|January 2011 - CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO
Los Cabos Magazine Issue #24 - By Ashley Alvarado
The headlines are heartbreaking and seemingly never-ending. Day after daypaper after paperreports of horrific crime and violence in México are blasted across American broadsheets and airwaves. And, yes, it’s true. México is a country at war. Its leaders, police, and military are every day fighting a battle against drug cartels, corruption, and senseless violence.
But to characterize all of México as dangerous would be a gross injusticeand inaccurate. While there has been a spike in high-profile, drug-related incidents, a recent Brookings Institute study adds perspective. The report’s author, Latin American expert Kevin Casas-Zamora, told a Miami Herald reporter: “Violence in México is concentrated in a few cities … But in the country as a whole, it doesn't come even close to Washington, D.C.’s.” Sinaloa, Chihuahua, and Tijuana in Baja California have been affected, but México covers more than 760,000 square miles and the vast majority of it is safe, with numerous cities and states boasting crime rates lower than in many parts of the United States.
Baja California Sur, home to Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, is one of those states. According to an April report, it has a homicide rate 12 times lower than Honolulu’s, 18 times lower than Miami’s, and 26 times lower than Orlando’s. And a fall study of the entire country, ranked Baja California Sur third in public safety, tourism services, and transportation infrastructure.
So why am I telling you this? It’s because I love México, especially Baja California Sur. I’ve spent my entire life traversing the peninsula, discovering picture-perfect sunsets, storybook villages, and natural wonder after natural wonder. It’s rich in culture, culinary traditions, and eminently visitable destinations. I would hate for people to miss out on the opportunity to experience it for themselves because of misguided fear. Fortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, not lately.
According to the Mexico Tourism Board, the number of international visitors flying into México from January to August last year was up 19 percent over the same period in 2009 (about six out of 10 international visitors are Americans). Despite the still-recovering global economy, tourists are also finding their way back to Los Cabos. Through the first nine months of 2010, hotel occupancy was up 5 percent over the previous year. Another good sign: As of mid-December, Virgin America is offering flights from San Francisco to San José del Cabo. The carrier joins other airlinesincluding Alaska, American, U.S. Airways, and Unitedwho serve the region.
What’s prompting this resurgence in travel is simple: Los Cabos is fun, accessible, gorgeous, safe, and committed to staying that way. Removed from the violence plaguing parts of the rest of the countrythere’s a body of water separating it from the mainland and a thousand miles between Cabo and Tijuanavacationers can relax, knowing they are safe and secure.
The government is not relaxing, however, its efforts to protect locals and tourists and improve their services. A fall amendment to the U.S. State Department’s México travel warning, which included no specific mention of Los Cabos, states, “The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations.”
The Mexican Naval Marine base, headed by Admiral Felipe Lozano Armenta, protects and assists maritime traffic and operates search-and-rescue missions in and about Los Cabos. In its arsenal: intercepting patrol and defender boats and helicopters, each manned 24-7 with trained and qualified crews.
The Administración Portuaria Integral (or port authority) works with the Navy to maintain public order and to ensure confidence in the area’s safety and security. The fruit of their labor often goes unappreciated until people realize they’ve prevented a violent situation like what many are dealing with elsewhere in the country from erupting in Los Cabos.
Visit during high-travel season, and you’re sure to encounter foot patrols along city streets, the marinas, and on the beach. All personnel are trained to implement contingency plans and programs to assist in times of emergency, whether natural or man-made. That extra training is something they’ve implemented with local police, too, making them better prepared for any incident.
“We have over 15,000 foreigners living in Baja California Sur,” says Marco Ehrenberg, Baja California Sur’s director of international relations. “Many of the rich and famous still choose Cabo as their number one destination. Don’t you think they have done their homework? Why do we have the best hotels and the highest number of private air travel in México for a tourist destination? Because Los Cabos is safe, fun, and friendly.”
“México is a big, incredibly diverse country, so violence along the border does not have any effect on a vacation in Los Cabos,” adds Miroslava Bautista Sánchez, the Los Cabos secretary of tourism. “Thousands of flights, cruise lines, and private yachts choose Los Cabos as their travel destination...Why? Because Los Cabos is a symbol of a peaceful place to visit and to live.”
Now I’m not saying that a trip to Los Cabos is risk free. There are risks associated with every kind of travel. What I am saying is that it’s safe. It’s a place where you can come to relax, have fun, and not worryas long as you practice good judgment and act responsibly (people who ignore those rules are at risk no matter where they are). And, on the off chance that something does go wrong, you can there is the proper infrastructure in place to handle any mishap.
For more information, including safe travel tips, you can visit the U.S. State Department’s website, http://travel.state.gov. Broader information about Los Cabos, including frequently asked questions, is available at www.loscabosguide.com. And, should the need arise, the U.S. Consular agent in Los Cabos can be reached at (624) 143-3566 or by e-mail at usconsulcabo@yahoo.