Spring Break: Come Back With a Tan, Not a Criminal Record

Viva Mexico! Or not. It’s actually quite a dangerous place to be, despite the vast number of students from American Universities traveling there for Spring Break every year. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of State, the decisions you make on Spring Break could be a lot more influential then whether or not to put on a higher grade of sunscreen.

An updated report from the U.S. Department of State, released Feb. 24, 2010, reported that 100,000 co-eds will be traveling to the Mexican resort areas this spring and that they are unaware of the potential dangers in these sunny playgrounds. Alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of these incidents. “While the vast majority enjoy their vacation without incident, several may die, hundreds will be arrested, and still more will make mistakes that could affect them for the rest of their lives,” the report stated.

The old adage: “what happens on Spring Break stays on Spring Break,” doesn’t hold when traveling to Mexico. Penalties for alcohol, drug or physical assault incidents can be much more severe than here in the States. While the drinking age in many of the Spring Break locales is 18, students as young as 16 will be tried as adults in Mexican courts. For that reason, many students need to be much more aware of their actions and the situations they put themselves in.

Kelly Macagnone, a junior art education major at Buffalo State University, visited Cozumel last spring with five other girls.

“I tried to keep a level head while drinking and going to bars while in Mexico,” Macagnone said in a phone interview. “It’s possible to still have a great time while still being cautious.”

Despite the many precautions, as you can see from the example above, a trip to Mexico can still be relaxing and fun. Students continue to flock to resorts in Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Matamoros, Mazatlan, Nogales, Oaxaca City and Tijuana. Each of these locations has it’s own precautions listed on the U.S. Department of State Web site, but it is important to list the common ones here.

1.    Swimming: While you may be ready to jump in as soon as you land, it’s important to be aware of Mexico’s strong currents and their means of relying precautions to swimmers. “Avoid swimming outside the bay area. Several American citizens have died while swimming in rough surf at the Revolcadero Beach near Acapulco, MX…Warning flags on beaches should be taken seriously. If black or red flags are up, do not enter the water,” the report said.

2.    Alcohol: When drinking your inhibitions are lowered, which is a good thing in some instances (because after all you want to have fun) but can be a fatal mistake in others. “Alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes and deaths suffered by American students on Spring Break,” the U.S. Department of State reported. Always be cautious of your surroundings and be sure to always go out in pairs. Most of all, try to use common sense; you wouldn’t wait in New Haven alone at 3 a.m., would you? No, you wouldn’t. So don’t do it on Spring Break. Another thing to be aware of is the language barrier. Due to the fact that you might not always understand what everyone else is saying, it’s even more important to ensure that you are traveling in a group and in the proper “sitio” taxis, which are the only legal taxis in Mexico.

3.    Drugs: Health care costs may be on the rise, but that doesn’t mean you should risk your clean record to bring prescription drugs back along with your Tequila. According to the U.S. Department of State, “the importation, purchase, possession, or use of drugs can incur severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before cases tried, and imprisonment of several years following a conviction.” If you were planning on applying for jobs, be sure to make sound decisions on this Spring Break so you never have to check the little box that says “convicted of a felony.”

The Lonely Planet, an agency that offers travel tips and information on their Web site and travel books, has several commentaries on Mexico. Robert Reid, the U.S. travel editor, discussed the problems that often occur as a result of alcohol.

“Though some unwatched valuables can disappear from the beach, most problems that happen in Mexico revolve around too much alcohol,” Reid said in an email.

Rachel Hellman, a senior marketing major and public relations minor and native of Long Island, N.Y., is not letting these warnings alter her Spring Break.

“Mexico is one of the destinations on our Western Caribbean cruise, and I am not too concerned about that because we will be in a major tourist area. Besides that, I am probably most worried about drinking the water. I have heard many people get sick from the water, so I am going to stick to bottled water if I can. I travel often, with and without my parents, so I plan to stick to the same safety rules on this trip,” Hellman said in an email.

Students like Hellman will have some great memories and stories to tell their children as long as they are aware of the precautions listed in this article and also on the U.S. Department of State’s Web site. The most important thing about Spring Break is to have fun, but in a safe and contentious way.

Additional information and reporting contributed by Caitlin Revuelta, Quinnipiac University.

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