Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm wondering why the state department's warning about travel abroad in Mexico hasn't caused more public outrage. Israel recently invaded Gaza on the grounds that a developed nation has the right to protect its citizens by invading a neighboring state. We are no longer safe to travel in Mexico, millions of Mexican immigrants within our borders live in terror that their family members on the other side might be kidnapped and held for ransom, and the Mexican government is too weak to control the activities of armed groups within its borders. Either we are noble to endure these terrors in the name of respecting Mexico's territorial integrity, or we are just too numb to care. 

Organized crime in Mexico has grown from drug distribution into widespread kidnapping and extortion. My sense is that Mexico has safe areas and unsafe areas, just like in the U.S., only the unsafe areas are more concentrated in Mexico. The facile state department memo reduces the safe areas to "legitimate business and tourist areas." We have the right to demand something better. For example, since the city of Monterrey is not a premier tourist destination, should I consider myself "warned" by my government not to explore its outskirts? The city has one of the highest per capita incomes in Mexico; why should any U.S. memo compromise my rights there?

Backing up a bit, I recently became interested in traveling to Mexico. Having loved trips to New Mexico in 2007 and 2008, I have a feeling that I'll love Mexico for many of the same reasons: the culture, the land, the shared history. This is my personal taste. A U.S. citizen could feel the same enthusiasm about Iceland. To ground this in principle, I believe that since I live within a culture infused with Mexican people and cultural influences, my "pursuit of happiness" should include the freedom to explore this culture at its source. In this light I view the state department memo and general complacency of the U.S. population at large as threats to my civil liberties. I want to go to Mexico and not have to worry about being kidnapped.