Since I moved to Mérida in 1976, many friends from abroad have asked me, “Do you really think it is safe to live there?” The stories of corruption abound… and sure, there has always been petty thievery but if you were careful, the small-time delinquents would find a different target.
Up until recently, I blithely dismissed security concerns and I still do play them down… but not so quickly. Mérida is not dangerous but I do take precautions I didn’t take before. I have outdoor cameras mounted on my high wall; I keep my doors locked at home and my gate is always secured. I do not drive in poorly-lit, scarcely populated areas at night and I’m alert to what’s going on around me. I think that my very visible protection measures are an effective deterrent.
Even at night, I still feel very comfortable walking alone downtown and in my García Ginerés neighborhood. I trust the people I come in contact with and I don’t ever feel they take advantage. There are so many aspects of living in Mérida that please me.
But I do notice there is less confidence between strangers. With yesterday’s robbery of a jewelry store in Altabrisa shopping mall everyone’s antennae are cocked a little higher. My Yucatecan friends are distraught; crime and violence were not something they ever had to worry about. Of course the incidence of illegal activity has soared all through the country and the whole world for that matter – how can we realistically expect that it won’t impact our state?
We can’t but we can control our attitudes. I believe that the mass frenzy caused by criminal acts only creates an environment for more of the same. Caution has its place but there’s not the necessity for hysteria. So how should we react? What should we be doing?
My feeling is that much of what is occurring is the result of really poor leadership. The authorities ignore the warning signs and their inattention and inaccessibility allows situations to get out of control. I believe this apathetic attitude is at the heart of the general malaise in the community. We need to demand more of our public leaders. For the population to feel at ease, there needs to be orderliness.
I often look back to the years when I used to visit high schools doing recruitment on behalf of our college. When I would go to a preparatoria and see tidy gardens, students in uniform and accessible teachers, I knew right away that this school, no doubt, had a good principal. Good leadership trickles down. And so does positive attitude,
Although most readers of this blog are not civic leaders, I believe we have a role to play. Unless we are citizens of México, we cannot involve ourselves in politics but we can be generous and friendly. and we can affect small but significant changes. When something is amiss in our neighborhood (clogged drains, potholes, and garbage buildup in the streets) we need to see that it gets put right. We need to do what we can to create a harmonious environment. If we sense that someone living on our street is having problems, a small act of kindness will work wonders. “Cookie therapy” makes anyone feel better. We can’t save the world but we can contribute towards more civility and balance.
Although Mérida is experiencing negative influence, we can offset it somewhat by having a positive attitude. I don’t concern myself with what others are doing or not doing, I do what I can and eventually it rubs off on others. Positivity breeds more of the same.