Those security concerns…

Earlier in the week I made the mistake of reading the US State Department’s travel warnings about Mexico, and specifically about the States of Sinaloa and Sonora, which is where the Mexican Pacific League baseball teams are all based. For comparison, this is the Australian Advice on Mexico, with which I am well-familiar and upon which advice I started my planning.

Some of the highlights of the US State Dept reading are:

One of Mexico’s most powerful TCOs is based in the state of Sinaloa. With the exception of Ciudad Juarez, since 2006 more homicides have occurred in the state’s capital city of Culiacan than in any other city in Mexico.

…defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and southward

So, just to make this the highlight of my day, of course The Culiacan Tomateros are the second team I visit (after Mazatlan Venados) and the Ciudad Obregon Yaquis are the most northern point of my trip up the Pacific Coast.

I’d rather given myself the willies and shared that all over Facebook and Twitter. And other people wibbled with me and that has FINALLY kicked me into a bit of a slap-happy research mode.

There is a vast amount more detail in the US travel warning – enough to get exceptionally excited about if you don’t take the time to look at the map and figure out that most of the warnings about Sonora are for a triangle of desert up near the US Border.  The main things that are pointed out in the travel warning are drug-related violence/homicide and kidnappings.

The State-by-State homicide numbers across Mexico are here – I don’t know what the current trends are for 2013, but the places I’m planning on going seem to be in the process of getting less murder-y, which is nice for me.  Reporting seems to indicate that most of the killing is between TCOs or between TCOs and police. I judge that I would have to be pretty seriously unlucky and/or looking for trouble for this to happen to me.

And if you’re curious, this is what I’ve found about homicide in Australia on a 2 minute search – National Homicide Monitoring Report (published 2010, looking at stats from 2006-7) – 273 victims of homicide in all of Australia for a rate of 1.3/100,000.  Err – so the state of Nayarit (where I am now) has roughly the same number of murders as all of Australia and the population of Nayarit is about half that of my home city of Perth.

Kidnapping is the other big issue.  Official figures say about 1,000 kidnappings were reported last year, but the estimates of non-reported kidnappings put it at around 100,000.  These include abduction for an ATM withdrawal.  According to all the news and expat sources I can get my hands on, kidnappings tend to be targeted at Mexicans rather than foreigners.  The Australian Government isn’t too worried about anything but Express Kidnapping (ATM withdrawal kidnapping) in Mexico. Expat forums finger Mexico City, Vera Cruz and Guerrero as places it is most likely to happen.

So – it’s going to be First Class buses during the day, my dodgy cheap-ass clothing, one bag, minimal cash on person at all times, getting back to hotels/hostels early, asking hotel staff about the dodgy and safe places and following their advice and generally remembering that this is a baseball trip not a party trip and that Exercising a High Degree of Caution is appropriate.

Part of a high-degree of caution has been the decision to drop the Navojoa Mayos, as it has been nigh impossible to find a hotel near the stadium and I refuse to wander too far around town by myself at night after a game.  My experience in Pawtucket is that everyone drives and the stadium looks like it’s in something of an industrial district. I would love for them to tell me different, but at this point, no Navojoa for me, despite the relative closeness to Ciudad Obregon. The only way I will get there is if an Obregon hotel staff member wants to go and wants to drive.

I may also reassess the hotel I chose in Culiacan and move to somewhere more expensive, but surrounded by other hotels, instead of just picking the one closest to Estadio Tomateros. It does put me in the pricier part of town and I will look more affluent just by being there, but since kidnapping is not at the top of my list of security concerns, that will probably be OK and I will be in a much more travelled area.

It’s around about this time that I think I really would like to have a travel buddy. Especially a travel buddy who likes baseball enough to come do this with me.  It would be cheaper and I would feel a little braver.  The security situation is enough that the kind of ‘meet fans and hang out with them in bars after the game’ thing that I got to do in Chicago and Pawtucket and Lowell is not something I’m going to be able to do.  And that makes me pretty damn sad.

(June 2013 – AS safe and dangerous as ever –


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