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Safety at Guatemalan/Mexican border?

Contemplating doing some work in the border region – around Tapachula, Suchiate River, possibly Arriaga. Accounts describe a fairly lawless situation (“unbridled lawlessness” in one case) with not only corrupt officials at every turn but heavily armed bandits preying on migrants from Central America. I’m curious about safety for myself and gear. Anyone been to this area? Any advice?


by Michael Toolan at 2007-12-18 18:14:37 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) New York City , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Unfortunatelly I do not know what realy to say. I whent through the borders there few months ago and found the borders the most confusing I have gone through. Lot of hustlers and big caos in every thing. Through my Travels in Guatemala and Mexico I have felt prety save but you will always have to be careful. There is lot of corruption going on in both countries and I can imagen it being worse at the border.

by Kristjan Logason | 18 Dec 2007 20:12 | San Cristobal de las casas, Mexico | | Report spam→
the answer in short is yes. you could get jacked for all your gear and then killed. or you may go home without incident. the Mara Salvatrucha gang opperates heavily around tapachula, very dangerous, but what isn’t these days? head on a swivel, camera insurance, and if anybody puts a gun in your face, know that they will have no problem killing you, so you are better to give them what they want.
very interesting area

by [former member] | 18 Dec 2007 21:12 | San Diego/Mexico Border, United States | | Report spam→
I just did a couple of stories there on migrants and women forced into slavery for Marie Claire, dangerous but workable… be careful, let people know where you are all the time, make copies of your papers, common sense etc.

by adam wiseman | 18 Dec 2007 22:12 | Mexico DF, Mexico | | Report spam→
I’ve done some work there (there are some photos on my web site http://web.mac.com/kurtzjack/jacks_joint/Jack_Kurtz_-_Photojournalist.html). It can be dicey, mostly in the train yards at night. In town, either Tapachula or Ciudad Hidalgo, and along the river, during the day, it’s pretty much okay. But in the train yards it’s a lot tougher and at night (in the train yards) it’s very dangerous.


by Jack Kurtz | 19 Dec 2007 01:12 (ed. Dec 19 2007) | Phoenix, AZ, United States | | Report spam→
From early to mid year I assisted Alex Webb on the region. Things are less dangerous from previous years due to shift of the migration path and because the train only gets down to arriaga. So, the Mara Salvatrucha is less a problem that before.

You still need to look over your shoulder now and then and keep a low profile (lots of common sense).

by German Romero Mtz | 19 Dec 2007 04:12 | Xalapa, Mexico | | Report spam→
I’ve never been to Tapachula, but I spent a night in Sibinal, Guatemala. I was on a hiking excursion with 15 Salvadoran friends. We planned on climbing three volcanoes in four days. We climbed Tajumulco then drove to Sibinal the same day. The next day two friends and I were going to sit out of the climb to Tacana because our feet were in bad shape. After spending the night and early morning in Sibinal we decided we would rather climb a 4000 meter volcano with sore feet than spend the day alone in that town. I never saw anything explicitly dangerous happen, but there was a major bad vibe in that town. We didn’t see any women or children out after dark and the men we saw had a leering, aggressive quality about them.

On the other hand, 16 of us hiked all day long in remote areas near Sibinal with backpacks full of expensive gear and nothing horrible happened to any of us. The people we met along the way were friendly and kind. We also left two vehicles in Sibinal all day long and nothing was removed from them.

by Laurie Mc Ginley | 19 Dec 2007 15:12 | Saint Paul, MN, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Michael, I spent several weeks in late 2006 covering the “Migrants Journey” documenting the people and the journey from Central America to the USA borders. Tapachula is a few miles north of the border and tame. However anything can happen along the river, and most people aren’t crazy about having their photos taken, especially the ones rafting over drugs. Lots of road side checks. I had a fixer with me from Honduras and we got pulled over by the border patrol, they shipped him back over the river to Guatemala right on the spot. Best have all your papers in order.. Arriaga is a sleepy little town and a must see if your story is about catching the trains north. Be careful near the tracks at night. My Spanish isn’t as good as I would like it to be, so I had some communication problems trying to interview migrants. Camera gear getting stolen is always a concern, but no more than lots of other countries. I have a short documentry on You Tube from that assignment, drop by and have a look:
I don’t have many contacts at the Mex/Guat border area but I may be able to help you out with contacts at other stops along the route. send me some mail.

by Terry Asma | 20 Dec 2007 02:12 (ed. Dec 20 2007) | Hamilton, ON, Canada | | Report spam→
Hi Michael,
if you’re in Mexico for this assigment, you can reach me at my cel phone. If you dial from out of Xalapa: 045 228 150 1811. You might try with 044 instead of 045.

by German Romero Mtz | 22 Dec 2007 22:12 | Xalapa, Mexico | | Report spam→

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Michael Toolan, Photographer Michael Toolan
New York City , United States
Kristjan Logason, Photographer Kristjan Logason
(editorial and advertising)
Leikanger , Norway
adam wiseman, photographer adam wiseman
Mexico Df , Mexico
Jack Kurtz, Photojournalist Jack Kurtz
Bangkok , Thailand
German Romero Mtz, photographer German Romero Mtz
Toluca, Estado De Mexico , Mexico
Laurie Mc Ginley, Photographer / Web Design Laurie Mc Ginley
Photographer / Web Design
Minneapolis , United States ( MSP )
Terry Asma, Freelance Photographer Terry Asma
Freelance Photographer
Battambang , Cambodia


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