In Spite of Malcolm Shabazz's Murder, Mexico Is Quite Safe For Tourists

PHOTO: In this undated photo courtesy of the Shabazz family is seen Malcolm Shabazz in an unknown location. Shabazz, the 28-year-old grandson of political activist Malcolm X, died in Mexico, U.S. officials confirmed Friday, May 10, 2013.

Mexico City officials confirmed on Friday a rumor that had been spreading on social media since Thursday: Malcom X's grandson, 28-year-old Malcom Shabazz, was killed after a fight in a bar.

According to Mexico City's District Attorney's office, Shabazz died in the early hours of Thursday morning in a Mexico City hospital. In a brief written statement, officials said that Shabazz had arrived at the hospital in an ambulance, which picked him up near Mexico City's famed Garibaldi Square, a party area lined by seedy clubs, where Mariachis compete to perform for local and international tourists.

The statement said that Shabazz' body had sustained "diverse lesions that seemed to come from punches" and that a witness said that he had been out drinking that night, a sign that Malcom X's grandson may have died from wounds sustained in a bar fight, or during an attempted robbery.

This news is sure to make headlines in the U.S. media, and it will probably raise questions about how safe Mexico is for tourists. But don't get swayed by the media hype. Mexico is still a pretty safe place for international tourists. Here's why:

1.Mexico has a relatively low murder rate

While Mexico's murder rate of 19 killings per 100,000 residents is about four times higher than the murder rate in the U.S. and 20 times higher than Canada's, Mexico's murder rate is significantly smaller than the murder rate of nearby Latin American destinations like Honduras, Venezuela or Guatemala, which had 39 murders per 100,000 people in 2012. Brazil, the country that will host millions of tourists for the next year's World Cup, has a murder rate that is similar to Mexico's at 21 murders per 100,00 residents.

2. Safety in Mexico is all about location

While some border cities like Ciudad Juarez and ports like Veracruz have become notorious for drug-related violence, other parts of the country that do not fall undermajor drug trafficking routes are quite peaceful. Mexico City for example, has a murder rate that is lower than that of Detroit, Chicago or New Orleans. Violent attacks against tourists are rare in small highland towns that are major tourist destinations like Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende or Oaxaca, where you will generally find dozens of backpackers peacefully -- and sometimes drunkenly -- strolling around colonial streets. This map developed by The Economist, provides a useful overview of where murders happen in Mexico.

3. Tourists in Mexico are usually not targeted by criminal groups

Several crimes against foreigners in Mexico have garnered a lot of media attention this year, including an incident in which six Spanish women were raped in Acapulco. But if you go to the stats and look at the big picture, you will find that violent crime against foreigners is not a common phenomenon in Mexico.

Each year for example, around 6 million Americans visit Mexico as tourists who arrive by plane. The worst year, security-wise, for Americans in Mexico was 2011, when 120 Americans were killed in that country, according to data gathered by the Houston Chronicle. The number of Americans killed in Mexico rose from 37 in 2007 to 120 in 2011, according to the Chronicle. That is a worrying trend. But that is still one murder for every 50,000 Americans in Mexico.

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