I Went to Mexico and Survived

For my senior year spring break, I wanted to go somewhere cheap, somewhere warm and somewhere I hadn’t been before.

Originally, I had wanted to go to Cuba (but then I found out you can’t go as an individual tourist—ugh). So after intensive research with my two friends I was traveling with, we figured out our only liable option was Cancun, Mexico. It fit all our qualifications: cheap, warm and none of us had ever been to Mexico before.                   

However, I was hesitant to go for a few reasons. First, I didn’t want to go to another country just to be surrounded by Americans again. Also, I didn’t want to just go to the beach and drink and party all day—it would be like going to Disney World and saying you went to America. If I was going to Mexico, I wanted to be immersed in the culture.

But what made me hesitate the most was my nationality. Along with his pledge to build a wall, President Trump hasn’t been shy to express his negative sentiments toward Mexicans. His outward racism and disrespect toward Mexico makes me ashamed to be an American. I was embarrassed to go and explore Mexico’s natural wonders while be part of a country that has an agenda to degrade its citizens.

                                                                   Photo courtesy of Alex Curran-Cardarelli

It wasn’t until I talked to my parents did the concern of safety even crossed my mind. When I told them I was going, they responded, “Is that safe?” “Stay in the hotel zone,” “Text us every day.” At first I was upset that my parents would have such negative remarks for a country.

But after I did some research, I couldn’t blame them. The state department recommended to “exercise increased caution due to crime,”[1] and news headlines ranging from, “Mexico tourism: Violence in Cancun,”[2] to “Cartel violence ramps up in tourist hotspot.”[3] After warnings from friends and individual research, I have to admit, I was starting to get scared myself.            

But the moment we arrived in Cancun, all of those fears slowly started to dwindle.

                                                                   Photo courtesy of Alex Curran-Cardarelli

In order to avoid the American spring breakers and the tourist traps, we booked a hostel downtown, called Agavero. First off, let me just say it was amazing. It was beautiful, the staff was friendly, and almost everyone staying there was from Europe. Also, since we were downtown and away from the hotel zone, we were able to eat at lots of authentic restaurants and forced to learn some Spanish.

It wasn’t until our third night that all three of us started to truly fall in love with Mexico. As we looked for dinner, we walked through some back streets and stumbled upon a large festival in what looked like the city’s main park. There was a Ferris wheel, carnival games, small pop up shops, live music and lots of food stands. Everything was so colorful and bright, children ran around and parents mingled over food. There was such a large sense of community that I had never felt before. If everyone had the chance to come to this small part of Cancun, I know they would fall in love with Mexico, too.

For the rest of the week, we went to the beach and swam with turtles, explored an island and checked out some Mayan ruins. It was relaxing and wonderful and at no point during my stay did I feel unsafe or judged for being an American.

                                                                  Photo courtesy of Alex Curran-Cardarelli

Even though I had such a great experience in Cancun, it made me feel ashamed for even being a little bit nervous. Everyone was so kind to me, while my President was off trying to build a wall around their country. It made me feel ashamed that Americans have such a negative view of Mexico, when in reality, there is so much good.

Yes, of course the cartel is a problem and the Mexican government has its flaws, but what about us, Americans? Gun violence and police brutality fill up our every day lives and our President fires his employees via Twitter. Honestly, at this point in our lives, I would say it’s safer to be a white girl in Cancun than a black man in America.

Also, saying, “Mexico is dangerous,” is a broad term—what part? A city? A state? Who is exactly dangerous? Is it the every day citizen, the cartel, the police?

By saying such broad phrases, we create a narrative for an entire culture that many of us know nothing about. It induces fear and the creation of negative stereotypes. 

I went to Mexico and not only survived, but had a great time. So next time you hear “Mexico is dangerous,” take a minute to think about what that really means.

Who’s the real threat?

[1] https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/mexico-travel-advisory.html