Mexico: Safer But Not Safe Says Travel Warning

Troubled with crime, Mexico has been on the bad list of places to visit for quite some time. But the situation is improving. Murders of U.S. citizens are down. Drug-related violence seems limited to isolated areas of the country. But a new warning issued by the U.S. Department of State urges caution.

The State Department is warning travelers to “defer nonessential travel” to the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Tamaulipas in Mexico. The continuing concern involves Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) that are “engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity,” says the State Department warning.

The latest travel warning urged caution when visiting Mexico, including Mazatlan in the state of Sinaloa, saying travelers “should exercise extreme caution particularly late at night and in the early morning.”

Giving credit to an improving situation in Mexico, the State Department notes that 32 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico in the first six months of 2012, compared with 113 in all of 2011. Still, the number of kidnappings and disappearances throughout Mexico is of concern with both local and expatriate communities victimized.Casting a more positive light to illuminate efforts being taken to improve the situation, Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete of the Mexico Tourism Board said the protection of tourists “is at the pinnacle of importance to the Mexican government,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, festivals and events continue in Mexico and draw big crowds. Fifteen thousand people turned out for a mass yoga class in Mexico City, once a central location in the drug wars ravaging the country, now an area where no advisory is in place, as we see in this video:

[Photo Credit- Flickr user MattMawson]

Cute dogs on airplanes

You may remember Jamie Rhein’s story last month about Virgin America’s chihuahua rescue mission (Chihuahuas by the dozens on planes). Basically, the trendy but fickle Californians overloaded their local shelters with chihuahuas (about 4,700 of them). Conversely, on the east coast, there’s still a high demand for small dogs. Virgin America and Project Flying Chihuahua, along with American Airlines and Kinder4Rescue, a non-profit started by actress Katherine Heigl, joined forces to get the dogs to loving homes, saving thousands of them from possible euthanization.

You might have thought that, after that heart-warming tale, we were done with this story. Au contraire. Virgin America just sent us a bunch of pictures of cute dogs on planes. At first we thought “no, no, this is way too fluffy for Gadling,” but … well, we looked at the pictures and … chihuahuas … oh gosh … they broke us down. Puppies flying from California to New Hampshire and New York is, in fact, worthy of two articles after all.


Man caught with dog inside his luggage

I’ve traveled with my cats a few times while making some cross country moves. I hated cramming them into squat cages to fit them under my airplane seat and I really hated having to pay a few hundred dollars for their own “tickets” plus the vet checks and paperwork that certified them as healthy enough to fly. But never would I have considered trying to smuggle them on a flight inside my luggage. Yet that’s exactly what a man traveling from Madrid to Dublin did with a small Chihuahua dog.

Somehow the man was able to get the dog, which was in a cage inside his luggage, through security in Madrid. When he got off the plane in Dublin after a 2.5 hour flight, customs officials noticed a strange outline as they X-rayed his bag. They thought it was a stuffed animal until they opened the bag and found the live dog.

The man, who is originally from Bulgaria, has been arrested. The dog was reportedly in fine condition and is being held in quarantine after which, I hope he will be placed in the care of someone with a little more common sense.

[via Telegraph]

SkyMall Monday: Fernando the Chihuahua

I’ll always remember where I was when I heard the news. I think we all will. I was in the SkyMall Monday headquarters. There was a “Breaking News Alert” on CNN. I looked up from my giant magnifier and realized that the world would never be the same. In that moment, I knew how my parents must have felt when President Kennedy was killed. My heart sank. I struggled to swallow. My eyes welled up as I attempted to stifle the tears. Gidget, the former Taco Bell chihuahua, was dead. I’ve never been a fan of Taco Bell. In fact, I can count on one hand the amount of times that I have made “a run for the border.” Oddly, though, I need several more hands to count the number of apocalyptic bowel movements caused by those visits. But Gidget was a cultural icon. Lost in the news of the deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Billy Mays, Gidget’s passing last week got me thinking: Can SkyMall help me mourn? Our favorite catalog has been there for us when we didn’t even know we had a problem. But could it help me get through the Five Stages of Grief? It only took me a few moments to realize that SkyMall could comfort me in ways that no human could. Because SkyMall sells Fernando the Chihuahua.

Let’s look at each stage of grief and how a 9.5″ tall chihuahua statue helped me smile again:
Denial: I spent my first day with Fernando watching the original commercial in a loop while stroking his back and saying, “I’m so proud of you, Gidget. So, so proud.”

Day two with Fernando was fraught with a great deal of yelling. I blamed Fernando for Gidget’s death and repeatedly told him that his hat made him look like a whore.

Bargaining: “God, if you bring Gidget back and turn Fernando into a real dog, I promise to let them hump whenever they want. Yes, even at the breakfast table.”

Depression: I didn’t leave the house for days. And no matter how much peanut butter I slathered on myself, Fernando just sat there and did nothing.

Acceptance: Eventually, I came to terms with Gidget’s death. And I apologized to Fernando for that comment about his hat. I realized that it doesn’t make him look like a whore. It makes him look like an over-referenced Mexican stereotype. Just like Gidget.

Perhaps there is no more fitting tribute to Gidget’s influence than the official product description for Fernando:

Hollywood’s new “top dog” will be a hit at your house too when you welcome this life-size, quality designer resin pooch with his black buton nose and warm brown eyes.

Hollywood’s top dog. Take that, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. Suck it, Benji. ¡Viva Gidget! ¡Viva Fernando! ¡Viva SkyMall!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts

Adventures Along The U.S.-Mexican Border

The Sierra Madre mountains and the Chihuahua Desert, which fall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, not only offer up stunning scenery, but plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure as well. Backpackers and hikers will find plenty to enjoy, as they walk the same path as Pancho Villa, the famed Mexican outlaw who once roamed this region as well.

British newspaper The Guardian recently sent writer Hugh Thompson to the border to explore these badlands and report back on this hidden gem for trekkers. Starting off in El Paso, Texas, and heading south, Thompason found an outdoor paradise that included a hike through Copper Canyon, a place that rivals the Grand Canyon in beauty, without the crowds.

Thompson and the rest of his group spent more than a week exploring the region, which they found to be surprisingly lush. He came to the area expecting an arrid, empty desert, but found that it was green with flora, including a variety of trees and other small plants. While descending into some of the deeper canyons, the team would pass through a different climate zone every 1000 feet, once again bringing a very unique experience from the Grand Canyon, which is mostly devoid of any type of green plants altogether.

Over the course of that week, the trekkers followed the footsteps of Pancho Villa and his band of rebels. They traveled up and down the Sierra Madre and across the desert, chasing the legend, and in the process had a unique adventure of their own. The best part is, this is one adventure that is easy to go on yourself. The region is still off the radar for most backpacker, which tanslates into open trails and miles of solitude.