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Column 031113 Wall

Monday, March 11, 2013

Texas, Perhaps Unfairly, Issues Mexico Spring Break Warning Once Again

By Allan Wall

Spring break in Mexico is an annual tradition. And the past few years have seen a new, related tradition -- a warning by the government of Texas against traveling to Mexico during spring break.

In 2010 the state of Texas warned spring breakers not to visit cities on Mexico's northern border.

In 2011 and 2012 the state warned them against visiting the entire country of Mexico.

So here it is, March again. And, as reported by Austin's KVUE News, "... the Texas Department of Public Safety is warning students again to stay out of Mexico."

This year, the TDPS is not even going to the trouble of making a public statement. According to KVUE: "The agency does not plan to issue a public statement as in previous years, but a spokesman said 'the stance has not changed.' DPS is discouraging travel to Mexico -- even to popular tourist resorts that are not included in the U.S. State Department travel warning for Mexico."

So what are we to make of this?

It's a little ironic to see the government of Texas warning university students not to visit any part of Mexico on spring break. The behavior of many spring breakers is not noted for the exemplification of safety, health and well-being. Public drunkenness and debauchery are not safe wherever practiced, so why doesn't the state of Texas warn against those behaviors?

But it's really an issue that is much bigger than that of university spring breakers. It involves the entire issue of tourist security in Mexico.

The question of whether one is safe traveling in Mexico is a complex one, and depends a lot upon where one is and what one is doing.

It's also fair to point out that there are some U.S. cities that are rather dangerous. New Orleans, for example. If it were an independent country, New Orleans would have the world's second-highest murder rate. Yet Americans visit New Orleans.

Statistically, American tourists are generally safe from violence in Mexico, as millions of them visit Mexico annually, the vast majority without incident. Of course, there is that minority of Americans who are victims. They may not speak the language, and the Mexican legal system is notoriously unreliable. Of course, it's unreliable for Mexicans also.

Mexico is a big country, about the size of Western Europe. The drug cartel violence, horrible though it is, is not distributed evenly throughout the country. Also, it should be pointed out that some Americans visit unsafe areas, engage in unsafe activities, and some are even involved with drug trafficking themselves.

The U.S. Department of State has a useful travel warning on its website. It's actually a quite balanced document, providing the big picture on travel to Mexico and then providing a state-by-state report.

The State Department warning doesn't actually tell Americans not to visit Mexico, and attempts to put things in perspective: "Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes."

The State Department warning contains a lot of general information about Mexico, and then goes through a report of the security situation in the 31 Mexican states and Mexico City, the Federal District.

The State Department warning can be accessed here, if you would like to peruse it.

The bottom line is that tourism security in Mexico is a complex issue that can't be summarized in a sound bite.

Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years. His website is located at

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