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03:50 pm: Don't go to Mexico
As people of a more twittery or facebooky nature may be aware, I'm currently at a conference in San Diego. Now, I have a little time for tourism at the end of the conference, and San Diego is right on the Mexican border, and on the other side of the Mexican border is Tijuana. Tijuana is, at least in popular myth, a seedy, decadent place, home to Tijuana bibles[1], knockoff goods, drugs, drink, probably-apocryphal in the present day donkey shows and so forth. So for a while I considered the possibility of pootling over the border and wandering around the safer parts, in a social-anthropology kind of way. Now, it turns out that the US government has a warning out not to go there because of recently-increased border-related drug trade violence, and is also turns out that my fine university-provided insurance doesn't include Mexico. So my 1 1/2 days tourism in San Diego are likely to include cuddlier things such as pandas and lighthouses instead. But just out of interest I started asking people at the conference what they thought of the day-trip idea. The results were kind of interesting from a perception-of-risk standpoint.

Some context which may be useful: recently, a 17-year old girl was raped and murdered in San Diego. A suspect was identified very quickly, and there appears to be a strong case against him. The story was a national news item in the kind of feverish 24-hour breaking-news reporting way that US news does.

So, the actual safety implications of what happened, assuming they have arrested the right person, are IMHO the following:

* San Diego is now a bit safer for teenage girls than it was previously
* The safety of San Diego for me is pretty much unchanged
* The safety of Tijuana for teenage girls may have gone up slightly, but for me is pretty much unchanged
* FFS, people, these events make national news because they are very, very rare. It is equally death-inducing to be killed by a car whilst crossing the road as it is to be murdered. Except that when a hot teenager gets killed crossing the road it doesn't tend to make national US news, because there is no whodunnit mystery involved and it happens too often for it to be considered of interest. This is a shitty way to propogate a realistic sense of risk, but arguably that's not the function of TV news (news centred on accurate reporting of risk would be a bit strange and dull, I suppose?)[2].

In terms of the safety of Tijuana in general, the US government warning suggests that the biggest dangers are likely to come from knowningly or unknowingly interacting with drug dealers, and/or getting caught up in general violence. AFAIK ones general risk of getting caught up in violence is much higher if one is male. This is certainly the case in the UK. Travelling on ones own I would guess is more risky in general (e.g. for being mugged) than going in a group (although it is something I am fairly used to doing). I also guess that there is some female-specific risk of being subject to seedy come-ons, although I've not really found this much of a problem in parts of the world where it's been flagged up as an issue. Probably this is because of my champion skills at ignoring people.

As you may by now be expecting, the universal chorus of "Don't go to Tijuana" from everyone I mentioned it to centred very strongly on the risks of being a woman, particularly given the recent San Diego murder case. It's OK, guys. I get that there are risks. But I find it kind of annoying that as far as I can work out people aren't concentrating on the right risks[3].

[1] A bunch of which are scanned in here, for history-of-porn scholars.
[2] There is an interesting effect like this with regard to media reporting of air crashes, at least anecdotally. Air safety used to be pretty bad in places like Africa and Russia. So when, say, Aeroflot steered an Ilyushin into some outcrop in the Urals, it didn't tend to make Western news. Air safety in these regions has now improved a lot; enough that crashes there now do make the Western news. So the casual observer in these parts might conclude that the number of crashes has gone up.
[3] FWIW some extra reasons were provided too, to wit:
The probably fairly realistic: "You will be ripped off."
The very South-Californian: "You can't take your rental car over the border."
The local: "I come from Tijuana. You don't want to go there. It's really touristy."
The cryptic: "I went there once. I wish I hadn't."


[User Picture]
Date:March 4th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
I think people dislike thinking about women being raped and murdered more than they dislike thinking about them being run over. At a subconscious level, I think there's still a tendency to categorise rape as a fate worse than death.

It's also very normal to expect women to restrict our movements on safety grounds, and even for others who want to 'protect' us to try to restrict our movements. But it's not something men expect to have to do, and so freedom-restricting advice about how to avoid being a crime victim tends to be quite female-specific. (On a slight tangent, that's why some men got really cross when rape prevention tips lists started being circulated.)

(I agree that the risk perception thing you write about is the main reason though.)
[User Picture]
Date:March 4th, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
Footnote [3] made me laugh out loud :-)
[User Picture]
Date:March 5th, 2010 07:05 am (UTC)
Strangely enough if you'd said you were going to New Orleans I imagine no one would have commented "Don't go! It's the murder capital of the US!"

A quick search suggests that New Orleans has a murder rate of 55/100k as opposed to Tijuana's 30/100k. Mind you, the figures bounce all over the place from year to year.
[User Picture]
Date:March 5th, 2010 08:39 am (UTC)
Statistics, understanding and use, should be taught in all schools from an early age. (Though (parenthetically) I remember being taught some basic stats in school [mumble] years ago, and hating it in a bouncing-right-off-my-shield-of-ignorance sort of way (though, of course, that might just be because it was taught badly with no contextual examples that caught my imagination)).
[User Picture]
Date:March 5th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
Statistics, understanding and use, should be taught in all schools from an early age.

Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Date:March 7th, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC)
Of all the things you've written about our fair city, only one is true: we do have donkeys. But they are painted to look like zebras and they don't have any carnal traffic with women.

We have no knock-off goods. What you're thinking of was really overproduction from the Pacific Rim factories contracted to make the trademarked goods of the 1990s. But NAFTA did away with all that. It is true that we continue to sell "pirated" copies of movies and CDs to ourselves but tourists are not likely to have access to that market.

You can take a rental car across the border. Not all rental companies offer this enhancement, but many do. You can also rent a car here in Tijuana. First-time visitors to any city in the world will have a much better time if they don't have to drive and in this regard you will find Tijuana is more accommodating than Paris or New York.

The local does not say that you do not want to come here. Ex-pats might say that and chicanos (Mexican-Americans who have set down roots in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Texas) will always warn you off the land their parents left. But our locals are very fond of Tijuana. "Aquí empieza la patria" is our official motto -- Mexico begins with us. If you would like to meet the real Tijuana, the Tijuana that isn't so touristy, by all means you need to ask a local. The city is suffused with culture and art in a most personal way. You cannot know this unless you experience it.

Will you really be ripped off in Tijuana? More so than anywhere else? If so, how so? The little shops that make their living from the wandering tourist are out to get the most money from you that they can, but it's more likely that the Embarcadero in San Diego talked you out of more money than Tijuana could have done.

Before you discredit our fair city we invite you to experience it.

For that very reason we have created the blog "The Real Tijuana". We are proud of our city. We have not made any money from our blog. We are not connected to any governmental body nor to any marketing agency. We wish to speak the truth about northern Baja in order that our tourists might better appreciate what we have to offer.

The Real Tijuana, on blogspot, describes northern Baja California from the inside. People who actually live in the Tijuana-Tecate-Ensenada triangle address issues of local culture, recreation, cuisine, health care, travel, real estate, retirement, and history with the goal of making fronterizo tourism less intimidating and more rewarding.

The place is surprisingly peaceable, nothing at all like the bad press it receives.
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