My Mexico, A Resident’s View on life, safety and Living in Puerto Vallarta
Written by Stan Gabruk, owner Master Baiter´s Sportfishing and Tackle (www.masterbaiters.com.mx)
I have lived in Puerto Vallarta now for about ten years and change now. I am constantly asked if Mexico is a safe place to live. Now I have not lived in many places in Mexico, only Puerto Vallarta in Marina Vallarta mostly. It´s an isolated pocket where mostly Americans and Canadians own homes / condos. There is also a large number of Mexican owners as well, with the vast majority of the Mansions in Marina Vallarta owned by Mexican Nationals as you should expect. The popular misconception that All Mexicans are broke and have no money is a promoted misconception. Mexicans have money. One look around at the cars traveling down the road is an indication that Puerto Vallarta is Mexicos Palm Beach!
People here live their daily lives like people in North America, they go to work, pay their bills, raise their families and try to squeeze as much out of life as we all do. Puerto Vallarta has grown dramatically in the last ten years. The flow of money was steady and strong. North Americans have been steadily visiting Puerto Vallarta since the mid 60´s, but it was the Bubble Days when Free Money was there for the taking in the states that has created what we now know as PV. Puerto Vallarta Grew and Grew and then got more expensive. Life was good, everyone was making money, the bubble was growing and the money machine was in full swing.
During this time there was never any talk in the American press of Drug Cartels, or how Mexico is more dangerous than Iraq as the American press quotes quite often. But the politics of the time started talking about how there was crime in Mexico. Now this is not the subject, crime in Mexico, it exist just like crime exist in Beverly Hills, you can never avoid crime. When you take a place that has no mention and is pretty much forgotten by the press like Mexico, it can be a shock when you read some of the press Mexico has been getting in the past two years. Suddenly there is crime in Mexico and Drugs, OMG Run for the hills!
OK, so what´s the surprise here amigo, there are drugs everywhere and where people are dealing in drugs there are always drug related deaths, does this really surprise anyone. If you are one of those ¨Scar Face¨ type characters, then you may be one of those guys you are reading about. But hey, I live here, I don´t see those guys in PV! I know people that smoke pot, and they are not some bent nose criminals dealing in drugs all over city…
I live in a small residential area about eight blocks from Marina Vallarta called Colonia Aramara. I have a small hardware store, a fruit market, butcher, laundry and grocery store a stone’s throw from my little house. The house I live in is a two bedroom, two bath Casita. A small place with a very nice garden patio, modern appliances, air conditioned, very comfortable place for $5,500.00 pesos or $458.00 dollars per month. My Electric bill during the summer is $1,300.00 pesos or $108.00 dollars for two months with air conditioning going in the evenings since there is nobody home during the day time working hours. By all accounts, this is cheap, very cheap living. When I lived in the Marina I paid $8000.00 pesos ($660.00 usd) a month and paid $350.00 usd for electricity for a month of air conditioning. The Marina is referred to by Nationals as Gringo Landia or Land in English. You can see my electric bill for one month in the Marina is essentially six months of air conditioning in my Residential Casita.
My Neighbors are normal working class people just like my parents were in our residential neighborhood of Venice California (which was considered dangerous when I was growing up). If you are looking for a connection, there is always somebody close to contact, just like any neighborhood in the states. There are no gangs looking for Gringos with Machetes as the press would have you believe. There are no mass murderers in the streets as is the Perceptions of Americans of Puerto Vallarta and all of Mexico. The occasional party can drive you crazy as Nationals love to find a reason to turn the music up and have a party! But if you are being kept awake, join them, you will be welcome even if you don´t speak Spanish, or Spanglish in my case! Your neighbors look out for your house when you are away, just like normal neighbors. When things go bad, the neighbors all pitch in or set up neighborhood groups to take care of common areas and parks. Normal daily stuff to me. Not that different than any Neighborhood in the western world.
But when I come to work (my fishing shop), in PV, I open the daily Drudge Report, CBS News, Fox News, CNN and the rest just to discover I am in grave danger of Drug Cartels looking to cut my head off or worse since I am being told my little neighborhood is more dangerous than Iraq!! Iraq, WHAT ?? I grew up in California, Venice to be exact. When I was a kid just walking down the street in decent clothes was enough for someone to come after you. Nice shoes, your gold chain, you name it, if it you looked like you had money, you got attacked by all sorts of ¨minority types¨. Yet I am told Los Angeles is safe. Safe for who? Drive By shootings was the reason I moved away from there in the first place and went to Seattle and worked for Boeing as an Engineer!
Two years ago the world, mostly the USA went on a rant about how horrible Mexico was because the H1N1 Flu Pandemic started in Cancun. The press made a big, big deal sending CNN´s medical reporters and doctors to document the deaths that were occurring in Mexico. But there was nothing to report because in all there were only 83 people in all of Mexico that ultimately died of the H 1N1 Flu Virus in all of Mexico. Most of them contracted it in the United States and brought it back with them. There were travel warnings not to visit anywhere in Mexico or you could die. This went on, and on… and on. It was so bad it like they were all ¨Chicken Little´ running around saying the sky was falling! A year later it came out in the press in small text in the back of the news papers that the Pandemic was actually started in Los Angeles and these student types had communicated the disease long before coming to Cancun who ultimately got the blame. So tourism and business travel to Mexico was halted like throwing a stick in the spokes of a bike! Of course this was all over the world. When it came out that this was all a farse, a hoax of biblical proportions, then came another reason to focus on Mexico. Drug Cartels!
Suddenly Juarez on the border becomes big news for the national news services in the United States. Juarez has always been a bad area, Mexico knows it, America knows it, no secret here. Long before the cartels were the lead news story in the press, Juarez was a place to stay away from. I figure it will always be a place to stay away from. But the news is really off base, Juarez has been less and less violent yearly for the past twenty five years. But with the internet and the biased news services Juarez is all of a sudden news worthy. Juarez has always been about Mexicans shooting Mexicans in No Mans Land, Again, nothing new here. My only question is if Juarez has improved to the point where crime and deaths are down in number, no matter what you hear or read, why is it now Dangerous for North Americans now to visit Mexico. Why wasn`t it dangerous twenty years ago, ten years ago, why now? Did the American press not care about Americans safety in Mexico then? There are a lot of reasons for this, I will not go into them except to say the main goal here is to keep American Dollars in America. Tourism is a huge thing in Mexico since it is so close to the United States, it draws many, many Americans and Canadians. Again nothing new….
So here I am living in Mexico, Listening to the news services, reading the news in the papers and I start think I am living in a dangerous place! After ten years of living in Puerto Vallarta and not seeing one incident, or involved in any sort of unusual incident, I was still concerned for my life. I mean after all the press can ´t be making this all up, right? I started telling my friends I was leaving and they all, every one of them pointed out that I was being manipulated by the press and I knew better. I knew I was safe, my family is safe and my friends are safe. If you are in the drug trade in Mexico or Detroit, it is all the same. Lazy, uneducated people with big guns and small minds thinking they can make quick and easy money fast. It works that way until some other small minded, uneducated person with another bigger gun gets the same idea and then wants to take over this guys territory. Then the cycle returns and gets more intense as more and more top drug cartel heads are captured and sent to the United States to be prosecuted. Naturally this leaves a void, the void is filled with another group(s) of big guns / small minded criminal types, primarily Mexican Nationals, who are the ones dying, not tourist. That is unless they are coming to Mexico to be a drug dealer themselves, then that makes the news also! Out of most of the deaths you will hear about in the States and Canada, the vast majority are dealing in things they have no business being involved with! But the news forgets to put that in the story!
So I hear stuff about dead beheaded bodies being hung up in Cancun. When you look at the story, knowing Mexico, Cancun is like fifty miles away from where the incident happened in an area a law abiding citizen would not be. Then you see pictures of Juarez where there were dead bodies across in the street as they talk about Acapulco, show Juarez and talk Acapulco, is this a lie?? Even the picture states it was from Juarez a year prior to the article in very fine print. I get more nervous, remember I own a company here. It once again was pointed out to me that this was another bogus story meant to scare Americans out of Mexico and keep those tourism dollars in the states….
The bottom line here is I walk the streets here in PV late at night. I take the bus and watch and listen as some magician or musician or snake oil salesman performs his show on the buses. I eat at the local taco stands and find the food and the people wonderful. I hang out in Mexican National Cantinas and love the Banda Music and the Ladies! I associate with rich types and the guys who wash the cars and even have been known to buy a six pack and throw a few down with these happy and simple amigos.
I come into my shop in the Marina and get questions on the internet from people asking if it is safe in Mexico. How do you argue with the press? I tell everyone I know, Mexico is safe. It is every bit as safe if not safer than the United States. But we in the states are desensitized in the press. We hear stories of how some guy goes walking into an iHOP and kills eleven people. Or the day before how 47 people were killed (www.nbcnewyork.com) in new York n labor day. If this happened in Mexico it would be world news, in New York it is forgotten the next day, of course except for the victims family…..
You walk into a Mexican Emergency Room on a Saturday night and you see some scarey stuff, car accident injuries, broken bones, heart attacks, normal stuff. Go into the emergency room of East Los Angeles or Chicago, you see bullet wounds on clearly criminal types, stab wounds, drive by shooting victims, basically war zone injuries…..
Tonight I will close the shop, got Fajita Banana Restaurant and have some great ribs and a few beers. I will then go to Dante Restaurant and have a conversation with the owners as my friends. I will then walk down the street to my lady friends house and spend a little time, then I will take the bus home and walk through my quiet neighborhood before I watch a movie in my air conditioned house and watch the American news as it scares me once more about living in Mexico.
For the record, Mexico for those visiting tourist areas is as safe as you could hope to be. If you are coming down and wanting to enter the drug business, I would suggest you stay as far away from that as possible… If you want to come to Mexico and open a business, I would support that as well because Mexico is the land of opportunity. Now there are some cultural and business challenges, but so what. You can live cheaper, better and healthier in Puerto Vallarta than California. You can drink the water, the Medical care is all done by board certified, America Trained and educated doctors. Housing is one third the price of the states and the weather is mild when compared to places like Kentucky, florida or even Chicago.
If you have any reservations, then th ere are dozens of web sites that talk about the situation in Mexico and how the North Americans are being misled to believe they will die if they come to Mexico. Feel free to contact me and ask me anything you want to know.
For now, I am staying here in Mexico. I am safe, retired, and living a life most of my friends would love to have. My health is good, my mind is clear and I worry about what is happening in the United States when Americans cannot afford to retire and live on reduced retirements as the govt. tells the American Citizens they have to tighten the belt a little more each year. In Mexico, I live well and will continue to live well as you all watch the demonization of Mexico.
While I am in a tourist business, when tourism is down, that only means I own Puerto Vallarta and that is not a bad place to be amigos.
Next time you are in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta to be exact, come by and say hello! You´ll find me at Master Baiter´s Sportfishing and Tackle daily watching the seasons turn and enjoying what Mexico has to offer!
Remember you read this the next time you hear a news story pointing a finger at Mexico, then ask yourself what the hidden agenda behind the story is!