Horrors of Mexico

Katie McKeever

Spring break in Mexico has always caused consternation among parents. Booze cruises and all-night beach parties are the typical worries. But this year the worries were far more serious as frightening headlines graced the front pages of several newspapers — “Thousands Dead in Mexican Drug Wars” and “Cancun Violence Overshadows Spring Break.” In addition there was a travel alert issued in early March of 2009 by the U.S. State Department for Americans traveling to Mexico.

Naturally, the media’s warnings about the escalating death rates in the last year in Mexico left many BSM students and their families second-guessing their previously scheduled spring break vacations to Mexico. Students were cognizant of the threat, but weren’t ready to give up the sun and sand. “I understand violence is happening, but we were about 2,000 miles away, and my parents explained if my friends and I used common sense safety tips, it would be an enjoyable experience,” said senior Claire Anderson.

Spring Break draws travelers across the nation in favor of an “inexpensive” and convenient location to various cities in Mexico, including Playa del Carmen, Cabo San Lucas, and Cancun. But this year the carefree, easy choice left many in high tension. Horrifying stories of “bad experiences” in these cities over the course of the last few months spread like wildfire. “My mom kept asking me ‘Should we cancel our spring break trip?’, but we ended up taking the risk despite what the news was saying. I was disappointed that even the idea of cancellation was being brought up. I didn’t want the drug war or violence to stop me from going on my senior trip,” said senior Claire Anderson.

The news, however, is being accused of a over-exaggerating the real threat to tourists vacationing in Mexico. “The news makes you think you’ll get your head cut off and die,” said junior Brett Threlkeld, “when you’re there you realize it’s fine and you’ll be safe.”

Many came to realize that there were obviously drug cartels and their organizations present, but their targets were clearly not tourists. Senior Yusef McNulty said, “We realized that there clearly had to be two Cancuns. There is the stretch of super-luxury hotels along the water with sandy beaches, and the other Cancun is the real Mexico.”

The tension present in Mexico undoubtedly made many travelers more cautious. “I decided not to bring my wedding ring and so I brought along an old ring of my mother’s,” said BSM mom Celia Threlkeld.

Hotels offered travelers a sense of isolation from the violence. “It was so nice there, the people were unbelievably friendly, I guess we just did not run into the ‘bad’ people,” said senior David Greco, The scene this year was no different from years past, with big banners welcoming students and streets full of flip-flop-clad Americans: “the trip really didn’t feel any different than my previous trips [to Mexico],” said Greco.

The growing death rate has been proven to be connected drug-related violence in the streets of Mexico and seemingly spiraled out of control. Travel agencies were admittedly forced to cancel trips, particularly along the border where most of the bloodshed is concentrated. Numbers of drug-related deaths continue to climb at a frightening rate since the beginning of 2009.

United States Department for Americans traveling estimated that the most affected cities deal with close to 15 deaths per day. Despite efforts by both Mexican and U.S. governments to increase the presence of law enforcement along the border, the violence has not ceased. Many of the law enforcement officers find themselves entangled in the violence and corruptness of these drug wars.