Preparing for College

Spring Break 2015: Cancun Cautions?

Students (and parents), it's not too early to start planning for spring break. I'm addressing both college and high school students here, since high school upperclassmen seem to want to get into the action too, assuming that their parents are agreeable.

Where to go is always the challenge. In the United States, the beaches the most popular destinations. Daytona Beach is always overrun with partying students, much to the dismay of the residents there. That's easy to understand.

Outside the United States, Mexico has always been a traditional destination for those who have both the motivation and funding to make the trip. Among the various tourist spots south of our border, Cancun has been (at least until recently) a preferred location. I parenthetically say "at least until recently" for good reasons.

Like many former tourist destinations in our world (think Paris), Cancun has come under the cloud of criminal activity, thanks to the infamous Mexican drug wars. Students have mysteriously disappeared from among groups traveling there, only to be found later in less than ideal circumstances. I state that delicately, since the reality of those circumstances is too shocking to include include in my G-rated blog here.

So, let me clue you in on Cancun, just in case you may be thinking about spring breaking there.

To fill you in, I have done some research about the current state of Cancun and found three articles that should bring you up to speed about conditions there. Those conditions involve both social and safety reasons to consider other locations for your fun. So, here are links to and excerpts from those articles:

Ongoing war makes Mexico spring break a perilous party at best

As thousands of college kids prepare for spring break, an Austin [Texas]-based global intelligence company warns that Mexico remains a very violent, unpredictable country, where even innocent bystanders in beach resorts can be raped, robbed or killed by gangsters who operate with impunity.

Stratfor, which often prepares intelligence reports for corporations looking to do business in Mexico and elsewhere, is offering an assessment of the situation in Mexico.

And the firm, located not far from the University of Texas at Austin, makes a trip south of the border look anything but inviting, even for seasoned travelers. Police there can't be counted on, and highway checkpoints can be manned by criminal imposters wearing the uniforms of police or military personnel.

It goes right down the line and notes the potential for danger in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Mazatlan and Mexico's other coastal resorts. The perception has been that these places are for fun and the gangster violence doesn't hit there. ...

... [Overall cautions:]

... It is true that statistically a visit to Mexico is a safe bet as the odds are nothing will happen.

But there are stories over and over again about horrible things happening to people who one way or another cross paths with the gangs.

It would be tough to forget the most recent headlines out of Acapulco in which ... [my blog's G-rated status forbids me from continuing to quote the details that finish this paragraph. Please see the above link for more information].


Spring Break in Mexico: How Dangerous Is It?

Shrugging off news of gangland hyper-slaughter, tens of thousands of American students will pour into Mexico in the coming weeks for the annual days of debauchery, even as the drug-fueled violence continues and threatens to increase.

Yep, the Spring Break hordes have gathered anew. Sun, surf and sand – not to mention bountiful booze and bronzed hard-bodies – prove too powerful a draw. Hormones trump the tales of horror, pheromones flip off the fear.

"In Cancun, the party never stops, so you many want to choose your spring break hotel based on the noise-level," StudentCity, a travel agency selling packages to the Caribbean resort, advises with a wink. "Chances are that if you don't choose a quiet one you'll just be up for 7 days straight. And that may not be a bad thing for some of you."

So party on, dudes and dudettes. Chances are all but certain that the worst you'll suffer are multiple hangovers, sunburns and maybe irritating rashes in the nether parts. Still, be aware that the dangers ignored are present if not prevalent.

A pack of thugs ... [please click on this article's link to read the disturbing details that continue, reporting on events from 2013] ...

... And that was before the drug gangs got out of control.

"The profound escalation of cartel-related conflict in Mexico has created an environment in which deadly violence can occur anywhere, with cartels displaying complete disregard for bystanders whatever their nationality or status," stated Stratfor, the Austin-based think tank, darkly warns in its latest annual warning to Spring Breakers.

"Moreover, the threat to vacationing foreigners is not just the potential of being caught in the crossfire," the Stratfor advisory notes, "but also of inadvertently drawing the attention and anger of cartel gunmen." ...


And, finally, for balance, if you're not a student but an adult (I suppose that there should be some differentiation between college students and "adults"), here are some excepts from a Dave Barry-like article, some of which appear to counterpoint the above negatives:

11 Random Observations About Going on Cancun Spring Break as an Adult

- There are no high school kids anymore. When I was in high school, a few kids every year would talk their parents into letting them go to Mexico for spring break. Those days are over. In the past 15 years, Cancun has gone off the table for high school kids thanks to the mix of helicopter parenting, Mexico's increased danger, and kids being coddled to the point where their lack of street smarts makes it dangerous for them to even go to New Mexico unsupervised.

I don't think I saw any large groups of high school kids walking around the entire time. And that's fair. If I had a teenager, I'd strap myself to the nose of the plane to keep him or her -- especially her -- from going alone to Mexico. And speaking of parents not letting "her" go to Cancun...

- Despite the hype, the Cancun tourist area feels totally safe. About a week before the trip, the State Department was kind enough to issue a warning basically telling Americans not to go to Mexico. That went over well. But really, the entire time I was there, I never felt even remotely unsafe, and I accomplished that by being a self-centered American who didn't venture outside of Touristland. I have no idea what goes on outside of Cancun's hotel zone. No one on Spring Break does -- not unless you decide to leave the area for non-prescription drugs, brothels or, worst of all, cultural or historical expeditions to the Mayan ruins.

- Apparently public urination is the biggest crime. Besides not letting non-guests partake in all-inclusiveness, the only other rule that seems to be aggressively enforced in the Cancun hotel zone is no public urination. Just about every cab driver we had all weekend warned us about that.

However, one did say that for 60 American dollars, a cop wouldn't arrest you for public urination. And for 100 American dollars, he'd also let you, um, publicly move bowels. No one field tested that statement.

- Today's college students realize what they do will be immortalized on the Internet. This trip was my first sign that, yes, kids have realized that the Internet is forever and anything they do ends up there. Now, instead of doing wild things, they all channel their desire for permanent regret into getting bad tattoos.


So, Moms, Dads, and students ... you make the call as to where spring break will happen for you or yours this year. I merely felt duty-bound to illuminate one particular area of the landscape for your consideration and evaluation.

Remember, in cases where you may not be sure what to do, the Internet is your friend. Just go to your favorite search engine and enter "Cancun spring break dangers." You may be surprised at what you find.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.