Mexico fact of the day

Yucatán, the quietest state, is statistically as safe as Finland.

That is from the new Economist symposium on Mexico, which I recommend highly.  The links to the other articles are given on the right hand side of the cited piece.  We’re now getting close to the point that Mexico no longer can be described as an underrated economy…


But what's the value of comparing one state of one country with the whole of another country?
I am sure I can find a city in Finland which has more suicides than the average in Mexico. What's the point?

Some countries are larger than others, and contain regions which are distant from the national average.

Finland: 5.2 million people
Yucatán: 2 million people
Mexican Republic: 114 million people

Seems like Yucatán is a better and fairer match for Finland than the whole country. Also, Yucatán and Finland both have an unusual number of rivers and lakes, and similarly dreadful weather.

I would have thought that they would have very differently dreadful weather.

Not only is the weather dreadfully different on opposite ends of the temperature scale, the Yucatan is remarkable in having no rivers. Yes, it is true. The "lakes" are properly called cenotes, sinkholes connected by underground caverns. A more radical geological contrast to Finland would be hard to find.

But they are both remarkably flat, and they both have lots of trees.

Oh and in both the natives speak an impenetrable language, but are often gracious enough not to expect outsiders to understand it.


Entirely correct. Kudos.

Gives clues that "Mexican" problems are not Mexican problems, but are instead maybe caused by something else, that somehow the Yucatan is able to escape.

You would probably have a hard time finding anywhere in Mexico with a higher suicide rate than in Finland.

Finlands ranks 19 in the world, with a rate of 16.8 suicides per 100,000 people per year (in 2010). Whereas Mexico ranks 75, with 4.0 suicides per 100,000 people per year (2008). As a note - the U.S. ranks 38, with a suicide rate of 12.0 in 2009.

What's interesting is that suicide rates among indigenous people in the U.S. is so high.

For U.S. Native Americans/Alaskan Natives (Indian tribes and Eskimos) the suicide rate for 15 to 34 year olds is 20 per 100,000 according to the CDC.

It turns out that suicide rates in the Yucatan are also much higher than Mexico's average at 9.2 per 100,000.

Indigenous peoples seem to kill themselves at high rates in both the Americas and Australia.

A part of the extremely sad answer, at least in Canada, the U.S., and Australia (and which is also a factor in the high suicide rate in the Nordic/Slavic/Baltic countries) is alcoholism. Though whether alcoholism is a cause or an effect is not really determinable - it isn't an either/or question.

I'm not sure it's so interesting. Both indigenous populations are plagued by generational poverty and its attendant social ills.

Well, concerning endemic poverty you could say the same about African Americans but they have low suicide rates, closer to Asians than whites.

Although as a (formerly) Catholic country you would expect a lot of suicides in Mexico to be recorded as something else.

This is anecdotal, but Catholic religion and social mores seem weaker in Yucatec Mayan areas of Mexico.

In his recent book "Manana Forever"," former Mexican foreign secretary Jorge G. Castaneda discusses the differences between southern Mexico (more orderly, more feudal, more fatalistic, more indigenous, poorer, more traditional) and northern Mexico (more criminal, more anarchic, more enterprising, richer, more American). From my review:

"For example, he notes that the impoverished Indian south of Mexico “continues to provide much of Mexico’s personality”. In contrast, the wealthier “north is industrious, modernizing, violent, lighter-skinned, and devoid of charm …” In short, the north sounds a lot like Los Angeles."

Mañana Forever, that book was a humongous fail. It's full of useless analogies, it's a failed effort for a "unified theory of Mexico". Mr. Castañeda has not been brave enough to promote it in Mexico. Why are Mexicans so successful in individual sports, but deficient in team play? A whole chapter of the book was focused on soccer as an analogy of why mexicans suck at team it serious? Amazon review June 2011, Just a month later, the sub17 soccer team won the title over Germany, Brazil, etc. After the soccer team victory Mr. Castañeda was contacted by radio and newspapers to no avail. Everybody was demanding an explanation on that chapter. The public had to be satisfied only with snarky comments....public defenestration still awaits =)

If Mr. Castañeda wants to explain lack of team mindset, competitivity, underachievement, he should quote statistics, indexes and experiments. Science they call it. Then try to construct a narrative based on less subjective ideas. Mr. Castañeda has been a fraud all his life, started his political career as a member of "burgeois left", yes political, not scholar career.

sorry, just a comment full of hate. it is my gut reaction to artsy people like Castañeda.For a real expert on Mexico, there's Ernesto Zedillo. If you don't know Spanish, no problem. Zedillo is fluent in English.

When Zedillo faced problems like elementary school desertion and general children underachivement he didn't read Octavio Paz to look for an answer. He didn't blame la chingada or the lack of a MiniPatton every American has inside. Those narratives are great for small talk over martinis, but you don't get a solution from them.

With field data and expert advice Zedillo found that children from poor families were malnourished and parents didn't have invecentives to keep children out of work and studying. Zedillo team developed a transfer payments scheme that incentivized parents to keep children at school. And children had food on their tummies. Result? It worked, children learn to read and write. Good results for Mexico and now the scheme it's exported to Africa.

Choose your Mexico data input and analysis. Artsy narratives or scientific approach? Small talk or solution focused thinking? By the way, these days Zedillo is all for pot legalization with a lot of data to support it.

Ernesto's a real expert on Mexico all right:

Also, I don't see where you're getting the "hate" in Sailer's comment. The indigenous may be materially poor by our standards but the ones "off the reservation," so to speak, seem to have much more fulfilling lives than when elite Iberians and Anglos barge in and make them go to school, buy prepared foods, live in tract housing, etc.

I only read through the first two articles, but they are very good.

I thought the fact of the day was the 70 year-old great grandma scrounging up money for a contract killer to free the village from marauders. Dayum- right outta High Plains Drifter!

Indeed, although I'm reminded more of "The Seven Samurai" where the desperate villagers pool their meager savings and send one of their own to the big town to find samurai-for-hire.

I am in Mexico City right now for an extended visit. I was last here in 1996. The difference is amazing. Roma/Condesa feels like walking through Williamsburg, NY (whether that is a good thing might be a matter of opinion). Starbucks are everywhere in the south-western expanse of the city and charge US prices. It seems a much, much more prosperous place than before.

There are many luxury cars and that the general quality of vehicles is fairly decent (I was recently in Nicaragua were almost everything on the road is held together with string, duct tape, and a prayer).

It's also a really fun place to visit. The people are friendly and helpful. You do need to take basic precautions (e.g. watch your stuff carefully on the subway and metrobus) but otherwise it doesn't deserve the reputation it has in the US.

It seems a much, much more prosperous place than before.

I had the same feeling when I visited Tegucigalpa Honduras last year after a 20 year absence. What struck me most was how much heavier the people were.

Yucatán is small enough that Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel account for much of the economy.

Treating Yucatán as somehow representative of Mexico is on a par with confusing Disney World with the United States.

Nice meme if your goal is to obscure the harsh realities of Mexico and Mexican life.

Wikipedia is awesome, I wish more people used it.

Neither Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Cozumel are in Yucatan (state). Yucatan state is almost 2 million people, while Quintana Roo, where the cities you mentioned are, is close to 1,4 million inhabitants in 2010.

Assuming the good conditions in Yucatan state are only an spillover from neighboring Quintana Roo, it's kind of demeaning for those 2 million people on Yucatan. Compared to the rest of Mexico, whatever they are doing, stopped doing, or never started doing in first place , the place is peaceful.


You are correct. Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel are not in Yucatán (state). Yucatán has its own tourism industry. See Explorando Mexico.

"State economy is based on tourism, agriculture, fishing and commerce. The importance of tourism has notably increased since Yucatan became linked and integrated into the Mayan Caribbean destination on the eastern coast of the peninsula and its archeological heritage became recognized as one of the most popular tourism attractions in the world.

"Yucatán, the quietest state, is statistically as safe as Finland." And at less risk of invasion by Russia. (Anyone fancy completing the argument?)

Also, Finland traditionally has the highest murder rate among Western European countries: lots of heavy drinking, hunting rifles, axes, and so forth. I'm not sure if Finns are the most violent overall (e.g., the British have high assault and battery rates, but generally lack the tools to kill), but they seem pretty efficient at finishing what they started


"Following the pioneering work of Finnish criminologist Veli Verkko (1951), researchers have long recognized that among West European nations, Finland has an especially high rate of homicide."

High gun ownership rates tend to go together with high male suicide rates. It is not necessarily that people attempt more often, but guns are a fairly reliable way of making sure you succeed.

The attempted suicide rate would be the interesting one and my prejudiced, knee jerk reaction is that long winters, heavy snows, rural areas, large vodka consumption, a history of Russian rule, and not being Catholic would all tend to go with a much higher attempted suicide rate.

Also, keep in mind that the extraordinary job opportunities for murder-for-hire workers in Mexico's north over the last six years sucks a lot of Mexico's most violent men out of the rest of the country.

Hopefully, the huge death toll among professional murderers in Mexico during the Calderon years may eventually leave Mexico with a more pacific population. By way of analogy, one reason New York City is so much less lethal today than in 1990-91, when there were 4,000 homicides in the city limits, is that a lot of the most murderous New Yorkers were themselves murdered (or locked up or put in wheelchairs).

Is the supply of new murderers that inelastic? Don't new violent men step in to fill the murderer vacuum?

I don't think its so much of neutralizing the bad men as putting the right incentives and disincentives in place.

Wow, I mean wow, WOW, WOW, WOW! You knocked me off my feet.
Now that I have said wow, is this a mistake, bad data or real?!!!

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