Trouble in Paradise

The Jalisco Cartel, better known as the CNJG, is spreading like wildfire in the tourist hotspots of Mexico. As always, American tourists will end up in the three infamous tourist towns in Mexico: Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Cabo. Two of these places, Cancun and Riviera Maya, are located in the state of Quintana Roo. Quintana Roo hits the top of the list on the Mexico Travel Advisory for places to visit with extreme caution because, even though it is home to some of the most beautiful places to visit, it is also home to some of the highest crime rates in the world. 


Stories of tourists experiencing firsthand the crime and murder rate in these Mexican cities are not few and far between—they are reported multiple times a year every year. “In early November 2021, a shootout between rival gangs resulted in the killing of two gangsters on a Cancun tourist beach. Two weeks prior, an American social media influencer and a German tourist were killed in the crossfire of a gang battle in Tulum. In July, a visiting Texas firefighter was kidnapped and murdered at a Cancun resort. In May, a U.S. tourist was wounded in a gang shooting that killed two men in Cancun. According to Mexico’s public security service, between January and September 2021, the murder rate rose 80.5% from the same period the previous year”  (Violence in Paradise: Mexico’s Cartel Wars Reach Tourist Playgrounds in Quintana Roo | Global Risk Insights.) 


When people think about Mexico, one of the first things they are going to think about is the infamous cartels. For those who are not familiar with this term, these cartels are the biggest drug trafficking corporations in the world that rose to popularity in the 1970s. With the high demand for cocaine in America, Mexican cartels such as CJNG, Sinaloa Cartel, and a few others became more prevalent and a threat to America overall. Fast forward to 2023, these cartels have become an even bigger threat to the tourists and citizens of Mexico. Not just drug trafficking, their actions also include kidnappings, robberies, car-jackings, and more. 


“For anyone who plans on traveling to Tijuana or anywhere in Baja, California, as well as other border states and popular spring break spots like Cancún, the state department is urging you to reconsider your travel plans due to escalating crime, kidnapping, and cartel violence” (Mexico spring break travel warnings | What you need to know). 


Mexican government and police enforcement have been struggling for a long time with these various cartels. There are multiple things that go into factor when it comes to shutting down this worldwide drug business. In past police attempts, there has been a common theme of heightened violence. When these gangs know the cops are onto them, they begin to perform more acts of violence like kidnappings and car-jackings to distract the police. These small acts of crime become a bigger threat to the residents of the towns and tourists who are not fully aware of their surroundings. 


“Despite this rather optimistic approach to the raging cartel violence in Mexico, political unrest and violence lay on the horizon for Mexico as a new force rises to power — the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). Do not be mistaken; this cartel is like none other. The CJNG poses a threat to not only the national security of Mexico but to that of the United States, as well” ( 


Not only do these cartels continue to grow, they continue to get more violent. The CJNG, also known as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, is comparable to the taliban. Rather than laying low, these members act with extreme violence to get their way. Most other cartels are described as “buttoned down criminals,” but the CJNG is often described as crass, extreme, and frightening. Unlike other cartels, they are much more militarized, meaning they are in possession of military grade weapons, many smuggled from the United States. Other cartels use tactics of extortion or bribery, but Jalisco leans towards a more aggressive way to gain their power.  


The CJNG is “relying on intimidation tactics to gain control and power and using propaganda videos and social media to grow their audience. It has also not failed to demonstrate its power. In 2015, the CJNG took responsibility for an attack that killed 15 Mexican police officers in Jalisco” 



Ed Calderon is going to be your best friend while preparing for this trip. For those not familiar with the name, Ed Calderon was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. He spent the later years of his life dedicated to law enforcement in Mexico, and now shares his high level of knowledge on Mexico crime with the public. He spent a few years as a member of an operations group outside the NorthWestern border region of Mexico, fighting narcotic trade, abductions, and worked closely with high level protection on the Drug War. Ed has seen some of the worst parts of Mexico, and is now using his knowledge to protect innocent citizens and tourists of America. He is involved in multiple podcasts, but most information can be found on his website, where he details his experiences and warns tourists of how these cartels operate and how they, as visitors, should act and react: About — Ed’s Manifesto.  


These men are not going to stop their highly organized drug crimes because of tourists, so it is important for those traveling to Mexico for spring break 2023 to not go in fear, but to be cognizant of these crimes. Knowing your surroundings, laying low, and being reserved are all logical and easy ways to keep yourself safe but still have fun on your beautiful vacation.