The State Department’s latest travel warning about Mexico comes just in time for spring break, but it may not have much of an impact on some students’ plans.
Last month, the U.S. Department of State warned citizens about conditions in Mexico, as well specific areas with the most crime. Though the Mexican government has made an effort to fight transnational criminal organizations that participate in drug trafficking, homicide, kidnapping and carjacking, the U.S. government will continue to warn Americans about traveling to Mexico because its citizens have fallen victim to crime in the past.
Not everyone is in agreement about how the warning represents Mexico as whole, however.
“Sadly, some places in Mexico are having problems, but when the media talks about that they usually say Mexico and that’s a whole nation,” said Javier Muñoz, director for the Convention and Bureau office of Rocky Point. “It’s like instead of saying Arizona, you’re saying the United States.”
At the Spring Break Safety Fair on Wednesday, Muñoz spoke with students about visiting Puerto Peñasco, more commonly known as Rocky Point, during spring break as well as safety reminders regarding insurance and help numbers to call.
More students are showing interest in traveling to Rocky Point, Muñoz said, as there have been a 5 to 6 percent increase in reservations compared to last year.
According to the warning, “Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades, and can be extremely dangerous for travelers” and those going to to Rocky Point should “exercise caution.”
Matt Uellendahl, a U. Arizona freshman, frequently visits Rocky Point with his family. He said he has not worried about his safety when in Mexico, and that the only way he would stop visiting Mexico is if something “terrible” occurred, like a natural disaster.
“I don’t really agree with the fact that people aren’t going to Mexico as much anymore because of the fact that they think it’s dangerous. But it’s really the same thing except for people have a different idea of it now that there’s stuff happening with Americans,” Uellendahl said. “I don’t feel endangered at all.”
According to the warning, 120 Americans were murdered in Mexico in 2011, compared to the 35 who were murdered in 2007.
“It’s really not as dangerous as people make it out to seem. I mean, being in the United States is pretty dangerous too,” said Zoe Warren, a UA sophomore. “Now, I probably wouldn’t go to certain places but I think vacation places are still pretty safe.”
Warren lived in Mexico for a year in third grade and has visited Mexico more than 20 times since. Living in Mexico when she was younger, in addition to her ability to speak Spanish, helps her feel safer, she said.
At the safety fair, Nate Rettenmayer, Vice Consul from the U.S. Consulate in Nogales, spoke to attendees about what safety precautions to take. He explained that students should visit the State Department’s travel website and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. The program allows travelers to create an account on the travel website and log their trip, which will alert the country’s embassy that they are visiting, Rettenmayer said. When new travel warnings, advisories or information is released, it will be sent directly to the traveler, he added.
Rettenmayer said he did not think the travel warnings should deter students from traveling to Mexico.
“I would absolutely not say you should not travel to Mexico,” Rettenmayer said. “I would say use caution and familiarize yourself with the materials that are out there and then make an educated decision about traveling there based on those materials.”