by Julia Ernst
Rider students with plans to travel to Mexico over spring break are going to be hit with a double whammy: bad economy and dangerous conditions.
This week’s Rider News poll (see page 8) found that only 15 percent of students are planning to travel this year.
Lauren Fitzgerald, a senior, went to Cancun last year but is not going anywhere this year.
“I don’t have any money [to travel],” she said. “I’m broke.”
Students who are traveling must be careful in Mexico, according to a Feb. 20 release from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, a branch of the State Department, warning travelers to “exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times.”
The warning comes from recent upheaval in the country, caused by Mexican drug cartels that are involved in “an increasingly violent conflict — both among themselves and with Mexican security services — for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexican border,” the release said.
Students are not being told to avoid Mexico over spring breaks, but the warnings did suggest to travel on main roads, stay in well-known tourist areas and refrain from displaying expensive items such as jewelry or large sums of money.
“We have had documented violence, attacks, killings and shootouts with the drug cartels, not only involving the military but law enforcement personnel,” said Tom Mangan, a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to an Associated Press article. “It is indiscriminate violence and certainly innocent people have been caught up in that collateral damage.”
Dean of Students Anthony Campbell said that the university’s main goal is to warn students about travel to the country over spring break.
“We can’t forbid them to go, but we can help them to make informed decisions about their travel,” said Campbell.
According to the AP article, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said that students should not change already-made plans.
“There is no major risk for students coming to Mexico in general terms,” Mora said. “It is always important to advise the youngsters to behave.”
Patrick Evans, who works with STA Travel — one of the biggest agencies for spring break trips — said in the AP article that students still have options despite recent violence.
“Cancun has always been one of our most popular destinations, and that hasn’t changed this year,” Evans said. “Many of the packages we offer include lodging on the beach and in very nice resorts that take the utmost pride in making sure customers are safe.”
Juniors Dana Balestracci and Laura Bobek said their break plans have not changed.
“I am going to Panama City Beach, Fla.,” Balestracci said. “We decided we were going long before the issues in Mexico happened, but now that they are happening, it makes me even happier that I decided to stay in the U.S.”
Balestracci also said that she has friends traveling to Mexico.
“I know I wouldn’t want to be worrying if I were going there, but I know a big group of people that are going and they seem to be dealing with it OK,” she said.
Bobek, who is also going to Florida for spring break, said she is relieved that her plans were not adversely impacted.
“I’m not going to Mexico [this year], but I did last year,” she said. “Hearing all the news about Mexico, I wouldn’t want to go back for spring break.”
Though she is not going to Mexico, Bobek said that her experience last year does not make her want to return.
“I did not think of going to Mexico because I wanted to save money,” she said. “However, [last year], even though I was with friends, I did feel uneasy there, even before these [recent] stories of Mexico came about.”