Over dinner with friends last night we shared stories and photos from our recent vacation in Sayulita, Mexico. We enthused about the heirloom quality fruits and vegetables, the ultra-fresh fish, the intense chocolate desserts, the mellow coffee beans, the sunset views over the Pacific ocean.
We raved about the amazing place we’d rented on AirBnB, our gracious host, his friendly staff.
We talked about the fun we’d had, tooling around town in an under-powered golf cart, shopping at tiny stores, exercising our limited Spanish, chuckling at the surfer dudes parading through town after a day on the water. That said, we were less enthusiastic about the local wine…
We downplayed our three encounters with scorpions, old news to friends who’ve lived in hot weather climates.
We talked about the astonishing bird watching, the nearby trails through old growth forest with 300-year-old strangler figs — the wonders we’d seen during an 8-mile hike through several riverine ecosystems.
Meanwhile, our friends couldn’t stop talking about the drug cartel violence that had broken out in Jalisco state, a few hundred miles south/southeast of our vacation spot. They were so worried about the drug wars they could hardly focus on our stories.
Similarly, my family had asked why we were heading to such a dangerous spot — not knowing how near or far we’d be from Guadalajara and the hot spots for Jalisco drug violence.
Afterwards we assured friends and family that we had felt perfectly safe and welcomed the entire time we were in Mexico. We had experienced multiple interactions with warm, friendly people who went out of their way to ensure we enjoyed our stay. Quite a contrast to other places where we’ve vacationed in the past…
We took precautions, of course. We stayed in village locations, did not venture into Puerto Vallarta or risk renting a car. We asked long-time expat residents about drug cartel presence in Sayulita, and were told the locals were working hard to keep out the bigger gangs. (Who knows if that’s true.)
And yes, for years we had avoided visiting Mexico out of concerns about police corruption, increasing drug cartel violence, fear of the unknown. In my case two recent trips to Mexico to participate in yoga retreats had alleviated my fears.
As a result I was willing to step up to the challenge of a self-guided tour, despite limited Spanish, in order to introduce my husband to some of the best that Mexico has to offer.
Will we return? Probably, but the closer the drug violence gets to Sayulita, the less likely we’ll go back. For the sake of the hard-working farmers and small businesspeople in Mexico, we sincerely hope there’s a peaceful solution to these struggles soon.