Dear citizens of Uruguay,
We understand that your foreign ministry this week advised you to exercise caution in traveling to the United States and specifically warned you about three cities: Albuquerque, N.M.; Detroit, Mich.; and Baltimore, Md
. The mass shooting this week in El Paso, Texas, shocked and frightened us, too, and we certainly understand that the apparent racist, anti-Latin American motive for the killings would especially concern potential visitors from Central and South America. The fact is, our president, Donald Trump, has used language very similar to that which has been attributed to the alleged El Paso murderer — calling Hispanic immigrants “invaders," for example — and we share the worry that his rhetoric could embolden others to more acts of evil. (This week, Mr. Trump called on all Americans to speak with a unified voice against such hate and prejudice. We hope that means he has changed his ways.)
But Baltimore’s problems with violent crime are very different from those your foreign ministry warned you of. We have suffered from high rates of violence for many years, but it is not the “indiscriminate violence, mostly for hate crimes, including racism and discrimination” that prompted the caution from your government. For the most part, crime here is not random but is tied to the illegal drug trade and disproportionately takes place in neighborhoods that still suffer the lingering effects of the segregation and anti-black racism of decades past. It is a stain on our community that we work hard to overcome, but it is not an indication that visitors to our city, and visitors from Latin America in particular, are at greater risk here than they are in any other big city.
In fact, Baltimore has a record of being welcoming to immigrants and visitors, and it has a large and growing population of residents of Mexican, Central American and South American origin. On Wednesday, our mayor, Bernard C. “Jack” Young, signed a document ordering city agencies to protect immigrants and providing funding for lawyers to help those facing deportation. He is just the latest of a series of city leaders who have expressed Baltimore’s commitment to inclusiveness and its openness to immigrants, wherever they come from, and its opposition to policies and practices that target immigrants or make them feel unwelcome.
Your foreign ministry singled out Baltimore, Albuquerque and Detroit because they are ranked among the 20 most dangerous cities in the world by Ceoworld Magazine. How that magazine derives its rankings, we don’t know, though it is worth noting that Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, which also warned against travel to Baltimore, is the most dangerous city in the world, according to the magazine. (Seven of the 20 most dangerous cities are in Brazil; the others are scattered across the globe.) Our State Department recently increased its warning to Americans who travel to Uruguay, saying that “violent crimes, such as homicides, armed robberies, carjacking and thefts have increased throughout the country and occur in urban areas ... day and night. Criminals commonly travel in pairs on motorcycles to approach unsuspecting victims with a weapon and demand personal belongings. Armed criminals also target grocery stores, restaurants, financial centers, and small businesses, in which innocent bystanders are often victimized." We suspect that description encapsulates the reality of Uruguay no better than Ceoworld Magazine’s ranking reflects the true experience of living in and visiting Baltimore.
We cannot promise that no visitor to Baltimore will be a victim of crime. No city in the world can offer a guarantee of absolute safety. But we can promise that if you visit here, you will be welcomed and appreciated.