When I first approached my family and friends about traveling to Mexico most thought I was basically asking for a death sentence.
Danielle, what about the drug cartels?
I heard they kill babies to smuggle drugs across the border.
The news said Americans are targets.
The U.S. Embassy has travel warnings in Mexico due to violence.
Even the police are corrupt in Mexico, no one is there to protect you.
Do they even have internet?
Why do you think they all want to come to America? Because Mexico is a mess.
Why do you want to go to “real” Mexico? Just go to Cabo or something.
All of these concerns were voiced at some point leading up to my departure. In all honesty, some of these concerns are very much a reality. However, the entire country of Mexico does not deserve general stereotypes as different parts bring different political and social environments. I stayed in the state of Michoacan, supposedly the most dangerous state in Mexico; what most like to refer to as “hot country”. In reality, the city I lived in was extremely tranquil and safe. Yes, there were certain regions of the state I was strongly advised not to travel to, but it isn’t dangerous in every inch of the state.
One of the best parts of my experience was being able to breakdown the stereotypes people back in the U.S. (and even I) believed about the Mexican people. Many Americans are not aware or don’t want to think it, but they live very much like us. Mexico has a growing middle class and their cities are filled with stores, theaters, the movies, designer shopping and restaurants. I saw more McDonalds than I could count, Walmart, Applebees, Olive Garden, and Chili’s (an American Mexican restaurant).They drive BMWs, Mercedes, and are often very well dressed. To say everyone in Mexico lives this way is ignorant, of course. Mexico still has about 55 million people living on less than 99 cents per day. There are still many poor areas in the country with little economic opportunity. But Mexico is not by any means uncivilized, chaotic, and undeveloped. People are not begging for money everywhere you go. They have structure and order, even if many distrust the government.
Sadly, I cannot even count the number of times I have heard someone in the United States use Mexican as an insult. After this experience, if someone ever called me a Mexican I would take that as a compliment. They are extremely hardworking people, and strong beyond belief. They are not all criminals. They are generous, friendly, passionate and extremely kind people. I would go back in a heartbeat.