March 5, 2012

Canadian Tourists in Mexico - Beware

Mexico - the beautiful
I am apparently one of the few Canadians who has never taken a trip to Mexico. And I never will.

Many areas of Mexico are beautiful tropical paradises - they have the heat, the sandy beaches, the clear waters and every other ideal a Canadian would have of a tropical getaway. 

Canada can have brutal winters. The winter of 2011/2012 has been a good one. In many winters in my past, numerous people in Canada were found frozen to death in their backyards, or homeless people were found frozen to death on the streets. Therefore....Canadians want to escape to a relatively less-expensive, but tropical location.  Who wouldn't?

Estimates vary - but between 1 million and 1.5 million Canadians travel to Mexico per year for a holiday. About 75,000 Canadians permanently live in Mexico.

However, Mexico is heavily involved in a violence culture right now - most of it due to drug cartels in opposition to each other and government crack-downs on drug dealing. About 51 people per day are found murdered in Mexico. 

Sometimes Canadian tourists are killed there, including but not limited to the following examples:

2006 - Woodbridge, Ont., couple Dominic and Nancy Ianiero were found dead in a resort near Playa del Carmen. Both Dominic, 59, and Nancy, 55, were discovered with slashed throats. 

2007: Adam DePrisco, 19, was the victim of a hit-and-run according to local police. But his relatives said the teen was beaten outside of a nightclub. 

2007: Clifford Glasier from Chatham, Ont., was killed by a hit-and-run accident in Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco. He died of injuries sustained from the accident. 

2007: Jeff Toews of Alberta sustained injuries after he fell from a balcony of the resort he was staying at. However his family believed Jeff was beaten. The 34 year old was left clinically brain dead following the incident. 

2007: Christopher James Morin, a 30 year old from Alberta, died in Cancun. He fell from a four-storey balcony and died from head trauma. Mexican authorities stated that it was a suicide, but his family did not believe this story. 

2008: Bouabal Bounthavorn, a 29-year-old British Columbia resident, was shot three times in his Cabo San Lucas hotel by three men. Bounthavorn's girlfriend was also shot, but she survived the incident. Police believe the Vancouver-area resident was the victim of a botched robbery. 

2009: The body of a Montreal woman was found in an apartment in Isle Mujeres, an island near Cancun. Police said Renee Wathelet was stabbed more than a dozen times. 

2010: Kenneth Klowak, a 43-year-old man from Ontario, was travelling in Mexico, near the Texas-Mexico border, when gunmen reportedly intercepted Klowak and the group he was driving with. He was killed by the gunmen after the group refused to stop. 

2010: Daniel Dion, an Ottawa-area man in his 50's, was found dead near Acapulco, inside the trunk of a rental car. He was on a business trip to sell purses made from recycled material and disappeared on Oct. 22. 

2010: Just a few weeks before winter break, an explosion at a resort in Cancun claimed the lives of five Canadians. Mexican officials suggested the explosion could have been caused by gas buildup from a nearby swamp. 

2011: Canadian Joel St. Tierre, the owner of an air conditioning company, was shot in the head in Mexico City. 

Mexico - drug death
2011: A Canadian satellite TV installer was found dead at home by his Mexican wife. According to a local report, Elba Ruiz Castro found a trail of blood leading to her house on her way back. She found Leonard Francis Schell's body inside their home. According to reports he was stabbed 25 times. 

2011: Judith Zena Baylis, a 64-year-old woman from Ottawa, was found dead inside her home in Atotonilco. She was stabbed about 20 times. 

2011: Ximena Osegueda, a Canadian citizen who was born in Mexico, went missing in December. Osegueda's brother found her body in the bushes near a beach in Huatulco. 

2012: Robin Wood from Salt Spring Island, B.C. was shot and killed after he confronted two robbers who were trying to break into his friend's house. The 67-year-old retiree was staying in Melaque, approximately 200 kilometres from Puerto Vallarta. 

2012: Sheila Nabb of Calgary was found severely beaten inside a luxury Mexican hotel. She lived but has to undergo numerous facial reconstruction surgeries. 

I first made up my mind about Mexico 30 years ago when a woman I worked with went on a 10 day vacation to Mexico and spent 5 days of her holiday in her hotel room, sick as a dog, writhing in pain and slipping in and out of delerium. She kept seeing images of her dead mother because she was slipping in and out of consciousness. She had eaten or drank something in Mexico that made her very seriously ill.

I decided then and there that Mexico was out of my travel itinerary, no matter how cold it got in Canada.

Of course, this was before the era of readily available imported water and travel advisories that tell you not to venture outside of your resort and not to take ice cubes in a drink in Mexico and not to eat at food stalls, etc. 

So...the intestinal problem is okay nowadays in Mexico, right? Wrong!

The travel advisories are correct but people will still go "slumming" or as some call it - "getting to know Mexican life" or "getting into Mexican culture" and other buzz-words, which actually mean venturing out into the real world of Mexico. 

Two men I know, from Canada, went to Mexico in 2010 for a Winter Vacation. They ventured out and got to know the real Mexico. They ate or drank something that had parasites in it. One of these men was okay. The other came back to Canada and ended up having half of his intestines cut out. His health has been ruined ever since. He was weak, sickly, unable to work, and subjected to every medical procedure under the sun before he was properly diagnosed with a parasite. Now he is missing half of his guts. 

And this is called a vacation? 

Canadians, take care, when you travel to Mexico.  There may be consequences. 

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