Students urged to travel with caution in Mexico
Posted April 3, 2009

The current situation with Mexico’s drug wars has caused the United States to put Mexico on its list of travel alerts, and is now causing many universities to put their own travel warnings to prevent many college students from going to Mexico on spring break.

“While it is something you need to be aware of, it is not something tourists need to fear,” Sharon Davis, professor of sociology, said. “But someone who wants to buy drugs (or looks for trouble), I would fear for them.”

Mexico’s drug cartels are leading a bloody and violent war with other drug cartel rivals and also with the Mexican government. Many of these drug cartels are smuggling illegal drugs from Colombia through huge semi-trucks and boats into Mexico, Daniel Loera, multicultural affairs director, said.

Many of these illegal drugs are then smuggled into the United States.

Many of the weapons drug cartels use are manufactured in the United States, and the types of guns being used are not meant for hunting rather they are designed for wars and to kill, Loera said.

Although Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón has sent about 36,000 troops to secure routes in which drug cartels pass, the violence has only increased and the death rate has climbed.

The drug cartels are striking back against government officials and want the Mexican government to leave them alone.

According to a Newsweek article titled “The Age of Innocents,” many innocent people have been murdered in the past year or so, even though many who are dying related to drug cartels in some way.

With the heightened security control, drivers with California license plates coming into the border are more likely to be checked thoroughly and possibly two or three times than normally, Loera said.

Mexico wants to prevent the smuggling of weapons and illegal drugs or money from the United States as much as possible, Loera said.

Although the United States is warning Americans not to travel to Mexico and it is best to go somewhere else for vacation or spring break, some believe people should make their own judgment.

People should not live their lives in fear; however, they should be cautious, Loera said.

“I think at this time students have to make there own conscious choice and have to look at all the options; and make their own assessments,” Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs, said.

“I think that whenever anyone goes anywhere, my advice is to be safe, travel in numbers and be conscious of your surroundings,” Rahmani said.

“Stay where other tourists are and choose a reputable hotel,” Davis said.

“(Staying in a reputable hotel or a inclusive resort) will increase the likelihood that you will be safe,” Davis said.

Since alcohol impairs judgment of people and makes people make bad choices, Rahmani suggests not being drunk in public or in dangerous areas.

The person must know the consequences of alcohol consumption.

When someone is drunk, it most likely for sexual assaults, physical violence and verbal abuse to occur, Rahmani said.

“Don’t party alone and leave your beverages unattended, even if it is water or a soda,” Loera said.

“A drunk person is a better pick than someone who is not,” Loera said.

In addition, being drunk and not making the right choices in a foreign country makes things more complicated, Rahmani said.

If someone is going to drink, then drink at hotel bars rather than rowdy bars where an individual affiliated with a drug cartel might be, Davis said.

“I want to feel like a mom and say make good choices,” Rahmani said.

For those who are still going to go to Mexico for a vacation or spring break, Rahmani recommends to do your homework on where the safe areas are and find out as much information as you can, so you can make an educated and conscious choice.

“There are certain hotspots where drug cartels are very active, just stay away from those places,” Davis said. “Don’t get yourself into trouble or go looking for it.”

Students must be aware of the current situation going on in Mexico before you go to Mexico, and research safer alternative places to travel to, Rahmani said.

“There are a lot of places to travel and to choose from,” Rahmani said. “Look at all your options for spring break.”

“Students must make their own choices with the information they have,” Rahmani said.

Students must use good judgment and common sense in order to stay safe, Davis said.

“Do not go to places by yourself at 11 at night or go into deviant places,” Davis said.

Since Mexico’s economy is dependent on tourists visiting the country and drug cartels tend not to flourish in a bad economy, drug cartels normally do not aim in attacking or hurting tourists, unless a tourist does something that upsets someone in a drug cartel.

Natalie Veissalov can be reached at natalie.veissalov@laverne.edu.

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