As students put the books away and prepare to depart for fun-in-the-sun spring break destinations, they should take heed of serious warnings about dangers lurking south of the border.
Mexico has always been one of the most popular spring break destinations.
Not only is it a convenient drive for students in Southern California, but it also provides enough activities to enjoy in the span of a week.
This year, however, a travel alert has been issued by the U.S. State Department warning all travelers to take safety measures if traveling to Mexico; some warnings suggest canceling travel plans to Tijuana and several surrounding cities.
Narcotics-related violence there has escalated, including the kidnappings and murders of several Americans since April 19, 2007.
“An American student traveling to an area where you are the main target for kidnapping by drug traffickers is down-right irrational,” Alexandra Lumbreras, a junior political science major, said.
Lumbreras is a Tijuana native, who goes to Mexico every spring break.
This year she feels crossing the border is too dangerous and will not be going.
This year alone, there have been more than 50 people killed in Tijuana from drug related violence.
According to the downtown merchants association, since 2005 cross-border visits are down 90 percent.
“People go to Mexico for spring break because they are able to drink and party without any parental control,” Connie Gutierrez, a senior psychology major, said. “No parental control can be dangerous and lead to long-term consequences.”
She has been going to spring break in Mexico for the last two years.
For the students who do plan on traveling to Mexico this spring break, they should be aware of their surroundings and exercise caution.
According to the State Department, American citizens should travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (“cuota”) roads.
Travelers should remain in well-known tourist destinations where there is better security.
They should also avoid traveling alone and should not show any sign of carrying valuables.
“Every time I travel outside of the U.S., I do my best to research any information that can benefit my safety and make it so that I am well prepared for my trip,” Donna Catota, a junior psychology major, said.
Students are advised to do research on their own before heading anywhere this spring break.
“If I had students planning to travel to Mexico, I would encourage them to visit the Web site of the U.S. State Department and check for travel warnings, while that information should always be tested with people who live and work in the area of Mexico one is visiting,” said Philip Hofer, director of the International and Study Abroad Center, in an e-mail interview.
San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Florida are some of the many vacation spots where students go to enjoy their spring break.
All these destinations are filled with water activities, museums, galleries, shopping centers, wildlife animal parks and historical monuments.
Whether you are traveling across the border or taking a small road trip in California, caution and safety are always needed when traveling.
Spring break is a time for fun and relaxation and there is no better way to do that than with the right preparation, research and safety precautions.
For information on travel alerts, visit the State Department Web site at http://travel.state.gov/.
Maxtla Benavides can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.