Rather than believing all I have heard and read, I decided to ask my sister about how safe she felt in Mexico, since she's now lived there for over a year.
Now that you are way past the "honeymoon" period of your love affair with Mexico, I would like to ask you about some of the less savory aspects the country is heavily rumored to possess. How safe have you felt living in Mexico this past year?
Very. I guess it helps that we are here in the Yucatan, away from the border towns where most of the trouble is reported to be. We met a local resident in Merida, who told us that the Yucatan Peninsula is just about the safest place to be in Mexico.
Why is that, do you think?
According to her, the peninsula is a deterrent to crime as it makes it hard for criminals to escape, being surrounded on three sides by water. I, myself, think it has also something to do with the nature of The Mayans, a peaceful, honest and hardworking people who make up much of the population in the Yucatan. I have never felt unsafe even walking the streets by myself at night here in Playa Del Carmen.
What about lesser crimes? Have you experienced anyone trying to cheat you or ever had anything stolen from you?
Where we are in Playa Del Carmen is also heavily populated by tourists, especially in the high seasons, and yes, there is a sense when you walk down busy Quinta Avenida that everybody is out to make a buck off you. And while 90% of the time, it is just a matter of enterprising Mexicans working hard at making a living, yes, we have experienced an instance or two when someone has tried to cheat us. Bertrand had a minor incident at the gas station once. Now we were made aware of the common ploy where the gas attendant does not reset the pump to zero, and you end up paying for your gas plus whatever the last person put into his or her car.
This time, the new tactic, apparently, is to put you at ease by showing you that the pump has been reset to zero. Then, hoping that you are now less likely to be vigilant, they try a sleight of hand when it comes time to pay for the gas. The pump showed he owed 445 pesos (around US$40). Bertrand handed the young man (strangely enough, he wasn't the one who had pumped the gas) two 200-peso bills and a 50-peso bill. Instead of making change, the boy held out the bills and repeated the amount Bertrand was supposed to pay. In a flash, he had exchanged one of the 200-peso bills for a 20-peso bill, so that when Bertrand looked at what the boy was holding out, it looked like Bertrand had mistakenly given him a 200 and a 20 instead of two 200-peso bills.
Fortunately, Bertrand was wise to the trick, gave the boy one of his fiercer looks, and the boy sheepishly made change. Needless to say, he didn't get a tip. The next time Bertrand filled up, another attendant also made a point of showing him that he was reseting the pump. When Bertrand paid him, he made sure to count out the money bill by bill to the attendant, to make sure there was no discrepancy.
But really, this has been just about the only time thus far that we've been directly targeted in anything dishonest.
So it does not make you feel unsafe, or that you need to be vigilant all the time?
No. We decided we would rather not live like that, and if we do lose something, either through our own carelessness and/or through somebody else's dishonesty, then chances are that what we've lost has probably gone to someone who obviously needed it more.