Thanks everyone for the comments — spread out between Rachel’s initial post and my own, but let me try to summarize and hit a few points:

First, I’m glad to see some of the positive remarks — I know there are a lot of minds out there (like the two Steves) thinking about these issues, so I hope my comments are helpful in prompting some additional future dialogues about these topics.

Going back to Rachel’s earlier comment (“which US cities?”) and one of Terry’s points: two more cities that have significantly higher murder rates than Tijuana are Camden, New Jersey, and Compton, California. Gary, Indiana, is another close one. While clearly all are smaller sized cities, part of what I’m trying to emphasize is the need to create context about what is occurring today in Tijuana, as well as asking readers to look at the real risks and facts of the situation — not “blanket” judgments based on fear.

I’ll refer you to a good effort by KPBS and TijuanaPress.com to use Google Maps to show the approximately 350+ murders (again, primarily of narco-related killings, not random) that have happened in the Tijuana-Rosarito region since September. One finding supported by their Border Battle map: “Looking at the map, tourist areas are not hot spots” (emphasis is mine). Such details are easily overwhelmed by less precise media commentary and the public discussions about Tijuana (also, the accuracy of Coastal Grill’s “300 murders in a month” comment is easily debunked with the data there — so, I’m going to encourage you, Coastal — head south again, jump on the new City Tour bus and enjoy Tijuana [and San Ysidro] for a day trip — the worst experience you’ll likely have is a long delay at the border).

I’ll also admit, sometimes it’s hard to find data. For instance, trying to find Terry a comparison about 170 narco-related killings in a month someplace in the U.S. — I’m not sure where to start, and I don’t know if it will result in a useful response. I know from research that in the early-1990s, Chicago regularly had more than 900 murders each year — far fewer than the nearly 500 that have happened there to-date in 2008, but also higher than Tijuana’s current numbers. Rather than focusing only on a snapshot of data, I’d suggest we should look to examples like Chicago, New York, Miami, and other major cities in the US that have gone through corrupt and violent times, to become the cities they are today. I don’t know when it will happen — one decade, two, three? — but my guess is that Tijuana will be one of those cities too.

To Serge: trust me, I understand the “titling” issue of your blog, so I never took issue with you about that (although I did encourage voiceofsandiego.org to make a change — they didn’t ultimately agree with me, though). I also wouldn’t consider you “sheltered” in any way — so don’t take my critique about one of your recommendations wrong. I disagree with blanket “avoid crossing the border” types of comments, it’s true, because I think we need to use information to truly weigh the risks, and much of Tijuana (let alone other areas in Baja, and Mexico) is actually pretty safe for visitors. I look at your blog not as a “flashpoint” but more like the opening of a discussion.

As for Terry’s other comments: while I understand the perspective, I don’t agree with it. I don’t think anyone should “be happy” if fewer tourists are visiting, as that undermines the economic vitality of those that are on the “good side” and leaves the community open for more corruption and crime. Assuming U.S. visitors have only an entirely benevolent effect on Mexico’s society may be overlooking some negative influences too, but it’s true that the net effect is positive. As for corruption, I can’t help but point out that just today I heard various news references to a certain Governor of Illinois, a multi-billion dollar scandal run by Bernard Madoff that will harm the retirement of thousands of people, a $1.4 billion settlement by Siemens on a bribery conviction, not to mention recent problems of a certain San Diego congressman, and even questionable practices by local economic development organizations recently highlighted by voiceofsandiego.org. So, neither Tijuana nor “Mexico” is alone in incidents of corruption, and to condemn all of Mexico for the corrupt practices of a very small minority isn’t just or logical (again, just my two-pesos).

Again, thanks all for the dialogue — I’ve been told we might continue this discussion through Thursday, so I look forward to more comments.

— KENN MORRIS

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