Mexican resort towns like Cancun, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas are major spring break destinations. Hundreds of thousands of college students flock to these beach resorts and other places south of the border to take advantage of cheaper prices and fewer restrictions. But spring break in Mexico might be a little less crowded this year. The Texas Department of Public Safety has issued a statement advising students to avoid Mexico during spring break, with the department’s head saying that continuously escalating drug violence has made it too dangerous, especially for young, inexperienced travelers. For the most part, tourists have not been targets of drug gangs. However, there have been frequent shootouts between rival gangs, cartel members and Mexican armed forces. The biggest danger for spring break travelers would be getting caught in the crossfire of such gun battles.
The Department of Public Safety’s statement didn’t mince words: “Our safety message is simple: avoid traveling to Mexico during Spring Break and stay alive.” Though the statement focused on Mexico as a whole, Texans are especially concerned about areas near the border that are especially prone to violence and especially easy for tourists to access. The statement specifically mentioned Falcon Lake, a body of water that straddles the border. An American jet skier was killed by a sniper this past summer when he strayed onto the Mexican side of the lake. Authorities believe he was killed by members of a drug gang who mistook him for a rival gang member or law enforcement official. A U.S. Customs agent was also recently attacked and killed in a Mexican town along the Texas border.
In total, 68 people from the U.S. were killed in Mexico last year, most as a result of drug-related violence. Tens of thousands of Mexicans have been killed since authorities began using the army to crackdown on drug gangs. A recent spate of shootings in Juarez, one of Mexico’s most violent cities, lead to the deaths of three people associated with the U.S. Consulate. Recent bloody incidents in Cancun (including several be-headings blamed on cartel enforcers) probably inspired Texas decide to issue a country-wide warning rather than simply focusing on the border areas.
Of course, not everyone will heed the warnings. Cancun alone sees well over 100,000 college students annually during spring break. MTV still plans to continue its popular spring break events, which will be held in Acapulco this year. Mexico, which relies heavily on tourism for income, will undoubtedly be upping the security. However, that has not warded off violence in the past. Drug gangs have showed a willingness to have fire fights with police and army officials rather than avoiding them. Because of the many instances of violence, it almost seems inevitable that spring break revelers somewhere in Mexico will end up caught in the cross-fire. If you are traveling to Mexico for spring break or vacation this year, use common sense to protect yourself. Better yet, talk to local law enforcement about what you can do to stay safe.