United States Ambassador Christopher Landau defied his own government’s travel advice to visit an avocado orchard and participate in Day of the Dead celebrations in Michoacán on Friday.
The Uruapan-based Mexican Avocado Producers and Packers Association said that Landau visited an orchard to learn about the production chain of avocados, millions of which are shipped annually from Michoacán to the United States.
He traveled later to Pátzcuaro to join Day of the Dead celebrations.
The U.S. Department of State warns Americans not to travel to Michoacán due to crime. The Level 4 advisory — highest on the scale — only applies to Michoacán and four other states: Colima, Guerrero, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.
For U.S. government employees, travel is limited to federal Highway 15D – in order to transit Michoacán between Mexico City and Guadalajara, to Morelia and Lázaro Cárdenas.
To reach Morelia, the State Department says government employees may travel by air or by land using Highways 43 or 48D from Highway 15D. Travel to Lázaro Cárdenas must be by air only and government employees must limit their activities to the city center or port areas.
Violence has spiked recently in Michoacán and the presence of criminal organizations in avocado-producing regions of the state has led some growers to take up arms to protect their crops and livelihood.
The United States Department of Agriculture threatened in September to suspend its avocado certification program after threats and violence against inspectors in the state.
But Landau was apparently undeterred by the U.S. government’s travel advisory and news of violence in the state. A photo shows the ambassador grinning while holding up an avocado at the orchard, whose location was not disclosed.
Landau, who has been the United States’ top diplomat in Mexico for less than three months, traveled to Morelia on Thursday with his wife, daughter and a friend of his daughter.
He met the same day with government officials including Governor Silvano Aureoles as well as business leaders, academics and members of civil society.
Landau said on Twitter that his visit to Michoacán was motivated by the advice of his followers, including Aureoles, on the social media platform. On October 5, he asked his followers where in Mexico he should go to celebrate Day of the Dead.
Aureoles responded: “The magic of the Night of the Dead is only experienced here, especially in the Pátzcuaro lake area. This is one of our most important traditions, rooted in the heart of the Michoacán people, and it fills us with joy to share it.”
In a post on Thursday, Landau wrote:
“You suggested it to me and I took notice! On the invitation of Governor Silvano Aureoles (via Twitter) I’m here in the great state of Michoacán to share the Day of the Dead celebrations. [There is] great economic potential [in Michoacán] as well as cultural and historical wealth.”
At his meeting with the governor, Landau heard about Michoacán’s tourist destinations, the annual arrival of the monarch butterfly and investment in the port of Lázaro Cárdenas.
Aureoles presented the ambassador with a typical Day of the Dead figurine made by Michoacán artisans.
“I expressed our gratitude to the ambassador for his openness, warmth and interest in getting to know more of Michoacán . . .” the governor said.