Drug wars schmug wars say Canucks here
There's a paper here in Guadalajara called the Metro and almost every day, the front page is a graphic photo of a dead guy. I'll spare you the photographic evidence - although I have tweeted a pic so if you're curious follow me @robyndoolittle.
More than 40,000 people have died in the last 5 years in Mexico's drug wars. The majority were killed last year. Guadalajara has avoided much of the violence, but earlier this year narco-blockades, grenade attacks and several homicides shook this city.
Seems like a pretty dangerous place here, eh? Don't tell that to a group of retired Canadians living in the nearby village of Ajijic — pronounced "Ah-he-heek" — or they'll bite your head off. To them, Mexico is safer than Toronto and the media is exaggerating the level of danger.
"If you aren't in a drug cartel, you've got nothing to worry about," said Torontonians Cece Girling.
Last week I spent two days in this seriously beautiful lakeside community. The town is said to be the largest concentration of Canadians outside of Canada in the world, with as many as 8,000 Canucks calling it home for a good chunk of the year. As such, most of the local businesses cater to the huge ex-pat community. The bars broadcast ice hockey. The grocery store imports Canadian and American food. Menus are in English. Etc.
And the fact that two men were gunned down 10 minutes down the road in the town of Lake Chapala? P-shaw, say Girling and others.
A full profile of this unique community will run in the paper tomorrow. And here's a little slideshow we put together which will give you a slice of daily life: http://photogallery.thestar.com/1074405
In the meantime, here's some tips I picked up about the country from these Mexico veterans:
1) Always walk looking down. The streets and sidewalks are uneven and will drop off without warning. If you want to admire a tree, stop walking, then look up. (This is very good advice).
2) Accept that life is slower. If a sales person walks away as they're cashing you out, stay cool. Embrace it. They'll be back shortly.
3) Don't let relatives watch the news or they'll never come visit. Or maybe send them links to the most sensational violence so they won't!
4) Never forget to tip - the musician in the restaurant, the guy who walks you to your car, etc. A little to you means a lot to them.
5) Unless you want to look like a complete dork, don't order a Corona.