Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Latest U.S. travel alert is "ridiculous," says Mexican government official

Meanwhile, two senior voyagers receive a very chilly reception in Mérida . . .

Mexico's Secretary of Government (SEGOB) Alejandro Poiré today officially responded to last week's travel alert issued by the U.S. State Dept., which said that all or parts of 18 Mexican states presented significant risks for American travelers (

"Candidly, it strikes me as completely out of proportion, really ridiculous I would say. In our country there are certainly zones of danger where risks are presented, but it's precisely in those zones where the federal government is taking action," Poiré said. The SEGOB secretary said that American tourists are still traveling to Mexico despite the warning, and "they're doing fine."

A drug test for this couple?
An interesting story in today's Diario de Yucatán caught my eye, which I now share since we're on the topic of travel. The Diario is Mérida's main daily newspaper.

It seems as though last weekend a couple identified only as Roger and Sheila Fisher, 70 and 65 years of age, were in town, lodged at a local hotel named Casa San Angel (I'm not familiar with it). Like so many visitors from afar, these folks wanted to see the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá (a couple of hours away). On Saturday morning (Feb. 11) they queued up for the tourist bus which would take them there. But before they could board, federal police appeared at their side and demanded to see their passports (so claims the Diario, anyway). The Fishers explained that their passports were in their guestroom, along with their other effects (which would be a normal practice, since generally it's not a good idea to carry around your passport if you have a safe and secure place to leave it).

It's unclear exactly what happened next, because Diario stories are notorious for either leaving out every bit of key information which any reader would logically want to know, or including all the utterly unnecessary details which no one needs or wants to know (really, Diario articles are poor exemplars of journalism in any language, Spanish or otherwise). In any case, the story does inform us that the nice Mr. and Mrs Fisher ended up at the INM (Mexican immigration) station at Mérida's international airport, along with several others in their traveling party who suffered a similar fate, for reasons unknown (or unreported).

We're further told (in the hopelessly vague please-just-give-us-the-facts writing style which the Diario has down to a fine science) that these unfortunates were all detained by airport immigration agents for some seven hours, and offered nothing more than a glass of water each. Moreover, the Fishers were inexplicably asked to submit to "medical and drug tests."

Did they take the tests? I have no idea. What was behind it all? Couldn't tell you. Does it seem strange? Very, to me, since this is a city (and state) which bend over backwards to treat foreign visitors well. They have a clear incentive to do so, which in English we call $$$. The article ends by telling us that the Fishers "abandoned the city," a quaint Spanish way of saying they left town because they were pissed off by such infamous treatment.

I don't know the Fishers' nationality (alas, the Diario neglected that little "irrelevant" detail, too). But the article did say that the manager of the San Angel was outraged, and has described the entire episode as "illegal, heavy handed and arbitrary." He supposedly sent a letter of complaint to the regional INM boss here, as well as to the state secretary of tourism and some travel and hotel associations.

I'll keep readers posted on developments . . . if the Diario figures out how to write a simple news story next time, that is.

65% of Mexico "off limits" to foreign travelers:

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