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lucky

Aug 4, 2011, 8:20 AM

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Michoacan state

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Michoacan state has taken a helluva beating lately in the US media. Not that there aren't problems there, but they seem to be centered in specific places. Saying 'don't go to Michoacan' is kinda like saying 'don't go to California' because there are problems in LA, or 'don't go to Arizona' because everyone there is a racist. Just not true. Admittedly there are towns in Michoacan which I would not likely visit. But please don't tar the whole state with the same paintbrush.

A couple of weeks ago, four of us who are expats now living in Jalisco state went to Sahuayo, Michoacan for their annual patronales festival. One of us was warned by her family in the US that it would be dangerous and they asked her not to go. She went anyway. And, as always, we had a great time. Not only did we feel safe while there, there wasn't even a large police presence as there might have been in the US for a large annual festival.

The worse Michoacan's reputation gets, the more the state loses in tourist dollars [pesos]. And the more it loses in tourist dollars, the more desperate the folks who work in that industry get. So if you've been thinking about a visit to Michoacan, just check and see if there have been problems in the specific area in which you are interested. If not, please come and visit! And, no, I don't work for the Michoacan tourist bureau nor do I even live in the state. But I did work for many years in the US in the tourism industry and I know how much stories in the media can hurt a place and its residents.

Just to whet your appetite, here are some pix and commentary from the Fiesta Patronales in Sahuayo, Michoacan from 25 July of this year: http://bigskysouthernsky.wordpress.com/...-plaza-25-july-2011/



chinagringo


Aug 4, 2011, 10:23 AM

Post #2 of 27 (11312 views)

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Re: [lucky] Michoacan state

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I absolutely agree with you that the entire State is getting a "bad rap" when in actuality, the problems have tended to be confined to certain "hot spots". Certainly, there are random events that may just occur but these seem to be somewhat infrequent. The State of Michoacan is so rich in tradition, culture and artistic talent that it is a real travesty that the entire State has been so labeled!

During our last trip, we traveled many of the back roads and smaller towns and villages with no problems and to a certain degree we plan on doing the same on our upcoming trip in two weeks.
Regards,
Neil
Albuquerque, NM



jrpierce


Aug 4, 2011, 2:56 PM

Post #3 of 27 (11282 views)

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Re: [lucky] Michoacan state

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Very well said, Lucky. My wife and I have lived in Morelia, the beautiful and historic capital of Michoacán, for more than 3 years. We love it here and believe it is quite secure. Yes, the cartels have been active in some areas of the state, however those are well known and easy to avoid. We have regularly helped reassure family and friends about the situation here, all have finally decided to visit, and all have enjoyed it. We regularly walk the streets at night without worry. We have other expat and Mexican friends here who feel the same way.

Y'all come!

Jim



wearechange

Aug 9, 2011, 4:08 PM

Post #4 of 27 (11137 views)

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Re: [jrpierce] Michoacan state

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You both have a point. However, don´t put it past the stupidity and paranoia of the cartels for them to "interview" American missionaries in the rural areas just to make sure they are not DEA or CIA ops. I mean they picked up the phone book delivery guys off the street.


right click

Sep 18, 2011, 8:02 AM

Post #5 of 27 (10431 views)

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Re: [lucky] Michoacan state

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I'd like to visit more of Michoacan, driving from Chapala.

WHICH areas do I need to AVOID, specifically?

Is there a 'safer' route from Chapala to Morelia that is better than others, if so, which one?

I have been to Morelia before and long to re-visit but have heard too many stories saying not to. Not a scaredy cat, just want to avoid problems. Have lived in MX for 4 years, driven many places but the past year's worth of stories re: Michocan have put traveling there on the back burner.

I read on another forum that the chef/instructor/food writer who had been living in Morelia for many years, left because of the violence there....makes it hard for me to convince my spouse all is safe again in Morelia, Patzcuaro.


chinagringo


Sep 18, 2011, 8:57 AM

Post #6 of 27 (10416 views)

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Re: [right click] Michoacan state

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Here is some recent experience attempting to answer your question.
8/16/2011 - I drove from Chapala to Morelia and then on to Patzcuaro. Saw one major Federale checkpoint at the Zamora toll plaza checking vehicles traveling both north and south. Absolutely no problems experienced! Route:
http://maps.google.com/...a=ls&t=m&z=8
8/17 - Drove to Patzcuaro to Santa Clara del Cobre and back. NADA!
8/18 & 8/19 - Drove from Patzcuaro to GDL to Chapala and then Chapala to Patzcuaro by a slightly different route. Same checkpoint at Zamora. Route:
http://maps.google.com/...a=ls&t=m&z=8
8/20 - Patzcuaro to Quiroga to Lake Zirahuen to Santa Clara del Cobre to Patzcuaro. NADA!
8/21 - Patzcuaro to Morelia and back to Patzcuaro. NADA!
8/22 - Patzcuaro to Cuanajo to Tzintzuntzan to Patzcuaro. NADA!
8/23 - Patzcuaro to San Miguel de Allende via Zinapecuaro & Celaya because we had driven the cuota route before and wanted to see some new country. Large Federale checkpoint in both directions between Morelia and Patzcuaro. Route:
http://maps.google.com/...a=ls&t=m&z=8

When I say "NADA", it means that we experienced nothing adverse. We did observe more Federales both in stationary positions and on the move. Also noticed more State and local observation points or checkpoints. None interested in us because we were dumb Gringos who spoke very little Spanish. Overall, it was comforting to see the evidence of additional security!

Not saying that there weren't any incidents in the area during our visit but just that there were not any where we were on the days we traveled.
Regards,
Neil
Albuquerque, NM



(This post was edited by chinagringo on Sep 18, 2011, 9:22 AM)


Anonimo

Sep 18, 2011, 9:31 AM

Post #7 of 27 (10400 views)

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Re: [right click] Michoacan state

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Quote
makes it hard for me to convince my spouse all is safe again in Morelia, Patzcuaro.


All is NOT safe. Where in the world is it all safe? Is Lakeside safer than Pátzcuaro, given the recent gun battle in the streets? Nothing overt has happened here in months. Behind the scenes, hidden away, perhaps there is violence. I could be wrong, of course. I may have missed something.

The same question comes up repeatedly on the Michoacan_Net Yahoo Group. To all intents and purposes, it's safe here for visitors.
However, I make no guarantees of perfect safety here, or anywhere.

Drive safely, not at night. Walk with care, those irregularities in the sidewalks have brought me down hard three times in the last six years.



Saludos,
Anonimo


esperanza

Sep 18, 2011, 9:41 AM

Post #8 of 27 (10399 views)

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Re: [right click] Michoacan state

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In Reply To
I'd like to visit more of Michoacan, driving from Chapala.

WHICH areas do I need to AVOID, specifically?

Is there a 'safer' route from Chapala to Morelia that is better than others, if so, which one?

I have been to Morelia before and long to re-visit but have heard too many stories saying not to. Not a scaredy cat, just want to avoid problems. Have lived in MX for 4 years, driven many places but the past year's worth of stories re: Michocan have put traveling there on the back burner.

I read on another forum that the chef/instructor/food writer who had been living in Morelia for many years, left because of the violence there....makes it hard for me to convince my spouse all is safe again in Morelia, Patzcuaro.

I think the person you refer to as having left Morelia would be me. It's true: we did indeed move to Mexico City because of the violence not just in Morelia, but also in the entire state of Michoacán. In more than 30 years of living in this country, I would never have thought to say that life in the DF is more secure than life in Michoacán.

I understand chinagringo and other posters who have recently traveled in the state and who saw and experienced nothing violent. That's wonderful, truly--but it was not my experience. Where I lived in Morelia, in a very upscale neighborhood, my household was repeatedly exposed to gun battles, a grenade attack, and a number of narco-related assassinations. We were not afraid, but we were tired of living under a cloud of tension, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In addition, part of my work involves culinary tourism. I often took small groups of people to towns and villages off the beaten track, for culinary events, market tours, and annual fiestas.

Last December, I was scheduled to take a small group of Mexican nationals to a town in western Michoacán for a special festival. Two days before our departure, a narco-related gun battle left two dead. The two bodies were dismembered and left on the base of the statue at the entrance to the town. I called the spokesperson for the group I was to lead and told her, in good conscience, that she needed to re-think the group's travel to that town that week. They (IMHO) wisely elected not to go.

And again, in good conscience, I decided that travel on Michoacán's little-traveled routes, in areas known to me to be frequented by narcotraficantes, was inadvisable for the near future. I could not justify exposing tourists to the possibility of danger, and the last tour group I led in Michoacán was in February 2011.

The bottom line--for me--is this: it is very unlikely that any foreigner would be a target for narcoviolencia in Michoacán. Foreigners on this and other web boards often post things like, "Hey, as long as I don't get involved in drugs, nothing is going to happen to me." Or, "They're not looking for us, we're not in any danger." What those posters fail to consider is the collateral danger of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, very much like the 75-year-old Mexican man who was just riding home in a Morelia minibus and was killed by a bullet the day of the assassination of a government official and his two bodyguards, in my neighborhood.

It is entirely possible that a foreigner could unwittingly be caught in a dangerous and unfortunate trouble spot. I personally know (not know of, I KNOW) an American couple who found themselves in that situation in Michoacán but managed--by feigning ignorance of Spanish--to extricate themselves without being harmed.

I am not saying that you should not go to Morelia. I often go, to visit friends and for business. You do, however, need to be aware of the real situation in Michoacán as well as that in the eastern part of Jalisco, where it joins Michoacán--the part called JalMich.

If you go to Morelia, go on the toll road from Guadalajara. It's likely that the only difficulty you could (not will, but could) encounter on that road is another narcobloqueo. And the chances are good that you won't have any trouble at all.

The trouble is that you never know what's going to happen, or where. It could be a gun battle in an out-of-the-way small town, or it could be something ugly in Morelia. Or it could be nothing at all.


http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









(This post was edited by esperanza on Sep 18, 2011, 9:45 AM)


chinagringo


Sep 18, 2011, 11:15 AM

Post #9 of 27 (10384 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Michoacan state

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While I would admit that Esperanza has a great deal more actual experience in Michoacan than I would ever claim and that prior to our most recent trip I was somewhat apprehensive about visiting Michoacan; I do have to take issue with the generalizations and lack of specific detail in the above post.

By nature, I am a cautious person when it comes to gathering information and deciding where we will travel on our trips. I read local media reports out of Michoacan virtually every day in the last two weeks leading up to our trip. I will add that for the first time in many years, we made the decision not to drive from the New Mexico border to Central Mexico and fly into GDL. By doing my research, I felt that I had a decent handle on where the hotspots were and avoided them. For example Apatzingan was an area of concern and there was no way we would head there. Santa Clara del Cobre was on my list because of the Copper Festival but the day before I was to go there, a shootout occurred in Churucmeo, a few miles away. After thinking about it, I decided to go anyway. A few days later, we considered going to Ario de Rosales but thought better when I remembered from my research that there had been a number of problems there.

I guess my point is that rather than painting the entire State of Michoacan with a broad brush, I would rather see more specific geographic information on possible "hotspots" and then make decisions from there. I fully realize that things can flare up at anytime and anywhere but we didn't let a grenade attack from 2008 deter us from visiting Centro Morelia on a wonderful Sunday and being treated to a wonderful walking tour conducted by a member of this forum.
Regards,
Neil
Albuquerque, NM



joaquinx


Sep 18, 2011, 11:37 AM

Post #10 of 27 (10374 views)

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Re: [lucky] Michoacan state

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Quote
One of us was warned by her family in the US that it would be dangerous and they asked her not to go.


I seems that people who live NOB know more about Mexico and the dangers here than those who live here. What they read and what we experience are obviously two different things.
_______
My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.


esperanza

Sep 18, 2011, 2:46 PM

Post #11 of 27 (10347 views)

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Re: [chinagringo] Michoacan state

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In Reply To
While I would admit that Esperanza has a great deal more actual experience in Michoacan than I would ever claim and that prior to our most recent trip I was somewhat apprehensive about visiting Michoacan; I do have to take issue with the generalizations and lack of specific detail in the above post.

By nature, I am a cautious person when it comes to gathering information and deciding where we will travel on our trips. I read local media reports out of Michoacan virtually every day in the last two weeks leading up to our trip. I will add that for the first time in many years, we made the decision not to drive from the New Mexico border to Central Mexico and fly into GDL. By doing my research, I felt that I had a decent handle on where the hotspots were and avoided them. For example Apatzingan was an area of concern and there was no way we would head there. Santa Clara del Cobre was on my list because of the Copper Festival but the day before I was to go there, a shootout occurred in Churucmeo, a few miles away. After thinking about it, I decided to go anyway. A few days later, we considered going to Ario de Rosales but thought better when I remembered from my research that there had been a number of problems there.

I guess my point is that rather than painting the entire State of Michoacan with a broad brush, I would rather see more specific geographic information on possible "hotspots" and then make decisions from there. I fully realize that things can flare up at anytime and anywhere but we didn't let a grenade attack from 2008 deter us from visiting Centro Morelia on a wonderful Sunday and being treated to a wonderful walking tour conducted by a member of this forum.

Neil, you missed the entire point of my post.

My point is that although there are indeed some hotspots--as you mentioned, Apatzingán, Tacambaro, and several you did not mention because they probably wouldn't occur to you--it is also possible for dangerous events to happen anywhere in the state. Some deadly events have happened either a mere two to three blocks from where I lived in Morelia or in non-tourist places where I have close friends whom I have not been able to visit (on THEIR advice) due to recurrent danger (do you really need the complete body count?) during the entire last four-plus years or in places where tourists do infrequently venture but where without warning some narcoviolencia has flared up. I didn't see the point of making a simple laundry list of where violence HAS happened. The point is that it CAN happen (and has happened) anywhere in the state.

For example, the brother of a close friend was killed in mid-July 2011 by a narcobalacera--as an innocent bystander, in the wrong place at the wrong time--in Zihuatanejo. That doesn't mean every traveler has to stay away from Zihuatanejo, but we should all be aware that there can be occasional danger there.

It irks me no end that you seem to imply that I would base my personal opinions solely on the events of September 2008. Unfortunately those of us who lived in Morelia at that time lost our innocence that night, but we also thought the grenade attack at the September 15 celebrations would be the worst we'd experience. We were wrong. It was just the beginning.

Sorry, but when you have actually lived my experience you can criticize my posts about this. "Broad brush" indeed. The STATE of Michoacán is a hotly contested drug territory, for the manufacture of methamphetamine, the cultivation of marijuana, and the drug distribution routes, and there will be intermittent violence anywhere in the state until this mess is somehow ended.

You experienced no problems on your recent trip through the state--wonderful! The next guy traveling on the same roads could have an entirely different experience. It's not about you and it's not about the next guy. It's about what the narcos decide to do and when they decide to do it. Nobody on this board has a crystal ball to guess at that. For you, for me, and for all of us, it is the pure luck of the draw.

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









sparks


Sep 18, 2011, 2:53 PM

Post #12 of 27 (10343 views)

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Re: [lucky] Michoacan state

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Apatzingán is the only place I've heard that is constantly a stronghold for drug criminals. Even 6+ years ago and probably worse now. It's a long way from Morelia .... like NW of Uruapan on the way to nowhere except a back way into Colima

Sparks Mexico Blog - Sparks Costalegre


stevebrtx

Sep 18, 2011, 3:01 PM

Post #13 of 27 (10336 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Michoacan state

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Well, there are 3,000 names on memorials in the States from 911, their "luck of the draw" was bad luck, wrong place wrong time, but people still fly. I'm not spooked yet and I refuse to live under a rock to protect me from the falling sky. However, that being said, I don't go looking for trouble, for instance, I'd like to make a trip to Puebla one day, but I'll likely fly, one place I have no interest in seeing or being seen in is Mexico City.
http://www.chapalaweather.net


esperanza

Sep 18, 2011, 3:07 PM

Post #14 of 27 (10336 views)

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Re: [sparks] Michoacan state

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Sparks, there are 'strongholds for drug criminals' in every nook and cranny of Michoacán. I believe that you don't know the names of all the towns (and neither do I), but that doesn't mean that they don't exist. A few others just off the top of my head, for your consideration:
  • Tacámbaro
  • Zitácuaro
  • Huetamo
  • Tancítaro
  • Sta Clara del Cobre
  • Cotija
And Apatzingán is substantially southwest of Uruapan--in the Tierra Caliente--not northwest.

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









sparks


Sep 18, 2011, 4:18 PM

Post #15 of 27 (10323 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Michoacan state

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esperanza .... I'm sure you are right. Why be so centalized you have trouble. I just remember 6+ years ago talking to somone from Colima that told of the risk of traveling thru Apatzingán to other parts in Michoacan. I still see many news stories on that area.

I haven't looked at the map lately but Apatzingán is a route from near Uruapan to Colima so assumed it was north rather than south

Sparks Mexico Blog - Sparks Costalegre


La Isla


Sep 18, 2011, 4:40 PM

Post #16 of 27 (10309 views)

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Re: [stevebrtx] Michoacan state

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In Reply To
one place I have no interest in seeing or being seen in is Mexico City.


You're certainly missing a lot by avoiding the vibrant capital of the country!


esperanza

Sep 18, 2011, 5:08 PM

Post #17 of 27 (10302 views)

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Re: [La Isla] Michoacan state

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Amen, sister!

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









stevebrtx

Sep 18, 2011, 5:50 PM

Post #18 of 27 (10293 views)

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Re: [La Isla] Michoacan state

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Missing? - and so are a lot of people missing Michoacan, not to mention devastation of the local economies by their absence. I don't need the DF, there are vast areas of MX with history without the din of a vast and dangerous city, potentially unfriendly to an old gringo with TX plates..
http://www.chapalaweather.net


DavidHF

Sep 18, 2011, 5:53 PM

Post #19 of 27 (10292 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Michoacan state

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To fully feel the contrasts and mystery of Mexico one needs to visit many parts of this fascinating country. Mexico, D.F. is not to be missed IMHO, so much history, culture, food, and fun.


jrpierce


Sep 18, 2011, 8:02 PM

Post #20 of 27 (10231 views)

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Re: [lucky] Michoacan state

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I am grateful to Esperanza for introducing Morelia to my wife and me. But we still live here and still love it as much as when we arrived. We have been here about three and a half years, purchased a home in Centro, and have traveled a good bit by car in Michoacán.

My wife and I understand that bad things can always happen, and that there are narco gang members nearby. However, we have yet to fear for our personal safety. We have encouraged many friends and family members to visit here, and all have enjoyed it without incident. Recently we helped sponsor a group of US girl scouts to visit here to do a charitable project--they loved it.

I am a "warden" for the US Embassy, and am also a leader in the oldest expat group in Morelia, and networked with others (both expat and Mexican) in Pátzcuaro, Santa Clara de Cobre, Zirahuen, Zinapécuaro and elsewhere in the state. In short, I'm fairly well plugged in. I can safely state that since I've lived here, no expat has been killed due to narco violence in the areas mentioned, and I've heard of none in the entire state of Michoacán. Indeed, during all of 2010, the US State Department says only 111 US Citizens were killed in all of Mexico despite millions of visits. Our expats here are very tied in on a number of message boards. Had anyone even been injured in such incidents it would have spread like wildfire, but it hasn't happened.

Scary things sometimes happen in Michoacán. Isn't that one point of terrorism--to scare people? But the facts simply do not support the idea that expats and/or visitors are in danger in Michoacán. Unless things change, people are missing a marvelous experience by not visiting this beautiful area. I conducted Chinagringo's tour of Morelia on a recent sunny Sunday morning, and it was a glorious day. Don't miss it.

Jim


(This post was edited by esperanza on Sep 19, 2011, 3:41 AM)


dmhaun


Sep 19, 2011, 4:35 PM

Post #21 of 27 (10137 views)

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Re: [jrpierce] Michoacan state

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I agree with you 100 percent!!! If ONE expat had been killed or injured, anywhere in Michoacan, the forums, groups and message boards would be buzzing. Currently, members are making weekly trips to and from USA and Michoacan, traveling the length and width of Michoacan, including daily trips on the small roads around Michoacan, mountain towns. There are no reports of issues, other than the drives are getting faster, easier and more fun.
.
The Michoacan Net
Supporting the Arts in Michoacan
http://www.LakePatzcuaro.org



jrpierce


Sep 19, 2011, 5:00 PM

Post #22 of 27 (10129 views)

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Re: [dmhaun] Michoacan state

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Well said! For those who may be unfamiliar with David Haun's Michoacán Net, it is a very popular and busy message board that serves the greater Morelia and Pátzcuaro area. Anyone wishing to know more about Michoacán would do well to join the group.

Jim


Peter


Sep 20, 2011, 2:44 PM

Post #23 of 27 (10014 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Michoacan state

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In Reply To
Sorry, but when you have actually lived my experience you can criticize my posts about this. "Broad brush" indeed. The STATE of Michoacán is a hotly contested drug territory, for the manufacture of methamphetamine, the cultivation of marijuana, and the drug distribution routes, and there will be intermittent violence anywhere in the state until this mess is somehow ended.

Some people just seem to attract all the bad luck. I have lived in Michoacán over six years, travelled throughout the state, into those "hotspots", through Apatzingán a number of occasions - in fact always stopping at Quatro Caminos outside Apatzingán for birria de chivo any time I am going to the coast or past Apatzingán to our friends' rancho. I just always manage to avoid any misfortune while others find themselves in middle of it all the time, it seems from their posts. No place is absolutely safe and I can probably name some real hotspots for crime and violence in both Mexico and NOB. Luck of the draw I guess. You just seem to always have had a nose for finding it. I hope your luck changes.


(This post was edited by Peter on Sep 20, 2011, 3:08 PM)


Brian

Sep 21, 2011, 5:32 AM

Post #24 of 27 (9949 views)

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Re: [Peter] Michoacan state

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And I hope your luck doesn't change either, Peter. Mostly it is the Mexicans with the bad luck, right? I thought of your post when I read this article this morning. Those poor witnesses just wanted to go shopping at the mall. Wrong place, wrong time. No pasa nada.

http://www.chron.com/...n-avenue-2179498.php


(This post was edited by Brian on Sep 21, 2011, 5:37 AM)


norteño

Sep 21, 2011, 7:09 AM

Post #25 of 27 (9909 views)

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Re: [dmhaun] Michoacan state

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In Reply To
I agree with you 100 percent!!! If ONE expat had been killed or injured, anywhere in Michoacan, the forums, groups and message boards would be buzzing. Currently, members are making weekly trips to and from USA and Michoacan, traveling the length and width of Michoacan, including daily trips on the small roads around Michoacan, mountain towns. There are no reports of issues, other than the drives are getting faster, easier and more fun.


You do not think that the incident below, reported just yesterday 25 kilometers from Morelia, is the sort of "issue" the OP is concerned about and should be informed of?

http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/82115.html

Federal officers were alerted about the presence of armed subjects who were pointing guns at motorists in order to steal their vehicles so they went there and encountered the criminals near the toll booth. A chase began in different directions that left one federal officer and one gunman dead...



(This post was edited by Rolly on Sep 21, 2011, 7:42 AM)
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