You're thinking of taking a vacation in Mexico, but you're concerned about reports of violence. Who do you trust to tell you whether it's safe to go?
Tourism promoters with a stake in filling resorts and restaurants?
The U.S. government, which hasn't updated its travel warning info at http://travel.state.gov since April?
Americans who have been there, or who live in Mexico?
I guessed the third option, and recently asked those of you who have been to Mexico to share your experiences. Nearly 100 people responded by email, with online comments at seattletimes.com /travel or by mailing handwritten notes.
This is for sure: There's no making light of the violence caused by the warring drug cartels and the Mexican government crackdown on them. Several of you pointed out a noticeable police presence, even in tourist areas.
Most of you, however, agreed with the owner of a small beach hotel in Troncones, near Zihuatanejo.
"Not going to Mexico because of violence in some areas is like saying you won't go to Ephrata because there was a shooting in Tacoma. Or Seattle, or Spokane, or Walla Walla," he said in comments posted at seattletimes.com.
It's true. And while he has a stake in having tourists come to Mexico, he offers good advice:
"Travel smart. Don't think you can get away with something illegal just because you are an American. Avoid shady neighborhoods just like you would here. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't."
Well said. Here's more:
—"Fearful of visiting Mexico, not us. We visited Loreto (in June). Walked the entire town without any fears. The people were very gracious ... Bottom line, we have no concerns about traveling to Mexico. On the other hand, there are two things I wouldn't do ... (go to) border towns, and (take) long driving trips to the interior."
—"We own a house in Puerto Vallarta, and travel throughout Mexico on the national bus lines. In all the years we have been going, I can count on less than one hand the number of violent crimes of which I am personally aware. No one makes light of the drug violence there, but when was the last time the U.S. government issued travel warnings to various American cities including the nation's capital?"
—"I am 17, and this summer I traveled with my parents to Mexico City. I had been wanting to visit the Mexican capital for over a year, but nearly everyone seemed highly skeptical and concerned for the terrible things that might happen ... In truth, those 10 days were some of the best days of my life. I can say nothing but positive things about Mexico City, its people, and its culture , and hope that the stories about crimes will not discourage people from exploring the truly amazing country."
—"I go to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas at least twice a year. I not only have walked many times around the city at night by myself, I take public transportation to communities in t he mountains. Never have I felt unsafe or even uncomfortable ... U.S. travelers do tend to go to resort areas and thus never get to see the real Mexico. I equate it to people from Europe who come t o Orlando and Disney World and think they know the United States."
—"My husband and I have been going to Mexico for three months in the winter for the past 14 years. We stay in San Miguel de Allende and often travel around Mexico. We actually feel safer there than we do here in our hometown."
—"My sister and I recently bicycled through much of Mexico. There is a huge difference between the common Mexican person living off their ranch and the drug-trafficking problems that have led to so much violence. The common Mexican person is a hospitable and friendly, genuine kindhearted person."
—"I have been going to Puerto Vallarta for 15 years and feel very safe ... I bring my 10-year-old grandson every summer. Do you think I would bring him if there was any question for his safety?"