México now a hot spot for danger tourism

A Zapatista soldier takes time out from the war to play a tune.

When the music stops, it's time for the instrument on the Zapatista's back to sing una canción de México (a song of México). (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/VillaPhotography/Wikipedia)

Tourism is a vital source of income for nations worldwide. For Americans, México has proven to be a popular tourist attraction. The traditional image of a Méxican vacation involves beaches, surfing, parasailing, margaritas and horseback trips to restorative hot springs in far-off villages. However, a new phenomenon has surfaced, reports Reuters. Increasing numbers of tourists are enjoying “danger tourism,” where they plunge themselves into the middle of the drug war killing fields, where gun violence between the cartels, police and military can erupt without warning.

Danger tourism in México: a break from the ordinary

While many people are appalled by the idea of spending their hard-earned dollars on vacations that would place them in serious risk of bodily harm, macabre thrill-seekers find travel agencies that offer the alternative of danger tourism. Such agencies give the morbidly curious the chance to see Zapatista rebels up close. Or, if running with street gangs and pickpockets is more to tourists’ liking, they can go undercover in such dangerous areas of México City as the Tepito black market, where drug deals, underage prostitution and other illegal acts are commonplace. Cesar Estrada of Universal Travel told Reuters that such excursions are becoming more popular with time, despite the good chance of robbery at gunpoint.

“We tell visitors to dress simply. If they want pictures, our guides take them discreetly,” Estrada said.

A trip into ‘the real México’

Adding to the theme of “the real México,” one tourist agency enables danger tourism aficionados to pay 200 pesos ($15) to hire a fake human trafficker (aka polleros or coyotes) for a nighttime run that simulates being a migrant crossing the southern border of the United States. No food or water is allowed on the trip through bushes and across rivers. If the tourists don’t run fast enough, faux-immigration trucks violently apprehend them.

An economic boost for México?

Reuters reports that it is unclear at this point exactly what kind of an effect danger tourism has had on the Méxican economy. Tourism in general accounts for 9 percent of the nation’s economy, and considering just how much damage the drug wars have done to México of late, it seems likely that danger tourism helps more than it hurts. Unless you’re a tourist on the wrong end of a bullet, of course.



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