The same week that Mexico: The Royal Tour was aired in the United States to welcome Americans to visit and enjoy Mexico, a gunmen dumped 35 bodies on one of the main Poza Rica Boulevards, during day-light and in front of a lot of cars passing by.
According to the authorities, all of the victims had suspected ties to organized crime, (so I assume should not worry because they were all criminals). Another 11 bodies had the same fate two days later a few miles north.
I had the opportunity to view the 60 minute show where Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon traveled with Peter Greenberg, a 61 year-old CBS journalist, to show him some of the best Mexican places to visit, full of mystery, magic, history and natural beauty.
Without a question, the video will convince anybody who does not know anything about the rising violence in Mexico since 2006, when Calderon took office and declared a war against the drug cartels. Since then, more than 40,000 Mexicans and some Americans (very few) have been killed.
Greenberg has visited Mexico since the 70’s and this was his first reaction: “… I had never been south of the border. Within just a few miles of crossing into Mexico, all my preconceptions (and misconceptions) changed. I had entered a brave new world of experience, adventure, and hospitality.”
This is precisely what Mr. Greenberg and the Mexican President want to change in 2011, the American’s perception of Mexico; according with Greenberg: “A dusty town with people wearing sombreros”. But also, with an incredible level of violence never seen before.
The program was presented to ensure the American public that no matter how much violence is going on in Mexico; the President has everything under control, including 20 out of the 37 most wanted criminals and millions of dollars in drugs and firearms confiscated from the cartels.
However, some of the information that Greenberg edited and the President confirmed, is that the violence in Mexico is only in two small regions in the northern part of the country, somewhere around Chihuahua and Monterrey.
The President emphasized that the violent places are as far from Cancun as Washington from Las Vegas; so people do not have to worry about it. Even he took Greenberg to his hometown in Michoacán, a state that was bombed several years ago during the patriotic festivities and houses La Family cartel.
However, and despite the violence, we cannot deny that Michoacán owns a magnificent event with the Monarch butterflies…
Every year thousands of mariposas (Monarch butterflies) travel 4,500 miles from Canada to spend several months in what is known as the Mariposa Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán; it is a unique spectacle in the whole world.
Unfortunately, the number of states where violence is changing the modus vivendi of thousands of people is more than two regions and include Michoacán, Chihuahua, Monterrey, Guerrero, Veracruz, Sinaloa, Baja California Norte, and in less scale, Durango, Jalisco and Tampico, among others.
However, I can’t deny the fact that seeing Mr. Calderon as a tourist guide, as a family man with his wife and three kids, showing off his country and saying jokes here and there bring the President to the people’s level, and it is hard to imagine that he is the only one to blame for all of the violence taking place in his country.
That’s true, the violence is not in the whole country, and also, Ciudad Juarez may be as far from Cancun as Washington from Las Vegas, but I believe that the Mexican President is going to need more than one video to reactive Mexico’s third income from the country: tourism.
Most of the people (Americans and Mexican Americans) I’ve been talking to that watched the video Mexico: The Royal Tour was impressed with the job done. They recognized Mexico’s beauty and the President and Greenberg’s work so far.
Some of them already changed their Mexican’s perception as far as using sombreros and dusty towns, but what they haven’t changed yet was the violent perception and most of them do not have plans to travel south of the border until they stop reading headlines as the one in Veracruz.
I really hope the violence decrease in Mexico, no matter what may be the reason: the need for the dollars that bring the tourist to that country or the sorrow and pain that a lot of families are not able to last any longer.
Others marvelous places featured in the video are the ruins of Palenque in Chiapas, the Lagoon at Ojo de Liebre in Baja; The Mariposa Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán, Los Pinos in Mexico City, Palancar reefs in Cozumel, and the town of Tequila in Jalisco.
Agustín Durán has been a reporter for 15 years in LA and is currently an editor for Latinocalifornia.com.