Here we go again.
On Wednesday, January 20th, two Canadian tourists were shot during an attempted robbery on the bicycle path on the far end of Ixtapa. The path runs from the north end of Zihuatanejo, through Ixtapa, and winds through a wooded area until it ends at Playa Linda. The attack happened two miles from the end of the path.
Image from Despertar de la Costa
Chislain Lazure, 55, from Quebec, was shot in the abdomen and his partner, a 40-year old woman, was grazed in the ear. They reportedly refused medical attention at the time but were later hospitalized. Wednesday afternoon they went to the Prosecutor's office to report the crime.
This article from a Canadian website gives slightly varying details, and as I'm not entirely sure what has happened since the shooting, I figured I should include that as well.
One thing I haven't found online but did hear through word of mouth is that the gunmen robbed up to nineteen people on that path and had them lie on the ground and hide in the woods when other people approached. Rumors spread faster than actual news around here, so I don't know if this is true, but I've been on that path and I can see how that would happen.
So, what does this mean?
When the violence erupted here last spring I received dozens of emails from nervous Americans and Canadians -- many of whom had been here before -- wanting to know if they should cancel their trips. Based on my stats, a lot of people find my blog while googling "violence in Mexico" and "is it safe to go to Zihuatanejo?" so I want to address that. (Especially for my former roommate who JUST booked a trip here two days ago.)
Mexico is a foreign country. Mexico is struggling economically. Tourists who come here and keep that in mind shouldn't have any problems. My standard response when people ask if it's still safe to walk around downtown Zihua is "if you stumble around drunk in the middle of the night, especially alone, something bad will happen. If you use common sense and stick to well-lit areas where other tourists frequent, you shouldn't have any problems."
I do not mean to imply that the tourists who were shot weren't careful. They probably never imagined someone would shoot at them in the middle of the day. That's the part that surprised me the most when I heard about the attack. Ibis and I walked that path once over the summer -- all five miles through the woods -- and we were more than a little nervous that someone might try to rob us. We weren't carrying anything besides our water bottles and car keys, but a desperate thief doesn't know that. (In fact, Ibis was probably carrying 100 pesos just so we'd have something to give and not make the person angry.) Once you set out on that path you're stuck until you get to the end. Something that all the locals know only too well.
Ibis and I agreed that we wouldn't walk on that path again, but at the time we figured rollerblading or biking would be safer. Now I'm glad I've walked through there once because I won't again.
Now, when I say "use common sense", here's what I mean:
- don't flash a lot of cash
- don't wear expensive or expensive-looking jewelry (I've stopped wearing my diamond ring)
- always always always be aware of your surroundings
- stay with a group
- don't go down dark alleys or streets
And a more recent addition for Zihua:
- don't walk on the path along the ocean between downtown and Playa Madera at night
The ironic thing about this list? These are the exact same precautions I took while living in Chicago. In the US. In the Midwest. Now that I'm living in Mexico I've stepped it up a notch:
- I don't go out by myself after dark -- EVER
- I always make sure my husband knows where I am and when I will be home
I know there are some ex-pats who live here and think that we're paranoid, but I'd rather be paranoid than get mugged, shot, or worse.
Before I've scared everyone into never wanting to visit our little fishing village, please know that the government and the police take tourism very seriously. As long as you stick to the beaten paths there's no reason you can't have an uneventful stay here.
I'll be sure to let you all know if there are further developments, and in the meantime, stay safe.