With spring break nearly a month away, promotions for popular tourist destinations are plentiful. Travel to Mexico, however, has been largely discouraged in recent years because of concerns related to ongoing cartel violence.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Mexico on Feb. 8, 2012, noting that 120 Americans were murdered in Mexico in 2011, up from 35 in 2007. In the majority of these cases, the homicides appeared to be related to narcotics trafficking.
Despite warnings from the State Department, some students in neighboring San Diego believe the situation isn’t as bleak as it appears.
Alaina Gallegos, a student in the joint Latin American Studies and Public Health graduate program at San Diego State, says she finds north Baja California safe.
“What we see is not random acts of violence as people perceive from the media,” Gallegos said, noting that crime statistics in Tijuana are comparable to those found in major urban cities in the states.
To tackle student fears, Gallegos and fellow peers regularly travel across the border to explore the resurgence of nightlife, art, music and coffee shops. They found it’s evolved far from “Avenido Revolucion’s” historical reputation as a hub for partying.
“It’s a vibrant city that is experiencing a cultural renaissance,” said Gallegos. “Despite the fact that it’s a different country, there are cross-cultural ties and we should embrace that relationship here at the border.”
The sentiment is shared among students like SDSU Child and Family Development sophomore Phi Do, who was raised in San Diego. The close proximity has created a culture where experiencing the nightlife in Mexico has become a rite of passage.
A common routine is for people to park their vehicles in San Ysidro, the closest city on the United States side, and walk across the bridge to the border. From there, it’s a short taxi ride to the Avenido Revolucion, a popular destination for nightclubs.
While she felt “scared and nervous” at the beginning of the trip, that fear dissipated after noticing the large crowds and realizing their group was not in isolation. Still, one of the more obvious reasons why young people enjoy Mexico is the lower drinking age and cheaper prices.
San Diego Mesa College business student Jackie Hernandez speaks highly of her experiences, noting that it’s typical to spend no more than $15 in one night for parking, round-trip transportation, nightclub admission and drinks.
“We’re used to it here. I’ve never had a bad experience,” Hernandez said. “It’s not as big of a deal as people make it out to be.”
Still, Ramona Perez, director of San Diego State’s Center for Latin American Studies said students should exercise caution, whether it is a one-night visit or a longer stay at beach resorts.
“Spring break is different because people really let their hair down. They take all kinds of risks,” Perez said. “But any time you go into a foreign country and you intend to drink and have a good time, you’re at risk to be taken advantage of.”
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