enjoy Los Cabos. Be aware of your surroundings, stay in tourist areas, and go about your vacation as intended. Leave the fancy jewelry at home, don’t show an excess of cash openly, do not walk the beach alone, and stay with your group. In other words, focus on having fun.