Is Manzanillo Safe?
By Susan Dearing
Please click on photos to enlarge
How many of you grew up in a small town, where you left your windows open to catch a cool breeze on a hot July night, or left your car unlocked with the windows down when you went downtown to grocery shop? I grew up in a town like that, and am living in one now: Manzanillo!
This is not to say that you should throw caution to the wind, and dare a poor person walking by to pinch your car stereo, but, everything considered, Manzanillo is one of the safest places I've lived since I grew up in Branson, Missouri. Sure, the accents are a little different down here, but that's nothing to be afraid of, and in fact, you'll find that Manzanillo's people are some of the nicest and most honest in Mexico! A recently reported survey cited Manzanillo and the state of Colima as having the lowest crime rates--1.1%--in all of Mexico.
Manzanillo is a tourist town; its citizens and businesses depend on you having a great and safe time while you're here. Not only is the Mexican army and navy based in Manzanillo, but so is our PFP ("just say 'no' to drugs" cops). Even our traffic police wear buttons that state: "Say no to bribes"!
Crime is virtually nonexistent here, especially violent crime. This is not the border, nor is it Guadalajara, Acapulco or Mexico City. You can feel safe driving on any road in the state of Colima. On some back roads, such as this one, you might get caught up in some heavy traffic, but even then, it can be a very "moo-ving" experience!
There are some areas of major Canadian and American cities that you wouldn't dare walk down the street in broad daylight, much less at night. In Manzanillo and the state of Colima, you can go anywhere, and never have to worry, even the "red light district." This small, 2-block-long area, is also called the "zona tolerancia," or tolerance zone. There are a couple of bawdy houses, where women do the Mexican version of bump and grind to pulsating loud music.
Naturally, since Manzanillo is a port town, the sailors and merchant marines frequent this area for their night on the town. The section is interspersed with adjoining homes, and at night you'll often see families sitting out in front of their houses on the sidewalk, while the kids ride their trikes and push-cars in the street.
This is not to say that you want to go to the red light district, get rip-roaring drunk, and stumble down a dark alley at 2 a.m. with money falling out of your pocket. You wouldn't do that at home, either, would you? Don't look for trouble, and you won't find any.
What about drugs? During my years working at all-inclusive hotels, I have witnessed foreigners asking anyone and everyone where they can score some pot or coke. This is probably one of the dumbest things you can do. The Mexicqan press loves to blame the borders' clashes between the drug cartels and the police on gringos. They say that if we foreigners didn't buy the drugs, thus creating a market, there would be no drug cartels.
Possession of any illegal substance can be a life sentence here in Mexico, and even though Mexican congress has recently voted to decriminalize marijuana, it has yet to pass the senate. Try and make the most of your vacation without being under the influence. A Mexican jail is no vacation!
Much has been said in recent press headlines about the safety of Mexico, primarily because several Canadian tourists have been injured or killed while on vacation. Please, folks, this didn't happen in Manzanillo (and according to the Mexican press, these people were involved with the drug trade in some way)! Don't blame us for something that happened hundreds of miles away in another state--a state that has been fraught with problems relating to drug trafficking--for many years.
Our local newspaper, the "El Correo," does have a police page, and sometimes there's actually a crime on it. Not often, however. Usually, it's filled with a car accident or two, alcohol-induced fist fights (sort of a "macho man" thing), or perhaps a juvenile running away from home. Once in a while someone described as "mentally confused" is taken back home, or placed in the hospital for observation. Such was big time crime in Manzanillo this month. Not much going on that would make a TV mini-series called, "Manzanillo Vice"! (Maybe "Manzanillo Nice," but that wouldn't sell.)
Even on national election day, when everyone, particularly foreign television newscasters, predicted riots and unrest, the day passed tranquilly without incident. Mexico and its citizens proved the "doom and gloom" folks wrong again. And there were record turn-outs at the polls.
Sept. 16, Independence Day, also passed without a single injury or fatality. You'd think when it's all you can drink everywhere in town, and everyone is shouting the "grito," (the Mexican cry for Independence), someone would get a little rowdy. Not so in Manzanillo. But we sure did have fun that night, gringos and Mexicans alike.
There was Mariachi music everywhere, fireworks, the Ballet Folklorico from the University of Colima, and mock cockfights! Mexicans are very proud people, and it made me very proud of my adopted country, and even prouder of its citizens.
Though there are many cultural differences, it is wonderful to learn about them all. It is also good to know that as a single woman living alone, as I do, you can feel safe and comfortable. The state of Colima, one of the smallest states in Mexico, is rich in resources, and every dirt road leads to some place new and exciting.
I go anywhere and everywhere, by myself: camping, driving the back roads, to nightclubs, and remote beaches. If I can do it and feel safe, you can, too. I've met interesting people, and saw many wonderful things. Drive to a remote beach, and you'll never know what you'll find.
Quit worrying about your safety just because newspapers headlines, or some government agency issued a travel advisory. The bureaucrat sitting in a high-rise office in Washington, D.C. and passing judgment on an entire country has most likely never visited Manzanillo, and certainly has never traveled the country as extensively as I have! That would be like telling tourists not to take their kids to Disneyland because there was a drive-by shooting in East LA. Please!
Manzanillo isn't Mexico City, nor is it Los Angles, New York, Detroit or Toronto. Every city in the world has its plusses and minuses, but Manzanillo is, for all practical purposes, one of the safest and most friendly places on earth.
Don't be afraid, and don't pass us by because some overpaid elected official in your country makes a blanket statement about Mexico before he has all his facts straight. Visit us, get out of your hotel and explore, and then write your own account of your experiences here. We'll publish it on www.gomanzanillo.com, and make sure he gets a copy!
This article was originally written about 8 years ago. Not one thing has changed, except perhaps that Manzanillo and the state of Colima is even safer. Our police force has tripled, and their salaries have doubled, making incidents of bribery and corruption a thing of the past.
With the recent tourist advisories, and blanket negative statements from Fox News commentators Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, who warn foreigners to completely stay away from Mexico, suggesting Florida as an alternative destination, make note that Miami is #3 on the "America's Most Dangerous Cities" list, topped by Detroit (#1) and Memphis, the Country Music Capital, as #2.
With Mexico being the 10th most popular tourist destination in the world, there are many completely safe areas. Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon should be applauded for his increased efforts at fighting the country's violent drug mafia. However, news commentators and others who have never even lived here, don't help Calderon's efforts when they urge tourists not to visit. His fight against the cartels costs money, and with tourism being the third largest revenue in the country, telling Americans and Canadians not to visit and spend money here will only prolong the problem. In this time of crisis, we need to help our southern neighbor, not make things worse.
22.6 million tourists visited Mexico last year, and compared to other places this author has been, including 13 European countries, the state of Colima and its largest city, Manzanillo is by far the safest place I've lived for the last 21 years. Others feel exactly the same way, including Linda Ellerbee, well-known television journalist, who has also written a news story about her experiences and safety issues living in Puerto Vallarta.
It is truly unfortunate that someone whom I admired for a long time (O'Reilly) can make such judgments without even bothering to speak to those of us who live and work here. It is also sad to think that competent journalism is relegated to a 30-second sound bite, meant to incite and inflame, taken as the gospel, with nothing to back it up. In my days of journalism (1965-1983), after spending 17 years in print media, I would have needed something much more substantial to issue a blanket statement of condemnation of an entire country.
Others who live here feel the same way, and all of us support the country and the wonderful, hard-working Mexican people. Most of us here live in integrated neighborhoods, and our neighbors are friendly and giving. Colima children are highest educated in Mexico, and unemployment is zero. Therefore, as an added benefit, the crime rate is almost zero. There are jobs for anyone who wants to work, and food enough for everyone.
Related articles: "Manzanillo Magic," and Manzanillo and the state of Colima "Survey."
What makes Manzanillo safe? Read more.
Cases of teen drug abuse are not limited to big cities. Even smaller towns have been facing this problem for years.
For more detailed information on Manzanillo and the state of Colima, be sure and order a copy of my 140-page tourist guidebook! Those of you who have visited us, and love Mexico, write your own stories and send them to Fox News and others who need an education about Mexico.