Between violence and the pandemic, heritage tourism to Mexico has gotten complicated
Some families organize caravans of dozens of cars to trek through Mexico safely.
Heritage tourism, common for decades among Mexican Americans, has been declining in recent years. Between the pandemic and fears of violence, more and more Mexican Americans are choosing not to visit the places where they have roots in Mexico, and it's hurting the country's economy – especially during peak tourist times like spring break.
Dallas Morning News Mexico border correspondentAlfredo Corchado tells Texas Standard that those who do make the journey have had to change the way that they travel.
Listen to the interview with Corchado in the audio player above or read the highlights below:
– For many spring breakers, trips to Mexico means partying in Cancun. Heritage tourism, on the other hand, is an opportunity for families to reconnect with their Mexican roots, Corchado says.
"They want to make sure that the next generation knows about all these colonial gems, this part of their own history," he said. "So it's not just immigrants taking back their their kids to visit their relatives, but to really see the best of Mexico."
– Tourism is key to Mexico's economy, including in Guanajuato, where Corchado has been reporting. He says local officials are "trying to put the best face forward" to attract visitors to a city that depends on foreign investment.
"Tourism is a big deal, that it really does hurt them," he said.
– Heritage tourists who do come to Mexico are changing how they travel to stay safe. Some fly directly to their destination, instead of traveling through the country. Others orchestrate caravans of dozens of vehicles, and follow advice from family members in Mexico to only travel at certain times, keep gas tanks full and avoid certain roads.
"A lot of the families who live in the United States, I mean, they're determined to go back," Corchado said.
– Others have decided to forgo traveling to Mexico for now. Corchado says there aren't hard numbers about how much travel has dwindled, but he says immigrant groups in the United States have told him some families have chosen not to visit their hometowns because of the risks.
"The violence is so fluid that it may be, one week things are fine and then the next week things are down. The Mexican government says things are getting better, but yet the number of disappearances has also gone up," he said.
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