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Tourist Zone Quiet; Violence Elsewhere Hurts Image

By: David Real | Real Acapulco News - 21 February, 2011

(Acapulco, 21 February) Local papers continue to display prominently the latest atrocities committed by drug gangs in the poorer communities outside of Acapulco, without bothering to clarify for foreign readers exactly where the crimes occur. Evidently such stories boost circulation or advertising revenues, or else the genre would not get so much page one play, with photos.

Meanwhile, parents of college kids read the headlines about Acapulco and refuse to let their kids come for Spring Break. Thus has come to an end an important tourist niche that took decades to build. What the parents do not know, because the papers do not tell them, is that the violence takes place many miles away from the tourist zone, in poor neighborhoods where drug gangs vie for hegemony. The crime rate is higher in New Orleans than it is in Acapulco, and Los Angeles is just a bit behind. Yet the local papers in New Orleans and LA do not carry every act of violence on the front page the way they do in Acapulco. Perhaps it is because other, more important stories merit the attention of readers in those cities.

Acapulco’s drug violence is not much different from that of large urban centers in the United States. Almost all the victims are males aged 17 to 35, and almost all are killed or injured in the poor neighborhoods in which they lived. Though families often deny it, doubtless the young men were involved with gang culture, petty crimes and drug distribution. Naturally, a fraction of those killed are victims rather than members of the gangs, and the proportion, though small, is impossible to estimate. This syndrome is found virtually everywhere where there are large concentrations of urban poor.

This does not mean, however, that it would be folly for tourists to be cautious. It does not mean that they need not be watchful about thefts or capture. Like every other vacation spot in the world, Acapulco has its share of those who seek to prey upon tourists. It is sensible to leave documents and valuables in the room safe; it is sensible to avoid dark and lonely areas late at night; it is sensible to travel in groups. But the odds that a tourist would be touched by drug gang violence are extremely low: they are about the same as for visitors to the tourist attractions of Washington, DC, New York or LA. The difference is that the press in those cities find other things to put in the headlines besides actions by local crime groups.