The state of Texas has issued travel warnings about college students visiting Mexico during spring break.
“While acknowledging that the Mexican government has made ‘great strides in battling the cartels,” Steve McCraw, Texas public safety director, said violence and criminal activity “represent a significant safety threat, even in resort areas.’ “
“Mexico called the alert from its U.S. neighbor “outrageous.” Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, told Reuters that 22.7 million tourists visited his country last year and few were in areas known to be violent. ‘This warning is exceptionally aggressive,’ Lopez Negrete said.”
“The number of Americans killed in Mexico increased to 120 last year, from 35 in 2007, according to the U.S. State Department. Mexico reported 47,515 people killed in narcotics-related violence between Dec. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2011, with 12,903 narcotics-related homicides in the first nine months of 2011.”
“Texas said Americans represent about 60 percent of Mexico’s visitors, and half of them travel through Texas to get to Mexico. Texas officials say they’re concerned because the violence is widespread and unpredictable.”
Our new home in Phoenix is only a couple of hours away from the Mexican border, and is only 60 more miles from the Gulf of California – which offers warm water like the Gulf of Mexico. (Southern California beaches are about five hours away, but the Pacific is always pretty cold there even in the summer.)
For years Phoenix and Tucson families flocked to beaches on the Gulf of California.One area, called Rocky Point by Americans, is essentially Phoenix’s Hilton Head. It’s close by and everyone traditionally has gone there. It is also a traditional spring break destination for Arizona State University and University of Arizona students.
However, since the uptick in drug cartel violence, many of our neighbors have not been going and don’t plan to go in the near future. In fact, I haven’t heard any of the families at our schools say they are going this spring break, which starts next week for us. When we first moved here, the local Y was trying to auction off a week at a condo there and no one was bidding on it. (I think it did go eventually.)
What I hear most from people is they are worried about the drive. The town itself is relatively safe, but many people — even some who have family in Mexico — say they worry about potential violence against Americans on the road. The road to Rocky Point ends at the Gulf and doesn’t run through any major drug distribution points. (Would that make you worry less?)
Another issue is it’s just kind of a pain just to get into Mexico. We had to cross three Border Patrol checkpoints just to drive to San Diego last spring break. (The Border Patrol does checks on any roads within 75 miles of the Mexican border.) They ask “Are you a U.S. citizen?” and questions like Where did you come from? Where are you going? Meanwhile large dogs sniff at your car. And you’re not even trying to leave U.S. soil.
At one of the stops Lilina started counting in Spanish right before we reached the Border Patrol agents. I yelled back “No Dora Spanish now please!”
The border crossings take much more time than the checkpoints further in on American soil. On the way into Mexico, they are worried about Americans bringing in guns. On the way out of Mexico, they check closely to make sure you aren’t carrying drugs.
I would love to go to this close, relatively inexpensive beach town on warm water but I am really bothered that so many of our neighbors who used to go aren’t going anymore.
So what do you think? Is this about a sense of adventure or is the risk too great? Would it bother you that the neighbors aren’t going anymore? Would you drive to Mexican resorts or save up to travel elsewhere? Would you let your university student vacation there?