Renewed Mexico travel warning threatens spring break travel plans

MexicoThe U.S. State Department has issued a new Mexico travel warning, superseding last April’s warning. Apparently, cartel violence stemming from drug trafficking, specifically violent struggles among the criminal organizations for control of trafficking routes, has resulted in a rising number of carjackings, kidnappings and gun battles throughout Mexico.

“U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter TCOs (Transnational Criminal Organizations) which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico, says the State Department in the new warning posted on their website today.

Detailing the problem, the State Department says “The TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. As a result, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.”

Mexico government figures indicate that 47,515 people were killed in narcotics-related violence between December 1, 2006 and September 30, 2011, the warning states. Most of those killed were members of the criminal organizations.

The big problem: State Department numbers indicate that 120 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico in 2011, up from 35 in 2007, according to the warning.

Bad news for college students, the government says spring break destination Rocky Point is a key area in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous.

Arizona college student Juan Pantoja told KVOA.com, “I was there two or three months ago. I go down there often and go to Rocky Point. I have never thought twice about it. It’s always a good time.” University of Arizona student Chase Tsui added, “I would love to go visit my boyfriend’s family, but the problem is getting there. My mom still has this thing about going to Mexico, so she still doesn’t want me to go.”

The updated warning advises against nonessential travel to areas within 16 Mexican states, including Veracruz and the border areas of Aguacalientes and Zacatecas, and Colima and Michoacan says TravelWeekly but notes that no advisories are in effect for the state of Quintana Roo (Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum), the Riviera Nayarit, Mexico City, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and Guanajuato (San Miguel de Allende and Leon).

Travelers are advised to stay within the tourist areas of Acapulco, Ixtapa, Mazatlan, Monterrey and Zihuantanejo.


Severed Heads Left at Mexican School

Flickr photo by scazon

Mexico’s safest destinations

MexicoCrime in Mexico has kept travelers away from some parts of the country that are riddled with the results of drug cartel operations. Everything from murder to mass graves and the acts of brutal drug lords has caused the U.S. Department of State to issue warnings against travel south of the border. Still, there are a number of places deemed safe by a variety of sources that are worth a look if not a trip to visit.

Our first five safe places to visit come from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Five Safest Places in Mexico. At only 1.1 deaths per 100,000, the agricultural state of Tlaxcala is rated as Mexico’s safest state followed by the Yucatán at 1.3 that has a well-developed tourist infrastructure and thousands of archaeological sites.

Up next is Puebla at 1.85 with 2,600 historic buildings, a wealth of archaeological sites, and virtually nonstop festivals originating in five distinct pre-hispanic cultures ahead of the small state of Querétaro with just 2.02 deaths per 100,000. Best-known for its role in ending Spanish rule, the state also claims three of Mexico’s major wineries and maintains a Cheese and Wine Museum.

%Gallery-144723%

Renewed Baja California Sur, sfgate tells us, was the first flash point when President Calderón upset the drug cartels’ equilibrium and has been barely touched by drug violence. Adventure travelers will find hiking, kayaking, surfing and windsurfing, zip-lines, cave paintings and hot springs here.Tapping Lonely Planet for more safe places to visit in Mexico we find Mexico City, now cleaned up to be a ‘Disney version’ of its former gritty self, Todos Santos where “well-heeled New Mexico artists, organic farmers and even some Hollywood types have snapped up property and put down roots” and San Miguel de Allende where regular festivals, fireworks and parades dominate the local scene.

  “If it’s resorts you want,” says Lonely Planet, Huatulco is a rare success story in recent resort development. This former fishing village has become the Oaxacan beach resort of choice lately, benefiting from its gentle development plan that keeps much of the 12 miles of sandy shoreline completely unspoiled and the town under six-stories high.”

Finally, rapidly growing Playa Del Carmen comes in to round out our list of ten safe places to visit in Mexico. More than a day trip for cruise passengers, visitors come from all over the world in what looks to be a very safe destination, just one of the many we found in Mexico.

Flickr photo by RussBowling



Sustainable cities to watch in 2012

sustainable citiesThink of sustainability, and San Francisco is probably the first city to come to mind. But a new crop of green urban centers is emerging, and they’re not where you might think.

Leon Kaye, editor of GreenGoPost.com, recently published a list of his picks for emerging sustainable cities to watch in 2012. Some spots were to be expected, like Detroit, with its preponderance of urban renewal projects, and Accra, which recently topped Siemens’ and Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of Africa’s greenest cities.

But there were also a few wild cards. Mexico City made the list for its 10-point Climate Action Program, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 million metric tones between 2008 and 2012. The plan included massive improvements to the public transportation system, including the construction of Latin America’s largest rail system and investments in green roofing, water conservation, and waste management.

Also on the list was Naples, Italy, whose trash crisis has made headlines since 2008. Once city residents started realizing that the government wasn’t going to take action, they started taking matters into their own hands. Through grassroots activist movements, like guerrilla gardening and flash mobs, Neapolitans are slowly beautifying their city, and this year will host the UN’s World Urban Forum.

The other cities on Kaye’s watch list were Adelaide, Australia; Belgrade, Serbia; Brasilia, Brazil; Doha, Qatar; San Jose, California; and Seoul, Korea.

[Flickr image of Mexico City via Alfredo Gayou]

New restaurant in Mexico City combines unique architecture and experiential dining

tori-tori restaurant in mexico city Tori-Tori, a new Japanese restaurant located in Polanco in Mexico City, Mexico, has recently finished completion. The project began in 2009 as a joint venture between the Mexico-based firm rojkind arquitectos and the design company Esrawe Studio, with the aim to create a unique contemporary space.

While the restaurant serves Japanese cuisine, the ambiance is more cosmopolitan than many other Japanese restaurants on the market. Imagine an interior full of open spaces, a bar, and terraces that always keep the guest close to natural vegetation.

The inside is actually an extension of the outside, where the facade seems to grow organically from the ground in a mass of steel ivy. You can see through to the restaurant and vice versa, and the pattern on Tori-Tori’s outside controls the ambiance on the inside by filtering light, shadows, and views.

As for the food, guests can expect an array of options, including salads, curries, pastas, fish dishes, beef, chicken, sushi, sashimi, nigri, and more. For more information, click here. Or, to get a better idea of the design of Tori-Tori, check out the gallery below. All photos are courtesy of photographer Paúl Rivera.

%Gallery-140358%