Mexico's New Tourism: Illegal Immigration Vacations

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Even as drug wars have scared visitors, they've given rise to nontraditional tours focusing on the country's challenges

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Sirens, gunshots, and simulated arrests aren't part of most vacations, but they're exactly what tourists who participate in the Caminata Nocturna (Night Hike) sign up for: an opportunity to pretend to be illegal immigrants and be pursued through the Mexican wilderness by fake "border guards." According to a recent report, experiences like the Caminata make up a new genre of "black tourism"—encompassing everything from drug trafficking to villages ravaged by NAFTA trade agreements—that is increasingly keeping Mexico's tourism industry afloat.

In February, the Mexican security consulting firm Grupo Multisistemas de Seguridad Industrial released a report documenting the rise of the phenomenon, which is said to have originated at the end of the last decade in spring break destinations in northern Mexico and on the coasts, as tourists became curious about drug-fueled "narco-culture." It quickly spread throughout the country. Now visitors to Mexico can see the shrine of the Holy Death cult in Mexico City and meet with relatives of young men who were murdered, or go on a tour of northern Mexico titled "Mexico-U.S. Border: Health, Labor, Migration and Environmental Problems."

And then there is the Caminata Nocturna, which takes place in the Parque Eco Alberto in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, near Mexico City. The experience is put on by the local Otomi population, an indigenous tribe. In fact, the village where the simulated "illegal immigrants' run" to the border takes place has been decimated by migration to the United States in real life.

Here is a brief photo essay documenting the Caminata.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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