Is Potrero Chico Safe?
In the last couple years, Mexico has gotten a lot of negative press. So everyone wants to know—Is Potrero Chico safe? Well, that mostly depends on whether your belayer is attentive, you take care of your gear, and you check for snakes before you stick your hand in a crack. In other words, despite the dip in Mexico’s security, you’re still probably more likely to suffer a typical climbing accident than witness the effects of banditos and narcos. Some frightening things are happening in Mexico, including in areas near Potrero. But probability (when paired with a bit of self-awareness and some education and common sense) is definitely still on your side.
Why Is Monterrey Considered So Dangerous?
One reason Monterrey’s recent wave of violence has garnered so much attention is contrast. In 2005, Monterrey was ranked as one of the safest cities in Latin America. It is one of Mexico’s most developed cities with one of the highest per capita incomes in the nation. Recently, a shift in power within and between Mexican drug cartels has caused an increase in violence in Monterrey, shocking the citizens of a once tranquil city. However, unless you had a really unlucky knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, most days you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of anything out of the ordinary. Depending on your tolerance for risk, you can easily avoid Monterrey all together during your stay at Potrero Chico.
What about Hidalgo?
Towns like Hidalgo, where Potrero Chico is located, are much much safer than, say, border towns and larger cities that are key junctures on drug movement routes (aka Monterrey). Hidalgo is a small, safe town where travelers often hitch-hike and can feel safe walking around at night. There are countless stories within the past couple years of visitors who have enjoyed everything Potrero Chico has to offer– without any negative experiences. That said, there are dangerous situations that you could possibly encounter, so we’re offering some advice for minimizing your exposure.
How To Minimize Your Risk In Mexico
The same as in any new environment, it is important to be aware of common-sense ways to avoid higher-risk situations, and how to minimize problems if you encounter them. We’re not saying that ignoring these tips will definitely bring trouble, or that they will keep you safe. But they’re based on real trends and incidents.
- Avoid driving large SUVs or pickup trucks, because these are most commonly targeted by cartels looking for rivals, and for carjacking.
- Don’t stop in the border towns (except at customs offices).
- Take the toll highways. Not only are they better roads that mandate fences to keep off goats and cows, but they are patrolled by the military/police and so are much less frequented by narcos.
- Be non-confrontational if you encounter a checkpoint (set up either by military/police or by the cartels—you probably won’t be able to tell much difference anyway): do not talk on your phone, do not try to turn around, and whatever you do, do not try to pass the checkpoint without stopping.
- Be conciliatory. Avoid arguments with locals, even if you’re bigger than them. You don’t know who their friends are.
- Don’t be complacent.
- If possible, avoid driving at night.
This page hopes to counter-balance negative reports coming out of Mexico with stories of personal experiences and more-localized advice. You can read a plethora of personal experiences below, and share your own. Just remember that one person’s positive personal experience is exactly that. Assessing the entire security situation in Mexico based only on positive anecdotes is just as flawed as the misconception that you will be carjacked and kidnapped the second you cross the border into Mexico.
We would love everyone to experience Potrero Chico, and come to love it as much as we do, so please come – but please do so as safely as possible!
Update 12/1/2011: The local Hidalgo police were recently disbanded after federally mandated background checks and anti-drug investigations led to the termination or imprisonment of most or all of their officers. This has occurred in up to 19 of Nuevo Leon’s municipalities . Currently the Mexican military is charged with patrolling Hidalgo. The date for a replacement police force is unknown by this author. However, by local accounts the disbandment is a welcomed relief and an improvement for local safety as the federal police and military are far less corrupt. Current climbers at Potrero Chico report no increased insecurity issues and nothing appears to have changed in Hidalgo. Climbers are encouraged to continue to visit the park and many currently are.
Emergency Contact Info
Medical Emergency 8376-4455 or 8376-6762
An emergency back board and first aid kit are stored at La Posada and is available 24/7.