(Photo of armed military police checking the main highway for drugs and illegal immigrants)
Just got back from a week at one of those all inclusive holiday resorts in Mexico, near Akumal, south of Cancun. You know the drill -- all you can eat, all you can drink, nightly shows, and the
myriads of Canadians and European tourists --strangely, we encountered very few Americans.
Whenever I travel, I love to get the local newspapers and try to learn all I can about local news.
So when I picked up the Novedades daily, which covers Cancun and the State of Quintana Roo, here's what I learned from reading about life in Mexico and also about that specific part of Mexico (I also learned it from observation.)
1. Extortionists operate in Playa del Carmen and the local authorities have called in extra help from the army to try to deal with it;
2. Seven police officers were decapitated/executed in Guererro State (where Acapulco is and Ixtapa) by narco-traffickers--their bodies were found in a place called Chilpancingo.
3. A beautiful woman who won the country's popular Miss Sinaloa competition 2008 was arrested the other day with her boyfriend and their gang of narco-traffickers and paraded for the media with the haul of weapons, cellphones and money;
4. Amongst the illegally dumped construction rubble from the holiday apartments and luxury resorts going up along the main highway from Cancun south to Akumal you can see incredibly poor squatters living behind wooden fences on the roads and side streets outside the heavily guarded and gated resorts--they live in huts with blue plastic roofs;
5. Gun carrying uniformed soldiers from the Mexican federal army, as well as the local police and the navy have set up checkpoints along the main highway to stop cars as part of their much publicized holiday security operation (Dec 16 to Jan 6) to prevent accidents by tourists as well as drugs or illegal immigration.
6. Mexican newspapers publish much more lurid and sensational photos of dead and injured people then Canadian newspapers would -- we saw photos of victims of an assassination in Afghanistan printed in full colour in the taxi driver's newspaper, and we saw photos of traffic accident victims' bodies lying where they fell -- although one person's face had been pixelated out.
I realize what I saw was not the whole country of Mexico, nor was it representative of all of Mexico. But as my former managing editor at CTV News, Dennis McIntosh used to say, anecdotes turn into the best stories, oftentimes.