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Dangerous Living in Mexico?

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Have you heard the horror stories about traveling through Mexico? Worst yet, can you imagine living there?

Well, being the adventurous and courageous retirees that we are, in 1997 we bought a beautiful new mountainside villa overlooking Banderas Bay and El Centro, or downtown in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The villa is actually a compound, surrounded by 10 foot walls with a walk-in gate and doors for car entry. Our initial thought while closing the doors during our first evening in our new villa was to hire a couple sentries to guard the villa at night. One could be positioned in front and the other down below on the backside facing the bay, thus providing the security required in this foreign new land.

Well, we never got around to hiring those guards and furthermore, we’ve never heard of anyone being burglarized in the neighborhood for the past ten years. Municipal Police do cruise through the neighborhood a few times every night and we do have excellent street lighting; however crime in the neighborhood, known as the “Beverly Hills of Vallarta”, is virtually non-existent.

Ten years ago, we would be pulled over by the local police every two or three months for any of a myriad of concocted reasons. It was the typical corrupt Mexican police shake-down where after you handed him 200 pesos or $20, you were no longer guilty of breaking any laws or committing any crimes. You instantly became his amigo! That corruption is seldom seen anymore in Vallarta and we haven’t been pulled over by the police for a number of years. In fact, they seemed to have gone 180 degrees the opposite direction being very friendly to all Americans and Canadians.

The city of Puerto Vallarta, referred to as PV or Vallarta by the residents, has exploded in population during the past ten years to the current level of 350,000 inhabitants. That growth can be attributed solely to tourism. Virtually every job in PV is based on tourism and without the influx of foreigners from the US and Canada, Vallarta would still be a sleepy little Mexican fishing village. Because tourism is so important, the young locals are taught to treat the Americans and Canadians with dignity, respect, kindness, and as friends. The very last thing they can afford is to have tourists encounter problems while visiting Paradise and to return home with negative feelings about Vallarta. The objective of each and every Vallartense is to assure all tourists an enjoyable and safe time while visiting so that they look forward to returning. The young Mexicans are taught that safety is the prime concern of all visitors and to harm a tourist would be equivalent to taking food or money out of their own family household.

As a side note of interest, there is currently a film, “South of the Border” being shot here in Vallarta by the Disney Company. It’s a cute story about a chihuahua, owned by a Beverly Hills socialite that got lost while she was visiting a spa in Mexico. A group of local Mexican chihuahuas found this pup, took care of and entertained it, and then assured its safe return to Beverly Hills. The film will be released in 2008 and will help promote the social, cultural, and economic relations between Mexico and the US. The bottom line being, that the safety and security that one feels in Vallarta is quite comforting and is demonstrated in the film through the life of a chihuahua.

Serious crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, etc. are unheard-of in Vallarta. Security is such that armed robberies are virtually non-existent. One reason of course is, guns are not permitted in Mexico. The penalty for carrying a firearm is much more than anyone would ever want to pay.

The one crime that persists in PV is related to drugs. Although the Mexicans seldom use them, they are plentiful for those tourists too ignorant to understand the consequences. The penalty for drug possession and use is so severe that anyone dependent on drugs is best off avoiding Paradise.

With full employment in PV, even the art of pick-pocketing is no longer practiced here; it’s just too easy to find a job! The US and Canadian Consulates in Vallarta are well staffed and ready to assist any tourist with just about any problem that could arise while visiting here.

Even though Vallarta has reached the size of Anaheim or St. Louis, it’s still a small city where everyone seems to know what others are doing. Any crime committed by a local would be known about by many others immediately. Not to be picking on Anaheim or St. Louis, but when comparing Vallarta to cities in the US of similar size, our hunch is that it’s much safer in Paradise!
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Jim Scherrer has owned property in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 25 years and resided there for the past eleven years. The mission of his series of 47 articles pertaining to retirement in Puerto Vallarta is to reveal the recent changes that have occurred in Vallarta while dispelling (more...)
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