Cancun bar bombing: not a tourist issue

by Zora O'Neill on August 31, 2010

I was dismayed to check the news today and see headlines about a bar getting bombed in Cancun–this is tragic, no matter what. My additional worry was that some nightclub full of tourists has been blown up. But it’s not the case. The bar, the Castillo del Mar, is well out of any area tourists would go.

Here’s a Google map I made. The approximate location of the bar is marked in red. Tourist zones are highlighted in green. Even my very adventurous app guide to Cancun doesn’t go farther than these green areas.


View Cancun bar bombing in a larger map

The bombing apparently had something to do with organized crime, and it hit staff, not customers. Of course this doesn’t mean a complete guarantee of safety for tourists, but it is extremely unlikely a tourist would get hurt in Cancun, and no one should change their travel plans based on this event.

I’m especially peeved about the news item on Momento 24, which calls the Castillo del Mar a “bar of tourists,” which is patently not the case. Fox News is almost is bad, because it IDs Cancun as a “resort area” and never explains where the bar is. And surprisingly, BBC is also flaky, as it never locates the bar either.

CNN is much more responsible, as it explains the location of the bar.

And the Diario de Yucatan coverage (the moderate Merida paper, the biggest in the region) doesn’t mention tourists at all!

MSNBC initially reported that the bar was in a tourist area (Twitter post was “Mexico Violence in Tourist Area of Cancun”), but issued an update on Twitter later and posted an updated story.

UPDATE: Per a comment below and several online news sources (including a corrected Diario de Yucatan story), I’ve moved the location of the bar. Guess what? It’s even farther from possible tourist zones.

1 Rob August 31, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Thanks for the map. I forwarded it to our geography addled news producers to let them know the difference between the hotel zone and this place.

2 zora August 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Excellent–thanks for getting the word out.

If anyone’s wondering, I located the bar (roughly) based on the Diario de Yucatan story, which gives a ballpark address for it. It doesn’t show up on Google maps, but I have a map of Cancun that IDs all the super-manzanas, and the D de Y story says it’s in 239.

3 T.J. August 31, 2010 at 1:15 pm

With all due respect, while I agree with nearly everything in your post, I must disagree with the map location. Everything I read in the local news describes this bar as being in Region 229. That is a good distance west of the area shown on your map, but still in an area that I would never venture to after dark and I would bet money there never has been an English speaking tourist anywhere near this place after dark.

Region 229 is bordered by Kabah, Leono Vicario, Lombardo and Niños Heroes.

Great info though for tourists and families of Cancun residents.

T.J.
Cancun, Q.R., Mexico

4 zora August 31, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Many thanks, T.J.! I was just now looking more carefully at my map–SM 239 is in fact not right on Leona Vacario (as Diario de Yucatan describes), so I was searching Cancun papers for stories–you’re right about it being SM 229. Even farther away. Thanks so much for clarifying!

5 T.J. August 31, 2010 at 2:04 pm

No problem Zora. Thank you for a great read.

I have been returning calls and emails from the US to family and friends for the last hour or two.

I put something on my Facebook page to save my fingers and my breath and my friend Rob sent me your link. I think I will love your stuff.

6 Lola September 1, 2010 at 12:33 am

From your post to God’s ears—I just reposted on my FB and sending it around. Plus I’m reposting on our website so it can reach as many people as humanly possible. Rock on, Zora!

7 T.J. September 1, 2010 at 7:49 am

A bit more info. Late yesterday afternoon, I took a drive to the site. The building looks undamaged from the front and there was no crime scene tape. I was a drive by gawker only. One guy was there with a pro looking video camera but was shootinng in eh opposite direction. I did not see anything or anyone that would have prohibited me from walking up and going inside (had the door been unlocked.)

In this area typically all walls, inside and out, floors and ceilings are concrete so it is quite possible that all of the damage was contained in the room in which the bombs were ignited, excepting in the wall things like electric wires, etc.

8 Michele in Playa September 1, 2010 at 10:04 am

Thank you Zora for doing your homework on this. We are on Isla Mujeres and local news coverage has been spotty and unreliable, as we are used to. I know this is going to set a lot of people on edge but, at this time, it does appear to be a very targeted, non random, attack that most of us have no reason to worry about. I live in Playa del Carmen and that area in Cancun is one that would not be frequented by tourists or even expats living in the region. I wish the mainstream media would stop intentionally misrepresenting the facts.

9 Maribeth Mellin September 1, 2010 at 11:44 am

Many thanks for your map and research, Zora. Wish the news outlets would take second to look at a map!

10 Cristina Baker September 8, 2010 at 10:44 am

Many thanks for getting correct information out, Zora! When will your travels bring you Mérida way again?

11 Tanya September 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Dear Zora,

I live in Cancun since 13 years ago and since that, I have been involved in Sales, trying to bring tourists to enjoy our beautiful destination and when I hear this kind of news, I just get angry, because all my colleagues and I work too hard and then something like this just break all our efforts. As you mentioned the bar is so far from the Hotel Zone, actually I don´t even know where it is, I would say that you can compare the distance to Queens and Manhattan, but at the end is NYC. I have been many times to NYC and I know that Queens it´s not as safe as Manhattan, but I never visit the suburbs.
So, I just want to tell you that on behalf of all the Hoteliers in Cancun, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for professionalism and your support to our destination!!!

12 Sam September 10, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I totally agree with Tanya,
I also live in Quintana Roo and it is frustrating to hear this kind of news that only affects tourism in Mexico.
As you may know, tourism is one of the top 3 vias on which Mexico gets all its income from, and this kind of publicity makes that nobody wants to come and the consequences are terrible : thousands of people unemployed, companies closing, etc.
So I would also like to thank you in the name of all our co-nationals.

13 Eran September 13, 2010 at 11:28 am

Hi Zora, thank you deeply for presenting the facts in the accurate perspective. It’s frustrating to listen and read so many news taken out of proportion, resulting in misleading information. As a Cancun resident, I wouldn’t even dare to visit the area where this adult entertainment bar is located, so -as T.J. above- I would bet money there has never been a tourist nearby this area, which is about 1 hr away from Cancun Downtown & Hotel Zone. Accurate information is key, so thank you.

14 Dee Dee November 4, 2010 at 7:53 am

Hi Zora

Iam coming to Cancun the next few months . I have heard so much about the carlets in cancun,I have been there many times and love it , But at the same time I was very concern about coming again. Zora you shared some light on things for me because every time i go to Cancun new website it alway’s bad new about killing.

Thank you for good news.

15 T.J. November 4, 2010 at 8:12 am

Dee Dee,
I have been living in Cancun for the last 6 years. I know where the molatov cocktail bomb thing happened. I would NEVER go to that area after dark BUT I do shop at a grocery store at the big intersection every Wed morning. (Aside-My church friends and I buy, food, milk, etc each week for an orphanage each week and this particular store has cheap meat and milk so we get more bang for the buck at this place, which is a Walmart owned store called Bodega Aurrera.)

I have never felt frightened in Cancun by organized crime. But you know it is here just like in other big cities in most countries.

I would never suggest that anyone NOT come to Cancun because they could be at risk. I would suggest not to buy drugs, bootleg dvds, prostitutes or try to smuggle products or people in or out of Mexico. That is 99% of what the problems you read about are about. I have never seen statistics but I bet 90+% of the deaths are bad guys killing other bad guys, fighting for control, bad guys killing bad cops, immigration agents, and gov’t officials who are/were on the take and something went wrong on a deal. I cannot think of a single instance in this part of Mexico where a totally innocent person, let alone a tourist, has been killed.

That said, let me also say that NEVER, NEVER, NEVER will I try to drive through the border towns with the US. Tijuana/San Diego, Juarez/El Paso, Reynosa/McAllen, Matamoros/Brownsville, which are the main points one would cross the border. My concern is crooked cops and bad guy robbers looking for stupid, foreign tourists to rob and the cops would be my greater concern here.

So come on to Cancun, have fun and you will no doubt look back on a great time as opposed to a scary one.

T.J.
Cancun, Q.R., Mexico

16 zora November 5, 2010 at 8:48 am

Dee Dee, I’m in the Yucatan now, and headed back to Cancun this weekend. Everything seems as mellow as ever! I’m sure you’ll have a great trip!

17 John November 14, 2010 at 9:27 am

Hey, I’m in the Yucatan now, too. Following your RG, which has been great. Any update on good food options in Playa based on the most recent research?

18 Zora November 14, 2010 at 9:44 am

John, glad to hear you’re liking the book! You know about the updates at http://www.roughguideyucatan.com, right? I actually haven’t added anything yet from this trip, but will get on it. For new stuff, I’m sending you an email so I don’t drag everyone on this comment thread off on a tangent!

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