By BUD KENNEDY
My heart sank last weekend when I turned on the radio after a beautiful weekend in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
“My family doesn’t go to Mexico anymore,” a morning-show host said just as I was unpacking a necktie from the Fabrica la Aurora design market.
“Absolutely not,” his sidekick chimed in. “No Mexico for us!”
The hosts agreed that Mexico is just too dangerous and violent and that no sane person would go there.
I guess that leaves me.
True, last weekend was one of the most horrible in memory for violence in Ciudad Juarez and along the border. The 50 people killed included two Americans in Juarez tied to the U.S. Consulate. One was pregnant.
But 800 miles south in San Miguel, it was a peaceful weekend. Mariachis sang Las Mananitas at midnight in the garden outside the cathedral. More than 200 wedding guests enjoyed a ceremony and fireworks show where the only threat came from a few falling embers.
Look, no matter what you hear, the U.S. has not warned citizens to stay out of Mexico.
The State Department warning says to stay out of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango — particularly Juarez.
At any given time, about 500,000 Americans are visiting Mexico. According to the State Department, 79 Americans were killed there last year, 23 of them in Juarez.
Mathematically, that means the rest of Mexico is safer than Dallas or Houston. It’s four times safer than New Orleans.
Just stay away from the border.
Juan Hernandez, the Fort Worth Republican who served in former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s Cabinet and later in Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, said Friday that Mexico is heartbroken over the killings.
“All over the country, newspapers are saying this has brought a level of outrage that had not existed before,” Hernandez said by phone from Washington, D.C., where he will speak today at the March for America immigration protest.
He said it’s “not fair” to blame crime on Mexico: “These are international organizations.”
President “Felipe Calderon is risking his own life fighting the drug dealers,” he said. “Mexico is in a great battle to stop this from spilling over into the United States.”
He and his family also love San Miguel.
But his brother Francisco Hernandez, a Fort Worth lawyer, said friends are now warned not to visit neighboring San Luis Potosi.
“Nothing about this is new,” Francisco Hernandez said.
“The criminal element is not new. The drug dealing and the violence are not new. All that’s new is the level of attention.”
Juan Hernandez said he’s glad that Gov. Rick Perry enacted a border safety plan last week, sending helicopters and improving communication between county sheriffs and state law officers.
“Gov. Perry is a great friend to Mexico,” Juan Hernandez said.
“Mexico needs friends in this war.”
That, too, is nothing new.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538