Friday, February 01, 2008

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Just to update the item below, it turns out that Mexico, WHILE UNIQUELY PERILOUS TO CANADIANS, is also hazardous to Americans, at least according to Mexico Vacation, a website run by the family of a kid from Woburn, MA, who died on vacation in Cancun. We of course have nothing but sympathy for the family, and from the details of their son's story, the hotel was at best criminally negligent, and more likely directly responsible for his death.

That said, goes on to paint a highly misleading picture of Mexico as a great big tourist killing field, with a gallery listing "just a few of the hundreds of travelers that have died as a direct result of negligence, incompetence, and crime" in Mexico. Umm...okay. But the list includes people who died in traffic accidents, or doing inherently dangerous vacation activities such as scuba diving or (this is true) trying to jump across a ten-foot-wide, 1000-foot-deep mineshaft. These sorts of deaths happen all over the world (well, maybe not the mineshaft thing), not just in Mexico.

I can't find any reliable data on "the hundreds" of travelers that have allegedly died here, but let's give them the super-benefit of the doubt and round it up to 1,000 traveler deaths every year, which I have to believe is way high. With 15 million foreign visitors a year, this means a tourist's chances of dying in Mexico are roughly 1:15,000. Are those good odds? Well, since appears to include all manner of accidental deaths in their tally, it seems fair to note that the US, which has a population of 300 million, racks up about 112,000 accidental deaths a year (not to mention about 15,000 homicides, which are a separate category), giving your average American a 1:3,000 chance of dying in a non-mine-jumping-related accident each year.

Bottom line, you should only travel to Mexico if you want to be five times safer than you would be if you just stayed at home.


Anonymous said...

They want to blame somebody for the accident, to blame someone gives some sense to the family. I agree with you it was an accident, just like those that happend in every single place in the World

I have been in Cancun at spring break and all the springbreakers behave like crazy, drunk all day and night, I saw a guy jumping from the window of his room. He ended fine, and other guy trying to swim drunk at night.

Of course that not all get drunk and crazy, but accidents happend.

Nolan's Mom said...

These people were doing VERY dangerous things such as attempting to take an elevator down to the lobby (and falling down an open elevator shaft)swimming in a pool(and getting sucked into a pool drain)walking back to their room at night(and getting beat until you're brain dead). Also, the boy that you say jumped over the mine shaft, well that was just another made up Mexico story. Read his obiturary and you will get the real story. There are always 2 stories the Mexican version and the truth!

Burro Hall said...

Anonymous - I can't imagine what information you possess that allows you to speak to the family's motives or state of mind, but if, as I suspect, the answer is "none," then an apology would be a good place to start. The Websters' story is tragic and horrific, and anyone who has read this site regularly know my feelings regarding Mexican officialdom: the great majority are inept, corrupt, or some combination of the two.

That said, Mrs. Webster, while terrible things do happen in Mexico, they happen because Mexico is a large, rapidly-changing, sometimes unruly nation of 110 million people. People get beaten death in the US from time to time - even in my home state of Massachusetts. (Even in Woburn.) Similarly, pool drains here are no more dangerous than pool drains in America. (A certain well-known pool-drain-liability lawyer just finished a pretty decent run for president of the United States, in fact.)

On the mineshaft case, you're right, the truth is a little more shaded than I had indicated (though to be fair, I got my information from, but still, the dispute (stemming from initial eyewitness accounts given to reporters, rather than a Mexico-wide conspiracy to cover up the truth) seems to be whether the kid was trying to jump the shaft when he accidentally fell, or whether he jumped up on a wall and then accidentally fell. In other words, rather than being dumb and unlucky, he was apparently merely unlucky.

I would also just mention that the town where the mineshaft incident took place, San Luis de la Paz, is not exactly a touristic hotspot. I would bet at least half of my Mexican neighbors have never been there, though it's less than an hour's drive from here. My point is that while Taylor Crane's death is indeed quite sad, he was not a victim of "Mexico" or "Mexicans" or "the vacation industry" - rather, the poor guy fell down a well. Heartbreaking, to be sure, but again, not without precedent north of the border.

Nolan's Mom said...

Thank you for addressing the response posted by "anonymous" Ok,I think I'm making some progress here so I would like to continue. The inaccurate reports are not coming from initial eyewitness accounts but in most cases the information is coming from the hotel management. As a matter of fact, when Nolan died the papers reported that "according to the deputy director of the hotel" Nolan attempted to dive in the pool and suffered a severe blow to his head. This is a total lie. This is the same story that my husband was told when he went to pick up Nolan's body but 2 autopsies proved otherwise. If you read Andrew Smith's story, the newspapers reported that he jumped off a balcony rather than fell down an open elevator shaft and when another hotel guest questioned the status of Andrew the next day they were told "he is fine, he didn't even break a bone"! Are you starting to get an idea of what I'm trying to say?

Burro Hall said...

Absolutely. Look, I get the feeling we're talking past each other, because I agree with you on a lot of points, yet those are the points you keep arguing. In the specific case involving your son, I agree with you 100%. In the larger, more general critique of Mexico as a killing zone for foreigners, I disagree entirely. But these are two different things.

When I referred to "reports from initial eyewitnesses," I was talking specifically about the mineshaft incident. No "hotel personnel" were involved. In your son's (completely different and unrelated) case, it seems obvious to me that the hotel personnel should at the very least be jailed for obstruction of justice, if not actual homicide (something I'm sorry to say is unlikely to happen, of course).

If there's one larger issue on which I do think you've got a point, it's this: Mexico - even the beach resort parts, where everyone speaks English and knows what nachos are - is a foreign country. This seems blindingly obvious, but I'm always amazed by the number of people who don't seem to get that. The normal rules don't apply here. The US Constitution is not the Law of the Land. It is not an extension of the state of Florida. And as you've no doubt noticed, there is a cultural aversion to taking responsibility for one's actions. Where we disagree - it's not even a disagreement, really, I'm just expanding on what you're saying - is that you could say the same thing about every other country in the world. Not only is Mexico not uniquely dangerous, but it a good deal safer than a lot of other countries - including, I believe, the US.

(By the way, not that I think I can do very much, but if there's any way we can be of help regarding Nolan's case, you can reach me privately at fkoughan @

Anonymous said...

On the Nolan case it should be noted that 550 children under 10 die in U.S. swimming pools every year (1 in 11,000 - you are about a 100 times more likely to have your child die in a pool than be shot). One child dying in a Mexican pool is not of great statistical significance. Since it is politically incorrect to discuss it I won't mention that the Nolan child was left unsupervised for at least 10 minutes which was clearly a contributing factor.

The mine incident was actually in Pozos. There are a number of unguarded, uncovered mines there but they have now all been fenced off (a bit late of course). This town is receiving a lot of government money to make it a tourist destination but without any mines to visit it may all be wasted!

Burro Hall said...

Thanks, Anonymous, you've done your homework! Somehow, though, you failed to notice that Nolan was 22 years old. Unlike you, I'm not entirely convinced that the decision (if one can even call it that) to allow (again, not really the right word) a 22-year-old man to swim for ten minutes without parental supervision "was clear a contributing factor" in his death. But then, maybe your experience of 22 was different from mine.

Since you've so fearlessly tossed political correctness out the window here, I'll return the favor and declare yours the Most Retarded Comment of 2008.