Get Over the Volcano: An Open Letter to Anthony Bourdain

May 5, 2014

Dear Mr. Bourdain,

My name is W. Scott Koenig. I am a San Diego-based blogger at http://www.AGringoInMexico.com, a small site I started about two years ago to report on the fantastic experiences, people, food, culture and trips my wife Ursula – and now 6-year old son Wolfie – have had in Mexico during our many visits south of the border. In 2013, my blog started gaining a bit of momentum, and I soon found myself writing and shooting on assignment for Baja.com – reporting on food, art and culture in Tijuana and other Baja California municipalities. My new “pase tiempo” (past time), has afforded me the opportunity to travel to even more amazing destinations, and I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting and interviewing many passionate Mexican people who are more than happy to give me an interview, their time, a meal, a drink, even a handmade regalo in exchange for the modest coverage they will receive on my blog (which currently attracts 2,000 – 3,000 views/month). The generosity of the Mexican people never ceases to astound me, and this is one of the main reasons my family and I return to Mexico so often.

Mr. Bourdain, you have been an ongoing inspiration for me (and countless other travel bloggers and writers) since the days of “No Reservations”. I’ve always enjoyed your style, tastes, banter, wit, edge, grit and the obvious interest and passion you have for your topics. I’ve read all of your nonfiction (and the Jiro graphic novel) and would rank you among one of the top contemporary American writers in any genre. Your reporting has always been fair, insightful, funny, scary, dramatic…in short, real. And real is hard to find sometimes here in the hyper-commercialized USA as you know from traveling to some of the planet’s more humbling and humbled destinations.

So when we settled down to watch your Parts Unknown in Mexico last night, both my wife and I were anxious to see where you’d been, what you ate, who you met, what you experienced…anticipating a sensual take on a sensual place from a sensualist and artisté. We were in Oaxaca for two weeks over the holidays (during your filming), and that life-changing trip is still very much with us…making our anticipation even more palatable.

But what we got instead could be summed up thusly (thanks Ursula):

Body, body, body, Santa Muerte, body, body, tacos, body, body, interview with journalist in hiding, body, body, Mezcal, cocineras, body, clever literary reference, body, body…and, wait for the finale…body.

Last night’s Parts Unknown seemed to present a very unbalanced and sensationalist view of Mexico. Is there violence in parts of the country? Yes. There is violence everywhere and the concentration of it in Mexico is due in part to the disruption of the cartels by policies put in place by Vincente Fox and Felipe Calderon (as the courageous, tragic Anabel Hernandez pointed out during your interview). Not to mention their urgency to satiate our appetites here with the goods they deliver. But cartel violence is on the decline overall throughout the country, and the violence was never as widespread as your show last night would lead one to believe.

There are states in Mexico that are safer than many US states (Yucatan, Baja California Sur, others), and Mexico overall is safer than many other countries (some a surprise). I won’t go into the numbers here…a report was released last year that demonstrated the relative safety of Mexico compared to US cities and other countries, and addressed the issue of negative media bias. This report is independent, but based it’s presentation on information as varied as USA Today, the FBI, the US State Department and the UN World Health Organization.

A more comprehensive report was released recently by the Justice in Mexico Project at USD detailing the decline of drug violence in Mexico (peaking in 2011), how Mexico stacks up against other Latin American countries in regard to drug-related violence, the inequality of press coverage given to drug-related violence in Mexico when compared with other Latin American countries, and the distribution of drug-related violence across different regions of Mexico (demonstrating that it is not prevalent in many areas of the country).

To pick out drug violence in parts of, yet label the entire country as “violent”, is akin to focusing on the homicide rate in Chicago and calling the whole of the US violent (not that it isn’t, as also mentioned on your show). It seemed to me to be off-balance, skewed reporting. By the edict of…whom? CNN? Your advertisers? I noticed that the Bahamas Tourism Board had a nice, fat spot during the show last night. Pretty opportune as your reporting on Mexico was enough to scare any tourist away from the country and into the confines of a fat, “safe” all-inclusive in a more innocuous, less controversial destination. This couldn’t have been your production idea Mr. Bourdain. After all, you made an impassioned plea just yesterday for Mexican empathy on Tumblr. And we know your allegiance to former staff, current friends and figures around Mexico. What did they think of last night’s show?

I’m not arguing that the violence should not have been addressed, but did it need to consume nearly two-thirds of the airing (as far as we could tell) from the opening sequence to the end summarization? You were in some amazing places (Mexico City, Oaxaca, Cuernavaca) and didn’t even scratch the surface of those culturally-wealthy destinations. So much history and culture, so many beautiful cathedrals to visit, so much music and art to explore. And more great food to eat as well…if I recall, that’s how you got your start. You could have spent an entire episode focused on any one of these aspects and it would have provided a rich viewing experience and excellent ratings.

If I had never been to Mexico, Mr. Bourdain, I would certainly not want to after watching last night’s show. However, I will continue to visit often…I have two trips to Baja planned this month and can’t wait. I will take my wife and son down to Baja and other parts of Mexico unaffected by drug violence with “No Reservations”. I hope I’m not out of my depth with this open letter and I would never assume that anyone else, especially my Mexican friends and acquaintances, would share my viewpoint. I’m just a Gringo who loves Mexico and is sad to see it tarnished in the US media so harshly and so often.

Thank you for all you do and your consideration,
W. Scott Koenig (El Gringo)

About W. Scott Koenig (48 Articles)
W. Scott Koenig (El Gringo) has traveled extensively throughout Mexico since the mid 90’s — from the streets of Tijuana to the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula to the country’s Spanish Colonial heartland. His blog, www.AGringoInMexico.com, reports on Mexican destinations, cuisine, culture and adventure south of the border. He also blogs extensively for Baja.com and has been published in the Baja Times (Baja’s largest English language newspaper) and Destino magazine in Los Cabos. Scott also reports on food in Tijuana and Oaxaca at Chowzter.com. Additionally, he is the founder and creative director of Koenig Creative LLC in San Diego, a full service design and marketing agency.

109 Comments on Get Over the Volcano: An Open Letter to Anthony Bourdain

  1. Plain and simple….your show is about food, why bring on the show cartels, dead bodies stc…? there are a lot of countries that are more “dangerous” than Mexico. Examples, Brasil, Venezuela, Honduras and so on…If you go to Brasil or Russia are you going to talk about the cartels in Brasil or the Russian mafia along food and wine?? I saw the show and I couldn’t understand what were you trying to accomplish showing the bad side of Mexico…how safe are we in the U.S.?? Parents killing their children, people going crazy shooting randomly in Restaurants, Schools, goverment buildings and also gangs in Chicago, L.A , Detroit, etc…Most of the crime in Mexico is targeted, cartels against cartels or the police. Some touristic Caribean islands are more dangerous then any touristic place in Mexico and people still visit those islands. Damage is done, bad propaganda and overblown media too!
    I’m Mexican with a lot of relatives in different parts of Mexico and they among a lot fo expats that live in Mexico can’t believe the media in the U.S always portraying a bad image of Mexico.
    I travel to Mexico regularly and I have never had any problems and haven’t seen any either.
    Mexico city, Guadalajara, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, puerto Vallarta, Cancun Puerto Peñasco, Tijuana (very often) etc…I consider this places safe because I have been there and had no problems at all… the list goes on, Go to another parts of Mexico and you’ll see is safe to travel. Tourists are even safer than Mexicans. I hope people stop talking bad about Mexico because no one is talking bad about the U.S.
    Sorry for my bad writing.

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  2. signalfire6 // May 12, 2014 at 4:33 PM // Reply

    I don’t watch teevee much after I realized it was all either lies, or commercials for things I didn’t need; I’d much rather spend my evenings reading and learning something real… but my impression of Anthony Bourdain from seeing a few random posts on line about him is that he glorifies the eating of still-squirming live creatures, and thinks nothing of eating meat (fellow mammals mostly) just for the fun of it, not for any nutritional needs. If AB is so worried about violence, maybe he should look to his own hobbies and career first. Ever thought of going vegan??? Violence against all creatures only perpetuates the same and adds to the overall lack of empathy he so easily glosses over in the pursuit of fleeting pleasures. How many beheaded creatures are you personally responsible for, Mr. Bourdain?

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  3. Sorry to say but I think you missed the point. Anthony’s show is called Parts Unknown. In the Mexico episode he indeed showed the part of Mexico that is “unknown” (read: ignored, dismissed, downplayed) to most Westerners. It is the reality for many Mexicans all over the country. You recognize you are “a gringo in Mexico”– you must also realize you have a certain privilege because of this. Ask any Mexican whether the episode was accurate or not. Aside from the 1% elite, of course. Everyone has been touched in some way by the violence, corruption, etc, my own family included. Yet for some reason, it is ignored in mainstream Western media. Anthony’s show was a step in the right direction, I hope it shocked many people who simply see the country as an idyllic party paradise. If no one speaks about the violence and corruption it will only grow. It is just as important as the prettier parts of the country.

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    • PS: When I say it is ignored by media, I don’t mean they portray Mexico only in a positive light. I know that’s not true. I was referring to the fact that every day I see countless tragic news stories on Mexican media that are rarely ever discussed on CNN (for example). At most, the specifics of what happens in Mexico are simply glossed over (unless it involves a US citizen). Every day, still, regardless of whether or not the violence is in decline, people are being kidnapped, killed, blackmailed, and so on. I think despite travel warnings most people don’t know how bad it is– tourism continues after all– but outside of tourist-heavy areas it’s still pretty bad. To you, who seems to love Mexico, I say: if you disliked what you saw in the show, don’t get upset with Anthony– get upset with the corrupt politicians who are continuing this useless war and making the stuff Anthony reported on a reality.

      Saludos. :)

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      • Thanks for your comments, Yo. Now that time has passed and as Mr. Bourdain so graciously explained his intent in our comments section, I do see the point now of what he had hoped to achieve. I just don’t think his portrayal of Mexico in a major US Media channel was entirely accurate in its depiction of regional violence, and I don’t think he’s changed any “hearts and minds” here in the US. In fact, I believe it has fed into the US fear of your country. I do not want to downplay any aspect of the corruption or violence in Mexico, but I don’t think Mr. Bourdain achieved much with this show.

        You are right about CNN and other US outlets not showing everything happening in Mexico…or any other country for that matter. Just a couple of weeks ago, parts of Baja were burning with wildfires, just as they were here in San Diego. But this was not reported in the local media (and we are right across the border). I think US media tends to focus on domestic “news” and ignores much of what’s going on internationally (the Turkish miners strike and ensuing street riots in Istanbul very underreported here) unless it does involve an American. But for nearly a decade, most of the reporting we do see on Mexico is on the violence and a slew of State Department warnings.

        El Gringo

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  4. The question I have to ask is do you really want the “Disneyland crew” showing up on Mexico’s doorstep? Cancun is bad enough. Kudos to Anthony Bourdain who chopped up Mexico and severed it back to us as a salad. We certainly don’t have to eat it. I personally believe that Mexico is moving too much toward being a mirror of the the US anyway, and with that comes the plastering over of a culture that the US never had to worry about, as would not any culture that exists only as plaster. So from that aspect I weep with each mile of Mexico I cross as I see the US influence encroaching and say thank God for anything that stops the rapid decline of the grand and beautiful culture of Mexico via the seemingly unstoppable tsunami of North Americanization.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Don. And you bring up a point that hasn’t been brought up yet (other than Mr. Bourdain’s original, incorrect assessment of my experience in the country). The last thing I’d want to see is the “Disney-fication” of ANY part of Mexico! My family and I enjoy (at least what I consider) the real Mexico, which is why we escape Disney (i.e. Southern California) and seek out a more authentic, cultural experience when we roll down south of the border. If you look at my posts, you’ll see maybe 2 or 3 out of 40 or that cover a resort (nice ones, BTW, but not what I’d consider representative of the country in the least). We’ve had the pleasure of staying in some out of the way places, converted convents, old homes, etc. in Mexico that you would never find here. My son is half Mexican, and I’d rather roll him into Oaxaca for the holidays (we were there at the same time as Mr. Bourdain, BTW), or take a road trip around Baja Sur, or hike him all around Merida and the Yucatan, than hole up in an all-inclusive and not leave the compound. I am blessed that we are so close to where his mother’s people come from, and that he can have these experiences.

      That being said, I do see your point, in general, and hope that that day doesn’t come to pass. Hell, Trump was going to build a place just south of the Playas of Tijuana until 2008 when the violence began to grip the area. He pulled out very quickly and hopefully isn’t coming back.

      El Gringo

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  5. Excellent article Scott, as a Mexican-based travel blogger I definitely agree that the media is definitely biased. Sure, Tamaulipas has a high-murder rate, even higher than Afghanistan…but nobody is advising people to visit Tamaulipas.

    Mexico is composed by 31 separate entities in the same way that the US is 50 separate entities. Generalizations about the violence are really absurd, I’ve been living in Quintana Roo for two months now and I feel safer here than in Buenos Aires, Argentina!

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    • Thanks your comment Rafael, and I’m glad you like my blog. I checked yours out and enjoyed it as well. We spent a day in Taxco in 2006. One of my best memories is of the VW Beatle taxi that had the passenger seat removed (more legroom) that wound us up very quickly up the narrow cobblestoned streets to the top of the town. What a view!

      I do believe that there is a responsibility to state where you are reporting from, and provide specific locations vs. generalizations. I don’t believe that Mr. Bourdain stated where he was until about 10 minutes into the show after the body count started. The impression (at least mine) was that all of Mexico’s streets are full of bodies. My intention was not to belittle the real problems that are happening in specific states.

      El Gringo

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      • Rafael Solorzano. // May 10, 2014 at 7:22 PM // Reply

        Scott, I would not worry much about people who may not have understood your statements as well as those made by Bourdain, see, the average person dislikes rich and powerful people, good looking women or guys and those of us which have an opinion.

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  6. Why don’t you move to Mexico for good and see that it is not just cover with roses like any place else? I love Mexico and Mexicans and hate violence. I moved to Oax some 20 years ago I have been here this whole time Mr El gringo. Tony Bourdain didn’t do anything bad but showing the real deal, get over it! I really don’t like your attitude, I think your letter was a mistake.

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    • Thanks for your comment Ana. Curious as to how much drug violence you see there in Oaxaca? I know there were serious problems with the governor and teacher’s strike in 2006, but it otherwise seems fairly peaceful there. I would love to live in Mexico full time someday. That is a personal goal.

      El Gringo

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  7. Rafael Solorzano. // May 9, 2014 at 6:15 PM // Reply

    Scott, with all due respect to you and your posters, this thread has brought the best and the worst from both sides of the border, comments from nonresidents, current residents and former residents, some of which have basically used the opportunity to dump their anger, frustration, admiration. I know Mexicans face many obstacles in our daily fight for a dignified life, still I object the negativity and biased perception that many have and will not admit to the fact that they do look down at Mexicans and many even assume that the average Mexican is either corrupt, lazy and/or linked to a drug pin or at least that we tolerate crime and corruption. Those that left Mexico have a right to call it as they see it, many of them actually had it worse than some of us which reside at the border because they were wither directly victims of crime or simply victimized by government corruption. Not all of us want to reside in the United States because we see many positives, yes, we live in a country with many crisis, still many of us put up a fight everyday by doing what we are supposed to, be honorable, respectful, pay our taxes, strive to have a better Mexico, and you know, that does not make us complacent or accomplices of crime or corruption.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Rafael. This discussion has bought out some heated opinion on both sides of the border and topic for sure. I’m learning that all of these truths live together, at least in the minds of the commenters and especially from those who have lived/live in Mexico. I have seen a lot of national pride here without a doubt, and that’s a great start to any kind of solution.

      El Gringo

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      • Rafael Solorzano. // May 9, 2014 at 6:53 PM // Reply

        Thank you Scott, I appreciate your comments, your honesty and above all your vision. Keep it up.

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  8. Wow. As a mexican, living in México, I can tell you that, while your point of view is somewhat correct, there IS a lot of violence in México right now. Not just some places anymore, it’s EVERYWHERE. Whether it’s the cartels or just plaint thiefs, stealing whatever they think its “valuable” just because they don’t want to work for it, and hurting you or killing you in the process (because there are plenty of work offers out there, but many poeple just don’t want too work, and prefer to steal or live off the goverment) or even people violating each others human rights in order to make a statement or defend something they think they’re entitled to, violence is EVERYWHERE. México is a beautiful place, we’ve been blessed with so many things other countries dream of, this should be a land of opportunities, people should be talking about El Sueño Mexicano and not the american dream… and yet, our country is all f***ed up… It’s admirable that you know so much of our country just from visiting it from time to time, but living in it it’s a whole differente thing…

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    • Thanks for your comment, Mary. I think Mr. Bourdain’s episode brought this to light, for sure. I’ve heard from folks in Mexico on both sides of the equation and it is a lot to think about and consider. I personally will continue to promote travel to Mexico, which I think is still very safe in many parts of the country.

      El Gringo

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  9. By any chance do u know where he is at? what place is this were he has taken this pic.with the kids and their kites?

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  10. Good job, Scott. I have lived in Mexico for seven years (in Guanajuato) and have given up on getting any fair coverage from the media, although I had hoped for better than this from Anthony B.
    http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com

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  11. Laura Gonzalez // May 8, 2014 at 7:09 PM // Reply

    As a mexican born and bred citizen I can see the importance in the point of view expressed on Bourdain´s TV show, and I can also agree with you Scott, the violence has diminished to some level, leaving out of the conflict foreign tourists like yourself, as well as other parts from our society, especially those with the higher incomes.

    The thing is that we cannot sing victory just yet and it´s important for the world to know it, not to fear it though. Mexico is a beautifully troubled country, but that will not get you kidnapped, robbed or in the middle of an open fire dispute between drug cartels. The actual chances of that happening are actually very rare, but we still can´t ignore that it has affected and hurt many others. I have not seen Bourdain´s show, only the preview but I can tell you that Bourdain has a point too.

    In his Tumblr post he adresses a major issue, which is the double morality in all of this:
    There´s drugs being cultivated, made and sold in the middle of a violent armed conflict, because ultimately there is a demand for them, especially from countries like the United States, which I think is something that Bourdain is trying to say in order to make US citizens think about the costs of their addicction/ past-time in our mexican society.

    I have had the luck to live and travel among many parts of my country, I´ve tasted it´s best foods and met the kindest people, but I do wish that I didn´t have to do all that fearing the well-being of those people and my own, which is something that the world should know, because ultimately mexicans do live in fear to some extent.

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  12. Full disclosure: I just wanted to clarify my position in regard to my blog and the motivation behind why I do it, since it has been brought to question several times here and in other places online…

    I am not a “schill” for the Mexican Tourism Board. In the 2 years since I started this blog, I have taken two press trips partially sponsored by the Board to cover stories in Acapulco, Guerrero and Loreto, Baja California Sur (2 stories out of nearly 40 stories now written). Other than travel, hotel and a few meals, no compensation was received and the views I reported on were my own. I have received one (excellent) meal from a restaurant owner in Tijuana and a beautiful handmade table runner from a Zapotec family of weavers and cocineras in Teotitlan del Valle. I have reported regularly for Baja.com for about a year, and receive just enough money per blog post for them to cover the cost of transportation and meals to get the story on events in Tijuana and Rosarito Beach, Baja California. I have been published twice in print, for which I received just a little compensation. In short, blogging is my “pase tiempo” and only generates enough income to support itself.

    I make my living with my day job of graphic design here in San Diego, working primarily with companies in the US. That being said, I would love to spend more time reporting on Mexico, and there may be more opportunities to generate income from my blog, and even from the tourism board, but my views will ALWAYS be my own. Other than a post I did on the earthquake/hurricane damage in Acapulco last year (http://agringoinmexico.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/acapulco-puede-digging-out-from-earthquake-major-storms), “hard news” is typically not my beat. I report on destinations, culture, art, food and events in Mexico.

    I also wouldn’t have written my letter if my opinion was just my own. I’ve spoken and communicated with a number of Mexican Nationals and expats who share this attitude…that violence does exist in Mexico, but is overplayed and sensationalized in the US media. And Mr. Bourdain’s piece throws a log on that fire, for better or worse. That remains to be seen. To the Mexican Nationals that responded here…you would laugh out loud at some of the comments I receive from folks in the US when they hear that we go to Mexico often. “Aren’t you scared? Are you afraid you’ll be kidnapped? Aren’t you afraid to drive down there? I would NEVER take my kids to Mexico!”. This is a common attitude here, and I do what I do to try to help clear up some of these very generalized misconceptions of your country. I don’t feel paternalistic, an apologist, or that I’m some sort of great white hope for Mexico, not by a long shot. I just express my opinion and enjoy working on my little blog when I get a spare moment or two.

    I don’t have an agenda, per se. The reason I write the Gringo blog is because I really enjoy Mexico a lot, yes, as a tourist. But unlike what many may think of a typical US tourist in Cancun or Cabo, I like to go off the beaten path (to an extent), and am fascinated by the stories to be found during our visits. I’ve spent hours talking to people living in Mexico, from chefs to indigenous healers to business people to students to a fun family from Mexico City that we had the pleasure of touring with in Valle de Guadalupe last year. More often than not, my Mexican hosts thank me for being there, reporting on positive news in their country (telling me that it’s so nice since most of the US Media, including Mr. Bourdain, shine such a bloody light on Mexico).

    The friendliness, openness, humor and good natured attitude of most of the Mexicans I’ve met during our travels is so refreshing from some of the guarded attitudes often found here in the US and Southern California. I am naive about much of what’s happening in Mexico, yes, but I am fascinated by your culture, food, history. I have received nothing but kindness from the Mexican people with whom we’ve interacted, and this further inspires me to do what I do.

    El Gringo

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  13. GKRoberts // May 8, 2014 at 4:43 PM // Reply

    THANK YOU for saying what needed to be said to Mr. Bourdain, a food idol for so many of us. As a gringa who frequents Mexico City almost monthly, I too was shocked when his show was in the complete opposite spirit of his blog just a day prior. I wanted to see that blog — so eloquently asking Americans to get over themselves when it comes to Mexico — come to life on TV! The people and energy and food in places like DF and Cuernavaca are so inspiring to me and I hope more and more Americans come to appreciate it as much as I am able to someday … with or without Bourdain’s help.

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  14. Dear Scott,

    Your view is correct and Mr Bourdain too! I did not like that he focus on the violence more, instead of the magnificent food that we have here in Mexico.

    Yes, your toughs or views from Mexico are some kind of fantastic or not credible, but, It´s nice to read the views from a “Gringo” of Mexico!

    USA has more violence than Mexico, the violence in Mexico is because of the drugs, the demand of the drugs come from the US, the guns that the cartels use come from the US, this is where Bourdain hits the spot!.

    Remember that we as Mexicans know Mexico more than “you” (tourist), i´m originally from Sinaloa, I live in Monterrey. We came to Monterrey fleeing the violence in Sinaloa, but then in the last 5 years we started having the same violence that my father work so hard to move us away from that violence.

    The main problem in Mexico is the lack of Education (the one our Moms and Dads can only give) I was educated (Mom and Dad) to be first an excellent Mexican, to live by my example, to be responsible of my actions, if i don´t like something to tell them that is not right to do that (cutting line, swearing in front of women and children, Respecting the law, etc.) i know that it´s hard but at then end, we live to give an example to our family, kids, friends and other Mexicans, everything starts with one person!

    Act right, speak right, respect your fellow Mexican, but most important respect yourself.

    Thank you for writing with such passion of Mexico (it´s very important that we have people like you that enjoy the Mexican experience, the good one and not the bad one), also, Mr Bourdain is great that we have somebody that can also write the bad experiences that we have here too, because our government is trying to sell other image of Mexico.

    Mexico is not safe in most of their parts, with the exception of the beaches and some parts of the major cities (DF – Polanco, Santa Fe-, Monterrey – San Pedro ONLY-, Guadalajara – Mostly Zapopan-), Sad but true!

    To the comment about the hospital asking for $50k, we have one of the best Private Hospitals in America (I mean the continent to US, for the gringos, Did you know that actually America es the whole continent not the United States of North America, yes that is the official name of USA)

    Best Regards

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    • Thanks for your comment, CVO. I would never assume to know more about Mexico, or any country, than someone living there, and I’ve learned a LOT from the comments on both sides of the equation and border on my blog. Especially from Mexican nationals and expats living there, so thank you sincerely for your comment and perspective.

      Education so important for sure. Here in the US, we risk many problems if we don’t begin funding education a bit better than we have been lately.

      El Gringo

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  15. Reblogged this on GoodLife Mexico and commented:
    We too love following Anthony Bourdain on his food adventures around the world, and this is a good review by fellow blogger W. Scott Koenig.

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  16. A fed up Mexican // May 8, 2014 at 5:59 AM // Reply

    So you are saying because key tourist areas are safe and protected, mostly because the bad press and decline in tourism was really hurting, you are calling out Mr. Bourdain? Shame on you, just because violence occurs away from tourist doesn’t change the fact Mexico is still deeply mired in blood.

    Shame on you, if you had a bit more guts and empathy like Mr. Bourdain you wouldn’t be spouting your half truths. You are a shrill for the tourism board which feeds you. I wish more emphatic people like Mr. Bourdain visited Mexico and told the truth like he did.

    Go home gringo, we don’t need hacks like you painting Mexico through rose colored glasses just so your blog keeps getting hits. Mexico needs less people like you and more like Bourdain.

    Just because you don’t see violence doesn’t mean it’s not there. Tell that to my maid who had to hide inside a store this morning to avoid the shooting going on in the street.

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    • Thanks for your comment, fed up Mexican. BTW, the tourism board does not feed me. My day job as a graphic designer does. I do this blog because I enjoy visiting Mexico, your people, food and culture. Your go home Gringo statement’s irony is not lost on me.

      I understand the violence. Just the other day, there was A police helicoptor overhead. Apparently, someone had held up a local business, shooting and killing one of the customers inside. This wasn’t in Tijuana, this was in San Diego, just a few miles from my house. But Mr. Bourdain painted San Diego as a town where we all play golf and sip Margaritas in Cabo. Would you make the same accusation of him Inre: rose colored glasses?

      Your point is not lost on me, though, and appreciated.

      El Gringo

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    • Thank you, you just took the words out of my mouth.

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  17. Here’s an interesting perspective from Clinton Stark of the Stark Insider (based in Loreto, Baja California Sur) on the question we’ve been asking here. Should Anthony Bourdain be culturally accountable?

    http://www.starkinsider.com/2014/05/anthony-bourdain-culturally-accountable.html

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  18. A friend sent me a link to this blog asking me what I think of it. Your Blog entry is idiotic. Mexico is tied with Argentina for the most corrupt country in the Western Hemisphere – this is an international fact. Corruption is endemic to their entire system and culture. I’ve been deep in Baja surfing and racing over the decades. And I’ve been to the mainland too. But I’ve stopped going to Mexico and will not take my family there ever again. Our last trip I was almost kidnapped and the Federales were involved. We were doing nothing wrong or even risky. We know the risks down there and we play them. Like most people I know who visit Mex often something eventually happened.
    Your entry is naive, immature, and idealistic. Even before my last trip I would have felt the same about your Disneyfied version of Mexico.
    You are acting like your feelings are hurt that Anthony Bourdain didn’t get in line behind your PR spin about your wonderful life in Mex. So you obviously do not understand what he or his stories are about. And you seem to take yourself way too seriously.
    Go to Hillcrest Trauma Center since you live in SD and ask them what they think of vacationing in Baja. Enjoy their stories about Americans held hostage by hospitals for a $50K bond. One of my faves is about a lady who went to honeymoon with her husband because it was in their budget. Riding horses on the beach she and the horse fell. Broken femur through the skin. Off to hospital. They tried to her lifeflighted to Hillcrest. Hospital in Baja demanded $50K bond. Took family 10 days to get bond. Once girl arrived at Hillcrest the doctors unwrapped her leg to see nothing done other than wrapping in gauze. She had gangrene. Hillcrest cut the leg off at the thigh. Three days later they cut it off at the hip trying to stop the gangrene. Three days later she was dead.
    Mexico is what it is and for you to lie about that so you can sell your blog to readers is the worst.

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    • Thanks for your comment, PMXR. Perhaps I am a bit idealistic and present a “Disneyfied” version of Mexico, but that’s what I cover on my blog. The Destinations, Food, Culture and People that make Mexico great, based on my own admittedly limited experience. Because I don’t splash bloody headlines about the problems in Mexico across my site doesn’t mean that I’m lying about the country at all, it’s just not the side on which I report in my format. And I’m not selling my blog to anyone or anything, currently. I blog for free and the occasional FAM or comped trip to cover a story because I really enjoy visiting Mexico, chatting with folks there and enjoying the best the country has to offer.

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience there. Crime is real everywhere. I’ve had a gun rammed in my temple in Dayton, Ohio for a lousy $22 by a gang of 16 year olds who also held up 12 other people that night (shooting one of their victims in the shoulder with the same gun). I don’t pretend that I couldn’t encounter problems in Mexico or anywhere I travel. It could happen and that is a potential consequence of leaving one’s comfy confines and seeking out new experiences and immersion in another culture.

      Feelings not hurt at all, I just thought that Mr. Bourdain presented a sensationalist viewpoint of the violence in Mexico, with scattershot focus on the cuisine of Oaxaca and Mexico City, leaving one with the impression that ALL of Mexico is a hopeless bloodbath, though this angle has already played out a number of times in the US media. I am a big fan of Mr. Bourdain’s, don’t get me wrong. But I thought this show was uneven and am not sure that it will have any impact at all on the way we here in the states feel and think about Mexico. Or make us stop buying the drugs that come up through the country.

      El Gringo

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      • Louise Neal-Pedroza // May 7, 2014 at 7:29 PM // Reply

        I agree with the article that Scott Koenig wrote concerning Mr Bourdain’s show. I noticed how they put the spotlight on the cartels and violence. Lets face it, violence, sex, greed boosts ratings. If they had played up the truth , which is that this is truly a peaceful country with good food, welcoming and loving people, then ratings would have gone down— I know this is a peaceful and beautiful country because I live here!!!

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      • I live in Mexico and have not seen the show yet. But I did read Mr Bourdain’s blog on the making of the program and his take on Mexico. I thought it was spot on. Why he ‘gets it’ and you don’t I can’t say — maybe it was his street level viewpoint, his previous experience with Mexicans, or his seeming lack of fear when he was doing his reporting. The violence in this country is just a horrible manifestation of that core, pervasive evil — corruption, corruption. He realizes that the this country responds to whomever is the ‘más cabrón’. He who gets that, gets Mexico today. It is reflected in the bars and cantinas. It is reflected in the music. It is reflected in the politics and especially the power of the President. It is everywhere –even if the number of deaths are down in a certain area. What I liked about his take is that he can be critical of the country and love los Mexicanos. I do the same. And I would bet you that Mexicans looking at the program will see Mr Bourdain holding up a crystal clear mirror to their country and say ‘Sip, así es.’ I can’t wait to see it.

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        • Thanks for your comment, Keith. Especially poignant since you are in Mexico. You are right, there are a lot of things Mr. Bourdain gets that I probably don’t. He has a much broader world perspective. I was surprised by the show’s relentless depiction of violence, especially after Mr. Bourdain’s post on Tumblr, which I thought was well done.

          It would be interesting to get your take after you have seen the show. Please come back and let me know what you think.

          El Gringo

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        • Hi Keith, I’m not Mr. Koenig, but you’ve touched on something – the blog – that was part of a telephone conversation I had with a friend this afternoon about the show. For a bit of context, my friend grew up in D.F., but currently splits her time between both Mexico and the U.S. Like you she had read the blog post but only got to see a 5 minute snippet of the show (the Oaxaca piece). Her mother called her yesterday sputtering mad about the show and how Mexico had been portrayed. My friend knew I had seen the show and wasn’t thrilled either so she called to find out why. I’ve now had a couple of days to think about why I didn’t care for the Mexico episode.

          It wasn’t the body count. I’ve actually watched a several of the You Tube narco videos, something I would not advise anyone with a thin skin, weak stomach or kind heart to do. They are unbelievable cruel and gruesome, not to mention scary; far, far worse than anything shown in the Parts Unknown Mexico episode.

          It wasn’t the the corruption. Anyone who has studied, spent time, or lived in Mexico knows corruptions exists at all levels from Los Pinos down to the street. I certainly can’t (and don’t) condone it, but 500 years of practice is hard to break, no? That wasn’t new territory.

          It wasn’t even the bleakness of some of the street level angst that put me off.

          I was actually rather fascinated by the interview with Anabel Hernandez having previously read several articles about her and her book.

          No, what bothered me was what I perceived to be a disconnect between the power of ABs blog piece and the bludgeoning of the TV show. The blog essay was outstanding. It was well written, to the point, blunt, yet lean and elegant at the same time. It was a remarkably powerful piece of writing. I wanted the show to be more of that. It wasn’t.

          Reading through the blog piece I found myself nodding in agreement with many of the points and observations he made. As you said, he “got it” and (for me) was able to articulate it clearly in words and terms everyone could understand. The promise of the blog essay did not, for me, translate to the show and that is my biggest gripe…the blog essay was an elegant piece of writing, the show was about as elegant a Jabba the Hut. So for me, there was a huge disconnect between the power and value of the essay and the heavy handedness of the message/agenda in the show. The blog piece set up my expectations for the show…the show didn’t deliver, therefore, my expectations were not met. I wonder how many other people had their expectations for the show raised as a result of the blog post, but had them dashed when the show didn’t deliver? I wonder how much of the negative reaction to the show is actually the result of unmet expectations and not so much the content?

          You’ve read the essay but haven’t seen the show. If you do eventually watch it, I’d be curious to know your reaction. Your rmileage may vary of course :-).

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  19. The generalizations being spoke of in San Diego are sort of true too… but we are part of the Creative Class in San Diego, we do not fit in the mold of typical tourists that never leave the walled in compounds. We have ventured into Parts Unknown and we have identified them, photographed them, tasted them……. my brown fingers type on my computer here San Diego… but this is it: JUST SAY WHICH PARTS UNKNOWN! IDENTIFY THEM! This entire debate would not be happening if Bourdain would have just said “We are in Central Mexico” not just a blanket statement of “Mexico”. We won’t be decapitated if we go have an award winning beer in Tijuana. I will continue to escape, explore, enjoy my Mexico. With removal of my naive glasses, and my Mexican-French-Arab creative crazy blood pumping thru my veins, I can’t wait to continue back on my dream of no border, prime coastline, wild horses, wine caves and the most sought after food, I feel, is on this Earth right now. The real crime is not to live! ! Salud ! Baja, Mexico.

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  20. Carlos A. Flores // May 7, 2014 at 1:36 PM // Reply

    Just though about something, thank you Anthony to make it broader, I see nothing of sensationalism, I see the real deal. Nancy Grace is sensationalism per concept. Expansion of corruption and crime, will keep affecting little by little to all we love Mexico. Somebody we know, sooner or later, we’ll know about it. By the way El Gringo, in Mexico, try to do business one day, try to publish this blog on a Televisa program. The freedom you understand here, doesn’t exist in Mexico. As I read your replies, the more naive you sound. Yes have a Margarita in Cancun or Cabo. You’ll be safe. I’m glad Anthony took his space to pay attention to the ache of the Mexican (the ones that don’t make it to the US and live poverty or are being heavily affected for the crime expansion) heart.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Carlos. I don’t like margaritas (prefer straight tequila, or a good Mezcal, especially pechuga), never been to Cancun. I have spent time in Michocan (Morelia, Patzcuaro, Quiroga), Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Taxco, Merida, Valladolid, San Miguel, Guanajato, Oaxaca. Been all over Baja, including to some previously more rural destinations such as Loreto and San Felipe. Los Cabos is beautiful, not sure why you and Mr. Bourdain are putting it down? I was in Acapulco last year for a food conference honoring the cuisine of Michoacan and Oaxaca. While in town, I toured the recently hurricane/earthquake stricken areas of the El Colosso neighborhood with two kind US missionaries, which I covered for my blog. Devastating. I consider myself a cultural tourist, and actually do get out of San Diego at least a dozen times a year to visit my favorite country (Mexico). Didn’t feel I needed to roll out my CV in my defense, but guess I do.

      I also have friends who do business in Tijuana. From a small tech company owner to a family of successful restauranteurs. I started running tours to Valle de Guadalupe in Baja last month. I know there is a cost for doing business in Mexico above and beyond the typical permits. Your point?

      I may be naive, but I’m not alone. Check out post from Bill Esparza from Street Gourmet LA, agreeing with me on many points of this topic. BTW, BIll was the consultant for the Tepito section of the Pars Unknown episode Sunday. Bill is of Mexican heritage, and an aficionado of Mexican food and culture. He had this to say about the episode:

      http://www.streetgourmetla.com/2014/05/parts-unknown-mexico-fear-and-loathing.html

      El Gringo

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      • Carlos A. Flores // May 7, 2014 at 5:34 PM // Reply

        I don’t necessarily think he is putting Mexico down, I don’t do it either. No offense, you sound a bit paternalistic in your blogs, no CV necessary. I don’t intend to change you or your way of thinking. I think they are plenty of PBS shows about Mexico to offer positive feedback. In fact appreciate your love for Mexico. But as a person that loves Mexico too, I would like ‘gospel up’ a side of Mexico over exposed for now, a bad one, one that needs to be exposed and over exposed. Yes exposed and over exposed. I don’t know if you know a marijuana or cocaine any any drug user but every time you see one, think out side the box, and consider that the possibility exist that the user through out his life consumption, perhaps and only maybe caused dead in Mexico.I think Anthony wanted to make sure that the US drug user knew he/she has something to do with the blood in Mexico. Don’t you remember Al Capone, and Chicago, only the sea of blood brought legislation. Think of it of a child you love where when changes need to be made in his/her behavior, you expose and correct. Yes it is not pleasant either. But neither the path Mexico keeps going. If it caused and effect, good. Anthony, I think wanted to get that point across, I am thankful. Mexico’s best assets is not the food or beaches or Tequila or Mezcales (trust me I work now in the alcohol/wine boutique business-love them), Mexico’s best assets is their people and their heart, their families. We are tired of loosing them.

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        • Thanks for your further comments and thoughts here, Carlos. I appreciate your input and all of the comments I’m getting here on both sides of the equation and border. I agree…it’s the people of Mexico that keep me coming back and I don’t mean to downplay the tragedy many have suffered due to drug violence.

          El Gringo

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  21. A common reaction to the show was that the photos of bodies were unnecessarily “gruesome”, sensationalistic, focused “too much on the negative”.
    Americans spend billions of dollars on Mexican sourced drugs every year. My feeling is that they should see what they are paying for: dead Mexicans. If that’s uncomfortable or unattractive ? Good.

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    • Mr. Bourdain, I understand where you are coming from, and I respect your journalistic intention, but to what end? The drug violence and corruption have already played here many times in the US media. I know a lot of Mexican nationals and expats that are quite depressed by the frequency. Some of them have posted here. And once you’ve shown the myriad dead bodies to your US audience and paint Mexico in a swath of red infographic, what will they do? Stop buying drugs? Stop selling guns to the cartels? Quit their day jobs and volunteer for Mexican charities? Or will they reject our “Brother from Another Mother” in fear, not wanting to visit or have Mexican immigrants in the US?

      El Gringo

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    • Sara Cantu // May 7, 2014 at 4:03 AM // Reply

      A bit presumptuous don´t you think? Americans don´t need to see dead bodies on your show to know that their actions have consequendes on the other side of the border. Thanks to your network`s biased and sensationalistic coverage of Mexico, they already know that. But hey, whatever sells right?

      The ratio of negative versus positive news coverage of Mexico on CNN is abismal. For every positive piece on Mexico (which, in any case, never fails to mention how this is in spite of how dangerous the country as a whole is) there are at least ten negative ones. Up until your infamous episode where, I am sad to say, you chose to drink that spiked CNN kool aid, I respected you as a journalist. It´s very disappointing that having the opportunity to focus on the many things Mexico has to offer (its cuisine, gorgeous architecture and rich cultural heritage, to name a few) you chose to focus solely on the negative.

      Mexico is a wonderful country. We are the second largest economy in Latin America with a burgeoning middle class and the US`s the second largest commercial partner (yes Mr. Bourdain, shockingly, not everything between the US and Mexico is drug related). We are a country where it is very easy to travel in time with large mordern cities such as Monterrey and small colonial towns that seem to have stopped in time such as San Miguel.

      PS: This coming from someone from Mexico, not San Diego.

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      • Alejandro Poder // May 8, 2014 at 6:31 PM // Reply

        Sara, ease the patriotic tone a bit. Mexico is a country with great inequalities (the greatest income gap in Latin America), a deeply racist tension structures the whole country. Plus, it has no viable economic, social and political plans in the foreseeable future. This is coming from a social scientist from Mexico City, so maybe I just don’t belive in nations but on societies. Mexico is important not because of identities or history. Mexico is important because people live here, and ideas are of no consequence, what matters are facts. We have a country-large civil war disguised as a war on drugs. It is rooted in poverty, racism and a lack of national project. So, yes, Mexico need to be depicted for what it really is, not what your identity tells you it is.

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  22. Carlos A. Flores // May 7, 2014 at 1:45 AM // Reply

    Dear Friend,
    Thank you for elevating Mexico’s self-esteem. It is good to hear the good comments above. Really, it is very nice to hear. Being a Mexico City born person and being raised until I was 18 (move to Houston, TX for college), I have to say at 38 being a Sommelier and restaurateur for years, there is nothing more amazing that somebody you follow for years, does a show at the cradle where you first play futbol or ate a taco. As a foodie, I agree with you. Foodieness and mezcales were not enough, Oaxaca, was not enough. Yet, as a person that lost his best childhood friend (imagine if it happened to you) due to extortion/kidnapping, I find your words insensitive and a bit naive. The problem is that corruption has expanded, crime has expanded, what happened 10 years ago has double today and it is reaching little by little every one that loves Mexico. Somebody has to make it even more evident, broader. Back in my highschool days in Mexico City in a private catholic school we never saw drugs. At 38, I have not seen it live, any drugs (hard to believe, don’t care if you don’t believe me), today it is very different. Today drugs are different in Mexico. I am glad Anthony has exposed one more face of Mexico, we need to be reminded of corruption and drug expansion. Mexico’s media tries really hard to keep quiet. Yes, I go back very often. Yes, it is very though.
    Carlos A. Flores

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    • Thank you for your comment, Carlos. I am so sorry to hear about your friend. I’ve never lost someone to violence, so can’t imagine how you must feel. I am perhaps a bit naive, as you say. But I did feel strongly that Mr. Bourdain’s editorial was one-sided in regard to Mexico. If his intention were to just focus on corruption, cartels, problems, then why visit Oaxaca, Monte Alban or the cocineras at all? I also felt that the violence was portrayed as widespread, which it does not seem to be (though it is so prevalent in areas). I did not feel that these problems should have been ignored or glossed over, but balanced with some of the positive as well.

      El Gringo

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  23. What a fascinating conversation and debate you’ve started. While I totally agree with you and am usually the first to decry sensationalist “Mexico is dangerous!” media messages, I’m also learning a lot from these comments, and I also have to admit I learned from the Bourdain episode. Here in tranquil Baja it is easy to feel far away and unaffected by the violence in certain parts of mainland Mexico, because, well, it IS far away. I’m definitely guilty of only seeing the beautiful and good in this newly adopted country I’ve barely scratched the surface of, and tuning out the bad. Maybe ignoring it is a disservice to those who have to live with it. In any case, your reply to Mr. Bourdain’s rather salty comment was all class. I hate to see such a nice guy get barbs thrown his way, but if you have to be insulted by anyone, I mean, come on! Hope you’re taking it as a compliment.:)

    Two random, surprising (to me) comments from people here in Todos Santos and then I’ll stop adding to the comment pile: 1. Our friends from Mexicali didn’t like the Baja episode of No Reservations because they think referring to Valle de Guadalupe repeatedly as the Napa of Mexico is insulting and dismissive of a region with its own rich heritage. They took it as Bourdain saying Baja is trying to be like Napa. I would never have picked up on that and thought the episode was really positive, so that was interesting and 2) A sweet girl I met here from Cuernavaca said her home town was very safe until recently, and now her whole family is leaving because of increasing violence. Something to do with Cuernavaca being the place rich and powerful people in DF have always kept their summer/vacation homes. Very sad.

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    • Always good to get your comments, Casey! I think I would have been insulted if Mr. Bourdain had NOT thrown any “salty comments” my way! The man is known for his East Coast ball-breaking, and I’d expect nothing less! He was off base about a couple of things, but probably spent a minute and a half looking at my blog wondering, “Who in the hell is this Gringo?”. That he replied at all speaks volumes to his integrity and the passion he has for his subjects. My wife said it was like “…getting sprayed on by a golden skunk.”

      I think Baja Sur is a very different animal…one of the two most safest states (including the Yucatan) in all of Mexico. You live in a paradise for sure. But anyone here stateside watching the Mexico Parts Unknown episode wouldn’t have been able to differentiate the lush orchards, blue oceans and country life that exists in Todos Santos from the corruption, violence and bloodshed that has and does exist in areas like Michoacan, the border, Sinaloa. I felt that Mr. Bourdain put all of Mexico in the same bloody category.

      Sad to hear about Cuernavaca. We visited there in 2006 and it was a great city and known for where the wealthy from DF have summer homes. Chatting with some locals, they told us that the outskirts of town had some problems in the barrios. Coincidentally, Cuernavaca is where the action took place in Malcom Lowery’s “Under the Volcano” that Mr. Bourdain alluded to the other night. But that I’m still trying to make the connection to the episode’s content as it had little to do with the book’s subject.

      El Gringo

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  24. Stan burnett // May 6, 2014 at 10:45 PM // Reply

    Mr. Bourdain. Great program and great response. The problem with these Mexican, English language sites is that they tend to be short-term visitors to tourist areasin a very large country. If you want to know what is going on you have to get out of these areas and get out at night and talk to the locals. The majority of visitors to Mexico don’t even speak the language so the idea that they can learn in their short visit what is going on is laughable. I have almost 10 years living in mexico full-time in the state of Colima and am gathering my papers to become a Mexican citizen. If one thinks they can assess what is going on in Michoacan from a computer in San Diego they are sadly mistaken. Do I feel safe in Mexico? YES. Do i think the program was biased? NO

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    • Thanks for your comment, Stan. Yes, I am a middle class white guy with a family from San Diego (though I don’t golf), my site is in English, my Spanish is rusty, at best. I actually enjoyed the jabs from Mr. Bourdain. I’m a mellow guy on the west coast and I enjoy his east coast attitude (as stated, I am a huge fan of what he does). I’ve never rolled down the backstreets of a dangerous cartel-occupied town or pounded the dirt roads at night interviewing the locals in a problem area of Mexico. I have been somewhat more off the beaten path than most, and have spent thousands of hours in the country, but I am still a visitor in Mexico, to be sure. That’s why I stated in my open letter that I wouldn’t assume to speak for any of my Mexican friends.

      But I do have friends in Mexico, as well as good acquaintances and friends in Tijuana that I’ve interviewed and spoken about some of the issues that happened there. Since I “pound the tourist and cultural beat”, the concerns I hear are from Mexican business owners, tour operators, restauranteurs, hotel owners, resorts, gallery owners, etc. And what I hear time and time again is that the US Media paints a one-sided picture of Mexico that negatively impacts their businesses. I am also friends with many ex-pats, who have chimed in that they felt Mr. Bourdain’s editorial was a bit pointed and sensationalist as well. There are problems there to be solved, but the show made it seem that it’s a hopeless, bloody battle everywhere.

      Mr. Bourdain’s show told the story so prominently from one side…the side of fear. The use of alarms, sirens, the color red…these were all prevalent in that episode, and not too distanced from the way the media has instilled fear in the population for decades. I hope that the episode does change the minds of the US…the “Brother from another mother” as Mr. Bourdain said. And makes us take a more sympathetic view. But I don’t think it will. I think it will just provide one more reason for those in the states to fear travel to the country you feel safe in enough to call “home”.

      El Gringo

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  25. I have tried to cancel that reply. I remember three more, for a total of six. Sorry. As I said previously, there may be more. The other three were not in Ajijic, but they were nearby.

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  26. Ask people in Chapala and Ajijic how many people have been brutally murdered while being robbed. There is violent crime in Mexico where you would not expect it.

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    • “brutally murdered while being robbed.”
      I can honestly remember three people, since August 2010.
      It was tragic and senseless, as it almost always is.
      There may be others, of which I am unaware.

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  27. Well, I have to agree with Scott. I tuned into Anthony’s CNN Mexico presentation, as I moved to Ajijic Jalisco Mexico in February. I was really excited with what he would have to say of the food, the people and the culture. I turned it off in the first few minutes when all the gory stuff was being shown. I can get that kind of coverage in the States if that is what I want to look at. However, that is not the Mexico that I know…nor the people. I was very disappointed in what was an opportunity not to buy into the whole “reason for immigration reform propaganda” that is being sold to the American public. There is crime everywhere….in the States too….because there is the darker side of human nature everywhere….but the question is what side of human nature do you want to focus on??? I feel he did a great injustice to the majority of Mexican people…..they are very welcoming and warm to us Gringos….quite the opposite of what their relatives have received in the States.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Nancy. I have two friends (one in the US, the other is from Jalisco living in Baja) who also told me they turned off the television after 5-8 minutes of the onslaught. To Mr. Bourdain’s testament, perhaps this is a victory for his reporting of the real, gritty truth. Hard enough to repulse the general public. But I think it speaks more to the fact that the show’s coverage of violence was intense and overdone. We watched the episode before the Mexico one in Lyon, France. No violence, but plenty of violins, wine, warm woodfires and duck hunts with French Gentleman. Mr. Bourdain claimed that he doesn’t necessarily cover the tourist/food gig on his new network, so baffled as to which destination gets what type of treatment.

      El Gringo

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  28. I lived on the Mexican border in Brownsville, TX for seven years until a few months ago. There were firefights happening on a regular basis across from us in Matamoros – we could actually hear gunfire and grenades going off from our house. We also got to hear the news from people who were experiencing it firsthand, like my student at UTB who missed class one day because his house was being hit by bullets. He moved over to the US, like so many from over there have, the ones who can afford it. One of my co-workers at the university had his in-laws stopped by some thugs on the outskirts of Matamoros and they were robbed, beaten, and shot. Just last weekend there was a huge skirmish in Reynosa, just a few miles down the road where an unknown number of people were killed – there was a blog that showed the pictures, which I made the mistake of viewing. I will never get those images out of my head. I’ve heard the opinions of people who claim it’s safe go over, and I did go across many times, but let’s not pretend these risks aren’t real. It’s isn’t being exaggerated, in my opinion.

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    • Rafael Solorzano. // May 6, 2014 at 9:24 PM // Reply

      That is Matamoros, one of a number of troubled cities in Mexico, yet it does not represent all of Mexico so lets be responsbile with our comments.

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  29. Hey folks,

    Sorry to poke the hornet’s nest and then drop out of the conversation, I have a day job and deadlines to meet :-) I’m so happy that this post has generated such intelligent conversation from both sides of the border and thank you all for your comments. Later tonight I will try to reply to as many as possible.

    This level of discourse is new for my humble blog and I appreciate all of your viewpoints. I’m learning a lot here myself.

    Gracias!
    Scott (El Gringo)

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  30. Great post and great conversation! I’ve lived and worked in Guadalajara, Jalisco for the last 2 and a half years; the culture and the climate keep me there. Just like, say in Washington DC, there are places that are safe for me to walk the streets at 2am and there are places that are not.

    I don’t live in a gated community nor do I have, as A Bourdain says, have Mexican’s carry my golf clubs. I think his stereotypes of Mexico, Mexicans and even expat/tourist Gringos is pretty sad. He does raise an important concern about security in Mexico, perhaps rightfully so, but in an irresponsible way I think.

    Come visit Jalisco, drive through Michoacan to get to the beaches in Colima. The people are friends, fun loving and mostly decent. Stay away from trouble and trouble will mostly avoid you.

    El Guero

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  31. Luz Maria Martinez // May 6, 2014 at 6:52 PM // Reply

    Completamente de acuerdo! Espere a ver el documental y me pare a la mitad y no quise seguir. Si existe esa realidad en mi pais, pero Mexico es MUCHO mas que eso. El documental muestra solo un lado de la realidad, reqlidad compatable a muchos otros lados del mundo, incluyendo a los EU. Desde el titulo….. Los mexicanos luchan por sobrevivir…!!!!, bueno!! … Que pena, podria haber sido maravilloso.

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  32. One of the things I love about Mexico is that several realities often exist in the same time and space. Do your really think there is a “Truth” to be discovered? I address this somewhat in this blog: http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-cultural-layers-of-mexico-by-robert.html#links

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  33. Thank you for your perspective, I totally agree with you, violence in Mexico was enticed by murky policies from past presidents, they presented themselves as warriors of crime when in fact they were protecting the drug lord Chapo Guzman and his empire. They are gone and el Chapo Guzman is back in jail.

    I was born and raised in Mexico City, I have lived in NY for 20 years, I am aware of crime in my country but I have definitely felt totally unsafe in parts of Chicago, Newark and some places of LA, never felt that scared in Mexico.

    If we are going to talk about corruption, I think Mexico as corrupt as it is, is nowhere near as bad as the US. The only difference is that in Mexico, we admit it.

    As one example: drugs cross the border and nobody sees them, they flow freely in the country, they are distributed and no authority seems to know where they are, but everyone seems to know where to buy them…

    I wish the media would stop misrepresenting Mexico, and putting it under a negative light.

    These are some things that the media never says Mexico is:

    – A multicultural melting pot
    – One of the United States most important trade partners. Unlike China, we not only produce products in Mexico, but we consume US products at large
    – The 14th economy of the world
    – An economically solid country – yes we have a large population of poor people, but we are working on bringing those numbers down.

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  34. I have not had the pleasure of watching this episode but judging by your review I can’t help but get sad. I’ve been traveling the Republic in many “unsafe” ways for three months now and not once have I as much as encountered violence. Yes, every city has shady neighborhoods, but that applies in the United States too. What I have seen is hardworking and kind people, friendly towns, great cities, and amazing getaways like the Sierra Gorda Queretana. Sometimes locals DO warn us of violence in their city but many times it is because of things they see in the news. One time we did hear a story of a neighborhood, but again, most deaths had occurred at least 5 years ago and the majority drug-related.

    Thank you for writing good things about my country. It is always appreciated :)

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    • Thanks for your comment Alien. I just checked out your blog. WOW! What an adventure you and your friend Vampire are on! So good that you are seeing so much of your country while you are young and blogging about it along the way.

      I’d like to publicize your blog on my FB page, if you don’t mind. And let me know when you are back in TJ. I would love to take a “Graffiti Tour”.

      El Gringo

      Like

      • Thank you very much on reading and mentioning our blog! It is a huge adventure we’re going through and finding the time to blog and share it takes effort, but we’re managing :)

        And like Alien mentioned, we are finding out a lot of things that news and other media tend to distort about our country (and trying to spread the word on it’s misconception, specially with what Michoacán is so famously going through). And not just Mexico falls victim to bad word, but other countries too, so it’s nice to bump into bloggers who are also trying to show that sometimes a country is not what it seems.

        And about TJ, will do! With pleasure! The Graffiti/Urban art scene is always changing so by the time we get back it’ll be a whole new place to discover.

        The Vampire.

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        • Thanks for your comment Vampire. I love what you two are doing…keep it up! For those who haven’t seen their blog, Alien and the Vampire are two 20-something females traveling all around Mexico by foot, bus, taxi, thumb. Immersed in the culture and the experience. Check out their journey at http://travel.thealienandthevampire.com.

          Can’t wait to meet you two, and the TJ graffiti tour is ON! Continued safe travels!

          El Gringo

          Like

  35. I completely agree with the tone used in this episode. I’m from Monterrey, a large city, with nice schools, museums, parks, and a lot of noise of bullets at night. A city where you are returning home with your groceries and maybe is the wrong time and you find yourself in the middle of ‘los balazos”.
    I think is super important that people understand the reaches of that innocent ‘churrito’ that they enjoy in their homes. While in Mexico we had to live in fear, in this country no one seems to know less care, about the situation of violence in which we are immerse.
    For work, I live in USA, I’ve been here for two years, and a lot of people think that Mexico it’s only mariachis, bad tequila, tacos with yellow cheese and that’s it; and of course it’s not. Mexico is, yes, a great country, with resilient people, people with hopes and dreams. Our culture is exquisite, diverse, rich, but yes, right now is danger, is death, is the persistent sound of bullets, a sound that is no in the news anymore. But is there…

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  36. Reblogged this on Committed to Celluloid and commented:
    I have stated here before that Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorite persons in the world, a splendid writer and TV personality. San Diego-based blogger W. Scott Koenig, aka ‘El Gringo’, praises the famous chef’s talents as well, but is perplexed at the unbalanced view of Mexico presented in a recent episode of his show “Parts Unknown”. Read his open letter to Bourdain.

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  37. One of the reasons I love watching AB’s shows is because aside from showing us delicious food and sharing well-written work, he offers the most prevalent information about the country he is visiting. When I found out he was going to Mexico, I was curious to see what he would focus on (knowing damn well it would be the violence). However, I do agree with El Gringo in that there was hardly any presentation on the food (and we know us Mexicans get down with it!). So, yes, I was slightly disappointed, but not by the focus on the violence but the lack of focus on the cuisine.

    Like

    • “or live in upper middle class fraccionamientos like those in Chapala”

      For what it is worth, I live in the village of Ajijic, a few blocks from the plaza. I have one Canadian and one US neighbor nearby. All the rest are Mexicans. I actually believe that it is much safer in the village, than in the gated communities. As one wise elderly woman told me when I first came to visit, “Those folks are like sitting ducks, and those communities are like living in Southern California.” I could not agree more, and I had the same thoughts when I first came here, her comments were just validating my own feelings.

      Like

  38. As Mexican, Mr. Bourdains´s episode of PU affects me deeply because of the image it promotes about the country, since we still are a country were it’s possible to live, to go vacationing, and even maybe to find a job or to start a successful business. However the image he portraits of the country is not ludicrous and it’s closer to the reality millions of mexicans know that the one recognize by Gringos and others that visit Mexico for vacations or live in upper middle class fraccionamientos like those in Chapala, Valle de Bravo and other places not meant for the general mexican public.
    It’s true, you don’t get shot just by being on the streets and darn sure most mexicans don’t live in a paralyzing fear; schools are full, people walks the streets, restaurants are visited. Maybe we are not the most violent country, maybe most of our cities are less violent that many in the US, but you don’t take you neighbor to the doctor to compare your health and see if you sick right? Violence numbers in Mexico are rising, Veracruz it’s the most dangerous route for immigrants in the world, human trafficking specially for prostitution and organ harvesting (with emphasis in babies and small children) it’s one of the worst, Mexico it’s one of the most dangerous places for reporters, violence against women is rising in alarming numbers in places like el Estado de México and Tlaxcala with higher numbers that the well known Cd. Juarez, poverty it’s also rising…
    So yeah, maybe Mr. Bourdain is not helping for the publicity, maybe less tourists mean less money, but there’s a reason why his clip and notes are spreading in the social networks among mexicans with non o little complain about his words.

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  39. “Yes we know it’s bad but just don’t tell any one OK?” It’s human nature to be careful where we go. I will never visit Chicagoland. It’s easy for some one who is familiar with the city to tell others that it’s a wonderful place to visit. “Just don’t go ‘here’ or ‘there’ especially after dark”.
    Thanks all the same.
    Change must come from within. Be it getting rid of the gang-bangers in Chicagoland or the cartels in Mexico.

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  40. Most of the human carnage is among those in the drug trade. A huge tragedy is how easily young Mexican men are seduced into a high risk world with the allure of wealth they are unlikely to achieve through a legitimate working life.

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  41. Megan Rivera // May 6, 2014 at 4:15 AM // Reply

    I don’t think that Anthony Bourdain has been compromised as much as CNN has. My husband and I can’t even watch anything on their network since the Malaysian plane went missing. They only care about ratings, they have lost all journalistic credibility and it looks like they are taking Bourdain with them!

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  42. Rafael Solorzano. // May 6, 2014 at 3:01 AM // Reply

    I insist, Mexico is one large country, almost as large as the US, (if it weren’t that we lost so much of our territory after 1848, well, anyway), Anthony, insecurity is different from town to town, I did not criticize you program, I actually did not even see it, my point is that yes, we do have Cartels, yes, there are places in Mexico where such Cartels are more visible and powerful than others thus there are cities and little villages where the population is pretty much on its own, now is Mexico any worse or any better than say Nevada and other many states with armed militias waiting for an opportunity to make themselves heard and/or felt? Going back to Mexico, and I agree with you, the purpose of the program was not about a country.

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  43. Bourdain // May 6, 2014 at 2:10 AM // Reply

    Is Mexico safe enough for Mexicans to carry your golf bag? Yes. Is it safe, safer to enjoy a margarita on the beaches of Cancun or Cabo? Yes. To be a comfortable upper middle class family living behind high walls with a security guard? Yes. To be frequent visitor from San Diego? Yes.

    But is it safe enough to be the great country that Mexicans deserve? The Mexicans we spoke to clearly think not. It does this deeply afflicted country no favors to minimize its problems. Is it any less systemically corrupt today? The cartels less powerful? Is there any better chance for the voices and needs of the great majority of Mexicans to be heard, much less addressed?

    80,000 dead in just a few years, 80,000 families affected forever is not a “small part of the story”. Maybe it is if your priority is vacation or sampling the 7 moles for a food blog.

    I am not interested in bolstering tourism with every episode of Parts Unknown. I will leave that to others, on my former network, who usually work closely with tourism boards and government entities. I feel no responsibility to put A happy face on what I see. Or balancing–in one episode–the negative and positive, leaving the viewer with a warm, fuzzy hopeful feeling that goodwill and good intentions and a shared meal will alwAys triumph over evil. Sadly, as I have seen far too often, they don’t. I have, over the years, told many stories in Mexico and about Mexico. This is ONE of them.

    Perhaps the basic misunderstanding here is this:

    This was not a story about a COUNTRY–though it took place in one. As always, I did not seek to portray a country or its character in its entirety in one hour of television. That would be facile, impossible and unworthy of a far more complicated far bigger story. It was the story of a few ordinary but very courageous people, facing head in at great personal peril, a status quo that most are unable or unwilling to address.

    That is all it was. To “balance” those stories–to make audiences more comfortable? To make a tourism economy more viable? Would be a betrayal of the people who spoke honestly with us at no small risk to themselves.

    The points of view expressed on my programs by the way are mine. And only mine. Any suggestion that my network, or anyone else suggests, contributes, steers or influences that point of view or my choices of subject matter or even the editing process is dead wrong. Anyone who believes that doesn’t know me very well or believes in black helicopters.

    Parts Unknown is produced independently by me and my partners at ZPZ production. CNN is the customer. We go where I want and tell the stories I choose in the way I choose to tell them. Period.

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    • Mr. Bourdain, thank you so much for the honor of your reply…especially at 2AM…wherever the hell in the world you’re in making great and award-winning television. Again, I’m a fan, and thank you for all that you do and continue to do. I do apologize for questioning your editorial integrity and thank you for clarifying your and ZPZ Production’s position.

      You’re right. Mexico is extremely safe for a tourist having a margarita in Cabo or Cancun. Though I’ve never been to Cancun, preferring the more laid-back European vibe of Playa del Carmen, the color and people of the Yucatanean capital city of Merida, and the Mayan ruins and sisal plantations along the Ruta Puuc. I prefer my tequila straight…repasado or anejo. Not a fan of blanco, but it’s good on a hot day with an ice cube. I was introduced to “sipping” tequila in 2003 by a friend getting married in Mexico City, my first trip south of the border (at least beyond local Baja), where I fell in love with the country. I didn’t get to try all 7 moles, unfortunately, but did enjoy a lot of great food in Oaxaca and can’t wait to go back. The people there are the friendliest I’ve encountered. I’ve got a day job. I blog for free and the occasional trip. To me, Mexico is magical, but as you point out, misaligned.

      Although I consider myself a cultural tourist, I’ve never been in the backstreets of Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez at midnight and have never rolled into Culican in a rental Kia. But I have friends both north and south of the border who have encountered some of the cartel problems in Tijuana between 2005-2010. It was real and it was a problem, without a doubt. And yes, it continues to be a problem, seemingly without end, though on the decline (as tenuous as that may be). I couldn’t possibly understand the pain and sorrow of those 80,000 families that lost loved ones. And I appreciate your goal in shining a light on their suffering in the hope of helping bridge some sort of understanding between our two countries. Or at the very least reporting on a serious problem.

      Though Tony, you would have to be the first to admit that there is a media bias toward Mexico in the US (do I hear choppers?). So much of the reporting is on the bad, with so little on the good. I was talking to a prominent Tijuana restaurant owner several months ago, and commented on how great it was that they’d received so much good press in the US lately. He replied that it was great, but that it doesn’t help his business, or Tijuana overall, when some of the articles read, “Tijuana, great food. But used to be very dangerous”. Taken as a whole, your episode is another piece on “Bad Mexico” that does impact how people in the states think and feel (just check out any of the comments sections below most US stories on Mexico and watch the Xenophobic comments spew). When making television, I’m not sure you can separate consideration of the impact on a tourism economy from the fact that tourism is such a large part of the economy in many parts of Mexico. Less tourism, fewer jobs, less money, more crime.

      I also felt it important to make the point that the violence isn’t prevalent everywhere in Mexico, but focused primarily in several concentrated areas. Yes there are places to avoid, but there are also great places to go. I encourage friends, family and now the general public to get down to the “safe” areas of Mexico as often as possible. This is a country that is so big, diverse and damn close, that it would be a shame not to experience some of it before you die. And foolhardy to think that you’re going to get your head cut off or kidnapped in the process. Last night’s episode gave the impression that there is a red swath of cartel violence everywhere in the country and I don’t believe this is the case.

      Thanks again for your reply Tony. And thanks for all of the past episodes on Mexico that did portray the country in a positive light (I love Popotla!). I haven’t forgotten them, but know that sometimes our attention span is focused on what’s presented to us, right now.

      Sincerely,
      El Gringo

      Like

    • Carlos A. Flores // May 8, 2014 at 3:01 AM // Reply

      I really appreciate your voice in the middle of the rivers of blood, no exaggeration, I think you know. I am glad you understand Mexico’s voice very clearly, as a Somm, restaurateur, and foodie that came through the ranks in the restaurant business, I know what happens in the true inner Mexico. I was glad you showed it. People have to know that every drop of blood staining Mexico has something to do with ‘la mota or la coca’ America consumes. Keep exposing, only that can bring conscious knowledge to keep legislating accordingly. Thank you, our families thank you. By the way, I was a Maître’d in one of John T. in Texas. He always had the coolest stories, crazy but cool.

      Like

  44. I, too, was upset with the tone of the show. I have lived in Mexico for the past four years. I have traveled by motorhome down the gulf coast from Brownsville, TX to Veracruz for several years before moving to Mexico, and by car between Guadalajara and Nuevo Laredo at least once a year for the past four years since moving here. I have had experienced a few events from the police around the border towns, but nothing of any great consequence. I feel totally safe here in the Lake Chapala area, Ajijic, to be more specific. A totally walkable community, day and night.

    The violence in Little Rock, Arkansas, my home, has far exceeded anything that I have witnessed, or known about here in Ajijic.

    I felt like the show’s reporting was at least 5 years old, and much more of a border town atmosphere than that of the interior of Mexico. Once again, I felt that it was propaganda to keep US citizens restrained within the borders of the USA.

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    • Thanks for your comment, gdmobbs, and I agree on the dated approach to the reporting. Also interesting theory inre: propaganda to keep us here in the states. I just heard a story on NPR about a gentleman who wrote a book on when a country’s citizens became consumers, and how the government now caters more to the consumer than the citizen. Wanting to keep the money here in the US would make perfect sense along the lines of this dictate.

      It would be interesting to see a documentary or television spot that focused on expats in Mexico, and their attitudes. How about it #CNN?

      El Gringo

      Like

  45. babsofsanmiguel // May 6, 2014 at 12:56 AM // Reply

    You said it better then I could have written. I shared the Tumbler article yesterday and looked forward to the show last night on CNN. I was so sad to see the sensationalism. On my blog, http://www.babsofsanmiguel.blogspot.com, I wrote a post called Keeping it in Context that posted the stats of the USA versus Mexico. As I researched that post, I was astounded at the stats for US cities. There isn’t a single one that is as safe as Mexico. As a single woman, I’ve been driving the back roads of Mexico for 40 years and lived full time in Mexico for 14 years full time. I have NEVER felt unsafe. There was so much more to say then Santa Muerte, murders etc.
    It was a big disappointment. I agree, if I didn’t know better and had never been to Mexico, I certainly wouldn’t go after seeing that segment. Sad.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Babs…I’ll check out your blog (San Miguel was the town that ignited our spark for Mexican travel). I shared the Tumblr post as well, and had a similar disappointment in last night’s show. After the first segment, I figured it was a necessary setup, but then the focus on the violence continued, not really presenting a cohesive, alternate viewpoint with the exception of a few seemingly thrown in segments. I hesitated to post this open letter, but I’m a big Bourdain fan and couldn’t wrap my head around this episode’s point. I think it’s great to shed light on problems with the system, cartels, etc., but not perhaps at the expense of tourism, which is so sorely needed in the country.

      El Gringo

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    • Rafael Solorzano. // May 6, 2014 at 1:13 AM // Reply

      I myself was held up in the garment District in Los Angeles and once in San Diego, never in Tijuana, and was harassed by police in Culver City, in spite of that I am not saying that L.A. or SD are any worse than Tijuana nor will I stop going back to those cities.

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  46. Jerry kelly // May 6, 2014 at 12:46 AM // Reply

    That should read ” hand out for a bribe” not bride….hell they most likely do have their had out for your bride too…..STILL LOVE THE PLACE BUT NO LONGER DOING BUSINESS THERE

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  47. Jerry kelly // May 6, 2014 at 12:43 AM // Reply

    Having found myself in the dirt with a ak pointed at the back of my head for being in the wrong place at the wrong time last year I beg to differ.Mexico is getting harder to do business in and the middleclass is being crushed.Electric rates going up,,gas prices higher than the USA and someone with their hand out for a bride at all steps of a business deal.

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    • Thank you for your comments, Jerry. I’m sorry to hear that you were in that predicament. I’ve also had the misfortune of being on the “wrong end of a gun” three times in my life. Once in Ohio and twice in Florida, here in the US. A day may come when I also encounter this level of threat in Mexico, I’m not denying that and I hope it never happens. As a disclaimer, when I do travel, I try to ensure that I am not in the wrong place at anytime, but that is not always under our control. I’ve heard about the taxes and hope that this is not a step that will crush business there.

      El Gringo

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    • Jerry, that’s terrible anytime that happens and can really mess you up, but that’s a possibility anywhere–are Americans keeping their kids home because of school shootings? Do school shootings define the U.S.? It’s important to separate our personal experiences as being just that. It’s kind of like having a negative experience with a person from another race, or religion and deciding to have that influence all your interactions with that group.

      Mexico is becoming a place for high tech manufacturing, I have many family members in D.F., Puebla, and Ags. doing quite well.

      I’ve never been a victim of violence traveling all over Mexico–I go to the worst slums, barrios, and favelas looking for cultural experiences in Brasil, Colombia, Honduras (considered one of the most dangerous by many polls), El Salvador, and many more places. I’ve never been a victim of violence in L.A., I’m hyper vigilante when traveling anywhere, mostly because I travel to take in everything so I’m always paying attention, and I guess I’m probably lucky, too, so far.

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  48. Rafael Solorzano. // May 6, 2014 at 12:40 AM // Reply

    I have often expressed my objection to overhyped media perception on drug violence in Mexico, and particularly with people’s twisted views on crime in Baja California Norte (Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, etc).

    It just seems a lot of misinformed Americans fall for the idea that Mexico is no larger than Rhode Island and that crime is wide spread, people are killing each other on the streets and/or that the average Mexican person is related to a drug kingpin. It’s time to mature and be responsible for our statements and make sure where drug violence is located instead of assuming that crime in Tijuana and Ensenada is as bad as in Apatzingan, Michoacan or somewhere in Coahuila. It’s not like there is no crime in San Diego, right?

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    • Thank you for your comment, Rafael. Yes, the assumption that violence is everywhere in Mexico is false but prevalent in our media. I didn’t feel that that was really emphasized on last night’s show. I understand what Bourdain was attempting to do, help the Mexican people by shedding (even more) light on their struggle and plight. But by making such a broad stroke and not balancing out the bad with the good, in my opinion, he painted the entire country as a very scary place indeed.

      El Gringo

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      • Rafael Solorzano. // May 6, 2014 at 12:57 AM // Reply

        Scott, thanks for your prompt response, I was not criticizing Bourdains latest offering, I was just making a point about the fear that may Americans, even in Southern California have to come to Baja, they are bombarded by travel warnings from the Secretary of State, or how a neighbor back in the 80’s paid a “mordida” (Yes I know that James Arness, from Gunsmoke fame, wrote that country song named Tijuana Jail) to a Tijuana cop, etc, it’s just never goes away. In spite of all that, government and entrepreneurs felt that Tijuana, the State and Federal Government had wasted enough time and money trying to convince Americans to come back to Baja, thus we decided to enjoy our city and state and promote tourism from within, and you know what, so far so good.

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        • Right on, Rafael. Last year I rolled into TJ with a friend who has a tech business there to visit CECUT for the BC Culinary Festival. We ran into the Zombie Walk on the way back through town, with thousands of Tijuanese in full zombie gear having a great time (both posts are here on my blog). That Sunday night, as we walked down Revolucion, I marveled at the hundreds of TJ families enjoying the evening and having a stroll. It was such a pleasant contrast to the street scene when I moved to San Diego 20 years ago with whistles, tequila shots and inebriated Americans. So far so good indeed!

          El Gringo

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  49. Hi. I’ve been an Anthony Bourdain fan for years. I understand that Parts Unknown is not No Reservations. Bourdain did 2 o 3 episodes on NR dedicated to Mexico. Fine episodes. I’m not sure why any episode of “Parts Unknown” needs to be balanced. It is my feeling that this episode of PU will probably be Bourdains’ most personal episode. This is a man tha has spent his entire professional carreer surrounded by mexicans. It isn’t about traveling to the nice spots and having great food. It’s about holding up a mirror to the often one sided, hypocritical relationship between Mexico and the US. Just because people travel to the nicer places in Mexico, doesn’t mean horrible things aren’t happening. If I want to find out where the caesar salad or nachos were invented, or if I want to see Tony eating shitty tacos, I’ll check out those old No Reservations Episodes. There are insurrections happening here. Mass demonstrations where students are dying are happening here. If there is any journalist with empathy for Mexicans, its Anthony Bourdain.

    – Jesus Vasquez (Tijuana Resident)

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    • Thank you for your comment, Jesus. And it is good to hear from someone living in Tijuana. I agree with you whole-heartedly that there are problems in Mexico. But it seems to me that the violence is over-reported here in the US media. If AB did want to do a show demonstrating the hypocritical relationship between US and Mexico, then why even visit Teotitlan del Valle, or Oaxaca, or show any food spots at all? This is where the imbalance seemed to me, “There’s a LOT of bad things happening in Mexico, oh but the food is really good”. Does this serve to help the Mexican people? Does this bring needed tourism to areas that could use it? Or does this just leave another negative impression on the mind of the average viewer in the US? I think you would agree that you live in a city with a lot of problems, but a lot of promise as well. The promise was barely there in last night’s show. And it seemed bleak if it was.

      El Gringo

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  50. I’m probably one of the few people in the world that has never watched a show with Anthony Bourdain but your write up and insight about Mexico inspires me to want to visit the country and enjoy their culture and cuisine. It certainly sounds like some bias reporting is at hand which I wouldn’t be surprised about since I’ve stopped watching the news and reading the newspapers many years ago due to the amount of sensationalised coverage that happens for the simple fact of attracting advertisers. thanks for sharing your thoughts and hopefully a response from Mr Bourdain will happen.

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  51. I haven’t seen this episode, so I won’t be able to comment on this. But I am a huge Anthony Bourdain fan and yes, it has really inspired my blogging journey in some ways. But I loved his ‘No Reservations’ much better than this series, only because I felt that the former series reflected his true self! Curious to watch the episode:)

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    • Thanks so much for your comment, Ishita! Since he’s been on CNN, I’ve found the reporting to be mixed. His last show on Lyon really focused on the food and its history, nothing else. It could have been a No Reservations episode. It seems to me that Bourdain has an edict with CNN to report on harder news, when aligned with their format. And here in the US, the format has been to report, report and report again on the drug violence in Mexico. It is a very real problem, but only part of the whole on this country which has a very long history and many more stories to tell.

      El Gringo

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      • I know this kind of liaisons always becomes questionable and loses the unbiased tone. The same thing happens in India – only the hard hitting issues come under limelight when there is some International crew around. This is a brave article indeed:)

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  52. While I haven’t seen the show, I completely agree with your assessment of Mexico. I have lived near La Paz, BCS for nearly ten years and have experienced for myself the gentleness and kindness of the Mexican people. There is no hint of the violence that Mr. Bourdain (whom I admire) seems bent on publicizing. In fact, I am far less fearful here than I am in my visits to the States. It should also be pointed out that the lion’s share of the violence on the Mainland is cartel on cartel. The media constantly intimate that visitors to Mexico are in danger from cartels, and this is simply not true. In the process, a country which depends on tourism for a large part of it’s livelyhood is irreparably damaged. I am sad that a man such as Mr. Bourdain felt it necessary to focus on violence among evil men and not on the wonderful people and culture of Mexico.

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    • Thanks for your comment Chris! I agree on all points. I’ve met so many great people in Mexico who are thankful for the small scale, yet positive reporting I do on the country, as it’s unusual for the US media to focus on these aspects. And that doesn’t help their tourism image whatsoever. You are fortunate to be living in La Paz. I really loved that town and the surrounding beaches and islands. A place I would consider moving to for retirement!

      El Gringo

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  53. Good lord, that episode of Parts Unknown was a travesty. As a fellow San Diegan and frequent traveler to mainland Mexico and Baja the Mexico on display last night was not one I recognized. Absolutely the violence is real, I even have friends in Mexico who have been affected by it. I don’t take it lightly, but if I wanted a blow-by-blow and body count I would just skip over to Borderland Beat and get my fill. Thank you for your lucid and well measured comments. I know a lot of Mexiphiles that were truly upset and disturbed by ABs protrayal.

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    • Thanks for your comment Gayla! I have friends who have been affected by the violence too…especially from 2005-2010. It is real, I just felt that AB overemphasized it’s importance relative to other aspects of the country on which he could have reported. Good that he addressed it, but if trying to solve the problem by putting so much focus on it without offering solutions (other than duck and cover), I fear that Mexico was misrepresented and our perception of it worsened.

      El Gringo

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  54. Thanks for your comments and shared perspective, Bruce! Baja California is so separate from the Mainland, that many there consider themselves proudly as “Bajacalifornianos” first, and Mexican second. Just another great example of the varied experiences, attitudes and people to be found across this large country.

    El Gringo

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  55. I have loved Anthony Bourdain tremendously for a long time for the same attributes noted herein by El Gringo, and then some… but am puzzled by focus of this episode as well. Que onda, guey? My multiple visits over the years to the Baja peninsula, which I personally consider to be a world apart from the mainland, have been safer and friendlier than my own white bread area in my hometown of Phoenix. The show is intended to be regarding culture, customs & cuisine, not sensational news reporting, si?

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    • Thanks for your comments and shared perspective, Bruce! Baja California is so separate from the Mainland, that many there consider themselves proudly as “Bajacalifornianos” first, and Mexican second. Just another great example of the varied experiences, attitudes and people to be found across this large country.

      El Gringo

      Like

      • Bourdain // May 7, 2014 at 1:58 AM // Reply

        A common reaction to the show was that the photos of bodies were unnecessarily “gruesome”, sensationalistic, focused “too much on the negative”.
        Americans spend billions of dollars on Mexican sourced drugs every year. My feeling is that they should see what they are paying for: dead Mexicans. If that’s uncomfortable or unattractive ? Good.

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        • Mr. Bourdain, I understand where you are coming from, and I respect your journalistic intention, but to what end? The drug violence and corruption have already played here many times in the US media. I know a lot of Mexican nationals and expats that are quite depressed by the frequency. Some of them have posted here. And once you’ve shown the myriad dead bodies to your US audience and paint Mexico in a swath of red infographic, what will they do? Stop buying drugs? Stop selling guns to the cartels? Quit their day jobs and volunteer for Mexican charities? Or will they reject our “Brother from Another Mother” in fear, not wanting to visit or have Mexican immigrants in the US?

          El Gringo

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        • Mr. Bourdain
          That theory will never go anywhere. Americans are just NOT going to stop buying drugs because of your show, but they WILL have more fear, although thanks to Fox news and other media sources, that is already widespread. What has occurred following years of all the negative news feeds is – NOTHING! regarding the decrease of drug demand, but in fact, inducing a LOT more fear of Mexico, hence, yanking more and more money out of the hands of the people, through less tourism and business related matters. great. I´m sure the Mexican people would not want to thank you for your intentions, as good as they must have seemed to you at the time..Too bad, because your initial lead in to the show was a fantastic read and we hoped the same to follow on the show. This would have been the best help you could have supplied to the people and the country.

          Like

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