If you’re thinking about traveling down to Mexico for spring break, the U.S. State Department has issued a warning for travelers to exercise “increased caution” due to a surge in crimes and the recent kidnapping of four Black Americans.
According to the State Department’s most recent travel advisory, American travelers that are heading to Cabo, Cancun and Tulum should exercise extreme caution when traveling to the aforementioned areas. Those planning on jet-setting to Puerto Vallarta are urged to “reconsider travel” as “violent crime and gang activity are common.”’
Last weekend, a group of close-knit friends from South Carolina traveled to Matamoros, Mexico, a city located in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown, and Eric Williams tagged along with 33-year-old Latavia Washington McGee for a medical procedure she had scheduled in the country. But the group’s road trip took a fatal turn when they reached the Mexican border.
What happened after the kidnapping?
Several armed gunmen fired at their vehicle, causing other cars on the freeway to pile up. Startling footage captured the assailants pulling and dragging all four victims out of their vehicle into a giant white pickup truck.
Officials believe the group may have been targeted by a Mexican cartel that likely mistook them for Haitian drug smugglers.
Sadly, Woodward and Brown were found dead days later. Washington and Williams managed to survive the harrowing ordeal.
Matamoros is currently labeled under “Do Not Travel” due to the violent incident and the uptick in crime.
The chilling story has been raising the hairs of millions of Americans across the nation at a time when many often travel to the country to escape the harsh winter weather. And fears are particularly high among travelers of color.
Several months prior to the Matamoros kidnapping, 25-year-old Shanquella Robinson died in the Mexican resort town of Cabo San Lucas after she was fatally beatened by a female “friend.” The FBI and Mexican authorities have yet to prosecute the unidentified suspect seen in her harrowing attack video.
So, should Black folks be weary of visiting Mexico as spring break approaches?
Former national security advisor Nayyera Haq told NewsNation that all travelers should be on alert, even those visiting resorts.
“The majority of Mexico is actually in the control of cartels. The government does not control all the territory there,” Haq explained.
“In fact, the government of Mexico for decades has been complicit in ceding control. It is wonderful to travel overseas. It is not the same as traveling in the United States, no matter what the bargain, or what the deal is that you can get.”
“You have to understand what life is like for people in the country,” Haq added.
Retired FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko warned U.S. tourists against driving into Mexico.
‘”Do not drive across the border if you want to go to Mexico. Certainly go to Mexico, but be careful. Fly in. Go to the tourist areas. That’s where you’re going to be the safest. Carry that cell phone.”
“Let people know where you are. Don’t wear jewelry. Don’t flash cash.” he added.
History of racism in Mexico
Mexico is a country with a rich and diverse cultural heritage, but unfortunately, it is not immune to issues of racism and discrimination. Despite having a sizable population of people of African descent, Black immigrants in Mexico face various forms of discrimination and prejudice.
Historically, Mexico has had a complex relationship with Black people. Although Mexico abolished slavery in 1829, the country continued to import slaves illegally from Africa until the mid-19th century. Black Mexicans have since faced discrimination in various areas of life, including education, employment, and housing.
One of the main forms of discrimination against Black people in Mexico is colorism, which is the practice of favoring people with lighter skin tones over those with darker skin tones. In Mexico, this form of discrimination is known as “favouritismo” or “güerismo.” Lighter-skinned Mexicans are often viewed as more desirable, while those with darker skin tones may face social and economic barriers due to their skin color.
Black immigrants face the most discrimination
Black immigrants and asylum seekers based in Mexico are feeling the brunt of the discrimination in the country. In Tapachula for example, many Black migrants often wait years or months for their visa applications to be approved in order to find work or pass through the country. Some believe that the Mexican government is purposefully slowing down their applications due to the color of their skin.
According to a report published by the Migration Policy Institute, in 2019 and 2020, Mexican authorities detained more than 10,000 African and Haitian migrants passing through Tapachula on their way north. Under Donald Trump’s administration, the “Remain in Mexico” policy forced many Haitians and other Black migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico until their U.S. immigration court date.
Guerline Jozef, the co-founder of the Black immigrant Bail fund, is fighting to reverse the strict law, according to her 2022 interview in The Presbyterian Outlook.
“People cannot remain in Mexico, especially Black immigrants cannot remain in Mexico because, I can tell you, from Jan. 1 to last week, we have buried six Haitians in Tijuana, so there is no safe space for Black people in Mexico,” said Jozef, who provides free legal assistance and humanitarian aid to Black immigrants faced with hardship in the country.
Migrants often endure dangerous conditions to travel to Mexico for a better life. Those issues are then compounded when they step foot in the country to face discrimination and prejudice. While Mexico may be a popular destination to travel to in the coming months, it’s important to keep all of these cultural and social issues in mind. Especially if you are a person of color.
With the recent travel advisory issued by the State Department, right now might not be the best time to travel in Mexico, but if are heading to the country, exercise extreme caution when you’re out and about.
U.S. ‘Disrespect’ To Shanquella Robinson Differs From Urgent Response To Americans Kidnapped In Mexico
Kidnapped Tourists In Mexico Are Black American Citizens, Including Mother Of 6
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