Weird Wednesday: Dear American Travelers


Tijuana & Cabo San Lucas, Mexico


My friend, come here! I have what you need!

I ignored him and kept walking.

Marijuana! You want marijuana? I have the best pot here. You wait, it’s in my bag.

I shake my head and keep walking.

You don’t like marijuana. You want cocaine? I have good cocaine for good price.

And so went my first conversation in Cabo San Lucas. I quickly get offered drugs in most every Latin American city when I travel alone. But Mexico is different. They are pushier here. They don’t follow me in the street elsewhere. Elsewhere, the first sign of rejection usually leads them away from me and towards the next tourist.

Unfortunately, it’s not just drugs in Mexico. Prostitution is also aggressively pushed at me.

A teenager wearing lingerie straddles a motorcycle and invites me for a special massage. Multiple massage parlors are open all night, the oily women calling me. A block down the road a cab driver approaches me and offers sucky sucky. When I pretend not to know English, he doesn’t skip a beat and repeats the sales pitch in Spanish. His offers get more graphic as I walk away. In Tijuana, the massage parlors are replaced by constant doormen offer to take me to donkey shows or sex clubs. Friends tell me that El Paso is the same way. This does not happen to me elsewhere. In my travels through 20 countries and four continents, it is specific to Mexico. Not that it is the only country I’ve been to with a human trafficking problem, it’s just the only place where the pimps look for me instead of the other way around (though the stories friends who have visited Thailand tell me are haunting). To add insult to injury, I’m at the age where I’m both young enough to attract drug dealers and old enough to attract people hawking time shares.

In other places people try to tie bands on my wrist as I walk away, or demand that I buy a carpet in exchange for taking my picture, or grab my shoulder and try to guide me to their cab to show me religious shrines.

Why? Because that is what people who look like me buy when they are in Brasil, Turkey, or Palestine.

But not Mexican border cities. Drugs and woman. Always.

Why? We both know why. Because Americans flock to these cities for cheap drugs and cheap women. Don’t try to tell me that it’s not Americans either. The restaurant menus are in English just like the offers for sex and drugs are in English. We are the customers. If we weren’t, the drug dealers would be more subtle and the pimps would leave me alone. I would instead get hassled to buy a sombrero with my name on it or whatever else tourists buy in Mexico.

If the scores of Mexicans regularly being killed by the drug cartels or the teenage Guatemalan refugees being forced into sex trafficking weren’t enough to push you towards getting a medical marijuana card or learning how to talk to women, at least do it for your fellow travelers.

*I specify that this is border and port cities in Mexico. I haven’t been to any cities inland. I imagine they are quite a bit different.

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