At our annual condominium association cocktail party I meet a lot of people for the first time, and I have the same conversation with each of them. When I say I live in Mexico during the winter, the response is, “How interesting! We go to Florida. You said ‘Mexico,’ right?
Not New Mexico? Is it safe?”
I am asked that question often, and I know what my new acquaintances are thinking: swine flu, kidnappings and drug cartel shootouts. Mexico’s image is tarnished. I resist the urge to give a speech defending my second homeland, and respond with my short answer: “I feel safe. I avoid border towns right now because of drug-related violence. Last spring the swine flu risk was exaggerated. And I don’t drive at night in Mexico—livestock roam the road and drunk driving is not unusual. I stay out of harm’s way.”
If the person is interested, I say more about the safety question. “When I walk down the street in San Pancho, I recognize almost everyone. I never worry about purse snatchings or wayward bullets from teenage gunplay. I don’t need to avoid dangerous neighborhoods, because there are none. San Pancho feels safer to me than the city of New Haven.”
Yes, San Pancho is growing and changing, but the way the Mexicans describe it still applies: “Tranquilo.” Calm.