Another spring break, another Mexico travel alert from the US State Department. Every year, college students and families taking spring break vacations seek out great travel deals — and there certainly are some worthy money-saving hotel packages in Mexico. But care must be taken to consider where to go, if Mexico is the destination. The border states are often dangerous, with plenty of crime (from pickpocketing to murder) that makes those border states unwise choices for travel.
I spoke with Prof. Bruce Bagley, a Latin America expert and chair of the Department of International Studies at the University of Miami. This Mexico expert couldn’t have been more clear regarding travel. “The border states are the focal point of violence, but perception of violence [determines vacation destination decisions] and overall Mexico tourism is down 10 percent from last year. It will probably drop further.” He continued to say that popular tourist destinations with family-friendly resorts, such as “Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, have never been safer.”
Mexico is a large country, with a lot of lovely upscale and/or family friendly resorts. Its cultural and culinary histories of different regions are also varied, and people can travel to the country year after year and have completely different experiences each time if they so choose. But don’t go to the border states. According to Mexico’s Department of Public Safety, the country-wide murder rate has fallen since the late 1990’s. In some real, measurable ways, Mexico has gotten safer. The US State Department’s Mexico travel alert really only pertains to those states – Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, etc. – where the drug war is up front and corruption looms large. There are so many other Mexican travel destinations that aren’t an easy drive across the border, but make for safe and interesting spring break vacations. There is no reason to risk your family’s safety by taking a vacation in a border state, no matter how cut-rate the travel deals and hotel packages may be.
Now, tourism dollars provide the country with more economic stability than does the so-called drug money. We can have safe, wonderful and culturally interesting vacations in Mexico, and know that we’re contributing to the financial health of our neighboring country to the south. Don’t scratch Mexico off your list of potential travel destinations (spring break or otherwise) despite all the warnings we hear on the nightly news. Choose your Mexican vacation spot wisely, and it may be the best trip yet.