By Munir Atalla
The promise of constant sunshine, steady surf, and cheap cerveza has made Mexico a spring break staple. This year, however, escalating gang violence has made some students more cautious of where they spread their beach blankets.
The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning to college students about the violence of certain cities south of the border. The Mexican tourist authorities tried to dispel the allegation by stating that, while there was drug-related violence in the region, it only involved those belonging to drug cartels and only occurred in certain neighborhoods within certain cities. “Internationally-celebrated destinations such as Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, to name a few, are among the safest, most welcoming and relaxing tourist destinations in the world,” urged the Mexico Tourism Board, which also insisted that “There could not be a better time to visit Mexico.”
Their concern is understandable; tourism in Mexico has been declining alongside the American economy and in inverse proportion to rising violence rates. At the core of the violence is the drug war. Cartels across the country compete, ironically, for the same American market that their violence is driving away . While tourism in Mexico accounts for $12 billion a year, that number is dwarfed by the illicit drug trade revenues that rank in the tens of billions.
The State Department offered a morose prophecy for students who chose to go to Mexico, despite the violence in the region. “While the vast majority enjoys their vacation without incident, several may die, hundreds will be arrested, and still more will make mistakes that could affect them for the rest of their lives.” With this ominous forewarning, it would be no surprise if parents begin forbidding their college aged children from venturing to Cancun or Acapulco, advocating instead for a more placid vacation spots like Montreal or Miami.
A recent poll on the ABC News website asked readers if they thought Mexico was safe for spring break. The majority, 58%, answered with a definitive “no”, 10 percent answered “yes”, while 32 percent answered that “it depends on the exact location”. After all, this is not the first year that the government has cautioned citizens against travel to Mexico.
At Tufts, Mexico is not the ubiquitous hot spot that it is at schools like the University of Texas, Austin, or Arizona State. For the most part, students here choose to travel with friends somewhere new or visit high school companions, rather than partake in the binge-festivals that take place in neighboring countries with lower drinking ages. Until the situation subsides, maybe it is better that Tufts student brave the cold for another few weeks; May is right around the corner.