Spring break in Mexico? A border-state perspective

The state of Texas has issued travel warnings about college students visiting Mexico during spring break.

From the AJC story:

“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?

30 comments Add your comment

[...] officials insist major tourist destinations are safe and that travel warnings from …Spring break in Mexico? A border-state perspectiveAtlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Marco

March 9th, 2012
3:22 am

I would say that US citizen shouldn’t be worry about going to Mexico, they have to be carefully, that’s it. I went to Mexico last summer and winter with some friends from Europe and I was worry about them ’cause of the “violence” in Mexico (I’m Mexican) but what I saw in Mexico is that the own people/news/documentary make the people scare to travel (I’m not saying that it’s save) and I think you shouldn’t have problems or be worry in touristic places in Mexico. Regarding the checkpoint..I was living the US and I’ve visited the US for many years ago…and I always remember the checkpoints :(. Unfortunately they will be there until Mexico’s Gov and US’s Gov works closely together for a proper integration/relationship. Cheers :)

catlady

March 9th, 2012
6:59 am

Until such time, if ever, that Mexico gets its stuff together, I won’t be going there.

I was in Mexico the summer of 1968. The Olympics were starting the next week. It was a beautiful place, with lovely people. I had my 16th birthday in Veracruz! We went to this very seculded beach south of Veracruz that now is a huge resort, but back then we hiked through the jungle to get to it. It was lovely–a grey (volcanic) sand beach!

There was a lot of anit-American feeling that year. (This was the year of Mark Spitz and the black athletes raising a fist on the medal stand.) On our way to the airport our bus was stopped by the police. A bribe was given, and we were indignant, until we found out some folks were pulling over cars and beating up Americans and overturning their cars–the police saved us. Other than that, we had a peeping Tom (or Jose), a group of young men tried to remove our bathing suits in the water at Jalapa, and in Mexico City young men would come up at put their hands in our blonde hair and ask us to kiss them.

BTW, I went with a church group. We built a church and did some other repair for other churches. I hate that it has become so dangerous there. What I remember (mostly) were warm and welcoming people and a beautiful countryside. (I also remember being the only student in our group who spoke Spanish, and I remember Montezuma’s Revenge taking its toll.)

For an educator, catlady...

March 9th, 2012
8:13 am

…this is truly poorly worded sentence “This was the year of Mark Spitz and the black athletes raising a fist on the medal stand” – first, Mark Spitz won his medals in the 1972 games – but my complaint is your sentence makes it sound like Mark Spitz raised his fist on the medal stand, which would not have been true even if he had won his medals in 1968…but, sorry for you experience back in 1968…

I just returned from a cruise that went to two ports in Mexico – no problems or anti-American sentiment greeted us – I really think you have to really be looking for trouble to get in the way of the drug cartel people – or be REALLY unlucky, as catlady was in 1968…

K's Mom

March 9th, 2012
8:33 am

I think I would rather brave Mexico than go on a cruise these days. With little kids we have not done a big trip since our honeymoon to Curacao (beautiful resort, the island was only ok). Mexico is not on our list of have to go places and the news that TWG is talking about has not helped elevate it to must see.

There are about a gazillion places here is the US I want to go to with the hubs that I traveled to while consulting. He and I would also like to go to Italy and London since he lived there for a time. Our 3 island destinations of choice are Bermuda, virgin Islands and Hawaii. We want to take the kids to DC, Williamsburg, Boston, Grand Canyon….so when all of that list is complete…we wil look at Mexico.

I will also add that my kids will not be doing unchaperoned HS Spring breaks anywhere a la Natalie Holloway. I was not allowed for a multitude of reasons that make a lot of since 20 years later…so thanks to mom and dad my boys won’t get to either

Augusta

March 9th, 2012
8:34 am

NO Desire whatsoever to go to Mexico. There are much better destinations out there. I’ll take a trip to PCB over Mexico anyday!!! There’s too much of THIS country to see……

motherjanegoose

March 9th, 2012
8:42 am

We crossed the border many times in Laredo and Brownsville, when we lived in Texas. We also went to Tijuana ( sp?) and I have been to El Paso several times but never crossed there. I am not a risk taker when it comes to personal safety…not a risk taker for much of anything. So, no for me.

People get accustomed to doing things, sometimes dependent on where they live. Growing up, we never went anywhere for spring break….living in Illinois and Arkansas. I never went anywhere for spring break during college…I spent my break working at Wal Mart. When we were first married, we went to South Padre Island TX. I am happy I have now had so many chances to travel now. We typically took a trip on our kid’s spring break,when they were small and lived at home as I was teaching and off too.

Last year, I spent spring break ( for schools here) in North Dakota ( work) and it was freezing…haha! Jobs are plentiful and I was told they pay $17 an hour for anyone to work the mid day shift at Taco Mac. Hotels were booked solid as there is not enough housing for those who are coming in. It gave me a new perspective than things I was typically used to around here. This year, I will be in Savannah all by myself ( no one can get away with me) and working part time there. I am looking forward to it :).

TWG…you know I love ya but as much as you worry about things…I think you should go somewhere else! BTW…yes, the Pacific is not the kind of ocean for floating around in a tube or raft like you would do in Destin, FL. We loved visiting the ocean when we went to Oregon,…it was amazing! have you been to the San Diego Zoo? Our family enjoyed it!

FCM

March 9th, 2012
8:47 am

Our church sends 8th – 12th graders down for Spring Break to build houses in Mexico. This year will be no different. They have issued these warnings the last several years and the parents of the kid’s that went are not concerned.

(NOTE: My child is not going b/c she is not old enough).

K's Mom

March 9th, 2012
8:49 am

@MJG, San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities in the US! I want to go with just the hubs…but totally forgot about the zoo. I guess we will have to go twice! I went twice for trade shows and stayed on Coronado Island once and in Old Town another time and both times it was sublime.

@TWG, go to San Diego with the kids and without while you are so close. It is a favorite of mine.

Lori

March 9th, 2012
8:55 am

Mexico isn’t for me until they get their act together. Not even if a cruise went there. It used to be safe to stay with your cruise tour at least, but that one got robbed a few weeks back. Just not worth the risk in my opinion, especially when it seems that law enforcement is corrupted in that country.

I wanted to go to San Diego for spring break this year, but the cross country airfare was just a big much for me, so we’ll be driving up to Tennessee instead. One day, though, one day!!

Augusta

March 9th, 2012
9:18 am

Awww San Diego. We vacationed a little north of there at a cute little beach town called Carlsbad. We used to go there every year when I was a child. Beautiful, laid back……memories….

homeschooler

March 9th, 2012
9:32 am

On a recent plane ride back from Miami, I conversed with a woman from Monterrey. She actually lives in the US now but still has family there. She told me she is terrified to visit. She said the last time she visited, she never woke up one morning without hearing of another murder in the town. She was terrified to go out of the house. Around the same time I read an article in TIME about bodies hanging from bridges and bodies being left outside of elemenary schools. It baffles me that the US seems to stay completely out of the problems there when things can and do affect us because of the close proximity. My husband knows a very hard working Mexican man. He recently sent his family back to Mexico and he is staying here to work. (no he is not legal) A large part of his money goes to paying people to “protect” his family in the town they moved back to. I know the “protection” he talks about is an organized crime operation. I few weeks ago a cartel stole a generator that is used to supply water to his town. He was having to work harder to get money to pay for the generator so his town could have water. I just keep thinking about his kids (14 yr old boy and 10 yr old girl) who were completey raised here in Amercan Schools. They must be in culture shock.
Anyway, I say all this to say. Mexico scares the h3ll out of me and I will never step foot on their soil. Not only am I afraid, I don’t want any of my money going to support their crooked government.

catlady

March 9th, 2012
10:11 am

for an educator: You are right. Saw it after I sent it.

catlady

March 9th, 2012
10:12 am

However, Spitz was a big “splash” in 68–won two medals that year, although 72 was his “big” year.

JATL

March 9th, 2012
10:28 am

I’m a fairly adventurous person -especially when it comes to travel. I’m usually the one who “poo-poos” other people’s overly cautious warnings and tales, whether it’s about travel, child-rearing, or anything else really. However, I would not drive from Phoenix to a place in Mexico -particularly with my children. It just gives me a hinky feeling. Sure, you’ll probably be okay, but what if you’re the one who is NOT okay -who runs across the wrong folks at the wrong time? I know that can happen anywhere -not least of all right here at home- but Mexico has some serious issues with these cartels right now, and many of them seem hell-bent on proving some points. These are sociopathic, awful people who don’t think twice about killing children. There are so many other places I want to go -and that I could go and have fun if I were driving from Phoenix -that I would choose a different destination.

motherjanegoose

March 9th, 2012
10:41 am

@ JATL…some people think I am adventurous in that I drive a rental car out of the Dallas, Newark, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland and lots of other airports all alone. It is funny where people feel they are leaving their comfort zone. When it comes to having personal safety, in another country and with little children in tow..UM NO. Too risky for me.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 9th, 2012
11:13 am

We have a lot of reporter friends and many are wearing flak jackets when covering border towns in Mexico and near the Mexican border even on the U.S. side. That really worries me.

For an educator, catlady...

March 9th, 2012
11:28 am

…thanks for the clarification regarding Spitz and the ‘68 Olympics- and, thanks for being a good sport…

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 9th, 2012
11:28 am

Second topic popping up at noon — about nudity!!

Van Jones

March 9th, 2012
12:36 pm

I drove down Buford Hwy and went to Mexico, India, and several Asian countries all within 15 minutes.

smurf

March 9th, 2012
12:50 pm

Mexico is a dump! I went to Cancun back in 1992 and was very disappointed. It was dirty, smelly and GROSS. The beaches aren’t even that great. I would rather go to the Virgin Islands, a million times better and absolutely gorgeous!

motherjanegoose

March 9th, 2012
1:06 pm

@ Van…yes that is a field trip in itself…thanks for the chuckle.

Jim Bray

March 9th, 2012
5:20 pm

I have owned a condo in Rocky Point, Mx for over 10 years. Before that we stored a travel trailor there for another 10 years and have been going down with all of my family for over 50 years. My kids have grown up down there and love it. Great memories and people. If you don’t want to go down and have a great time thats up to you. But if you have never been there don’t knock it. Oh, and be sure to check under your bed at night because you don’t know whats under there.

Nomadic Diva

March 10th, 2012
12:02 pm

Your average Mexican border town is still safer, more pleasant & cleaner than wherever Freaknik is currently being held.

Nomadic Diva

March 10th, 2012
12:03 pm

A blog topic on Nude Beaches and Resorts coming up at noon?

I am THERE!!!!

A person SMART enough to know......

March 10th, 2012
11:14 pm

Go to Mexico and take a few illegal Mexicans back with you and leave them.

[...] officials insist major tourist destinations are safe and that travel warnings from …Spring break in Mexico? A border-state perspectiveAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Spring Break 2012: Mexico Counters Texas Travel [...]

Annette

March 11th, 2012
10:13 pm

I used to travel to and from mexico every summer from the age of 6 until I was 12. Then again when I was 17. It wasn’t bad or dangerous and there wasn’t anyone out to steal our organs or anything. My grandmother has a home in Guadalajara but not in the touristy areas and there was never an anti-american agendas. We used to stay for 1-2 months at a time. I’m grateful for the experience and recently went to Veracruz our cruise (as our ship was diverted due to a hurricane) and I still felt the same way I did when I was 12. @Catlady — I’m sorry you had a bad experience but don’t let your bad experience in 1968 jade other peoples possible visits to a beautiful and history rich country.

Bob

March 12th, 2012
6:54 pm

I took my family down to Rocky Point(Puerto Penasco) between Christmas and New Years and had no problems. I went down with a large group last week and had no problems. For 25 years, I have been enjoying Mexico with no problems. I’m a pasty white boy who speaks very little Spanish.

[...] Spring break in Mexico? A border-state perspective Spring break in Mexico? A border-state perspective 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 Southern California beaches are about five hours away, … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]