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Some UI students headed for Mexico spring break despite drug war

BY KASSIE FRIEDRICHS | MARCH 9, 2009 7:27 AM

When UI junior Sara Hershner planned her spring break vacation to Puerto Vallarta last November, she hadn’t heard much about Mexico’s drug wars.

But a heightened rate of crime and violence has led the U.S. Department of State to issue a travel alert for many Mexican cities and towns.

“I am nervous to go outside of the resort,” she said. “Staying on the resort, I’m not scared at all. [The violence] is not in Puerto Vallarta.”

According to the alert, “A number of areas along the border are experiencing rapid growth in the rates of many types of crime. Robberies, homicides, petty thefts, and carjackings have all increased over the last year.”

Janis Perkins, the director of the UI Office for Study Abroad, said students need to learn of the possible risks before traveling to Mexico.

“There are no risk-free destinations in the world,” she said. “You just have to weigh the risks and make the best decision you can make.”

The U.S. alert focused more on the border and less on tourist areas, she noted, and students should avoid areas that are “touristy.”

Regardless, Hershner still can’t wait to go to Mexico.

“I’m very excited,” the UI management major said. “I just need these couple tests to get out of the way first.”

Hershner — along with a group of her hometown friends — will be in Mexico for a week relaxing, seeing the city, drinking, and lying out in the sun, she said.

Perkins advised students to never go out alone and to behave responsibly.

“It’s dangerous to drink in Iowa City,” she said. “It may be even more dangerous in a strange place.”

According to the travel alert, U.S. citizens should also try to travel on main roads during the day, leave an itinerary with a friend or family member who is not traveling with them, confirm cell-phone service, and avoid wearing expensive-looking jewelry or displaying large amounts of money.

UI junior Lauren Butler, who is also going to Mexico for spring break, was just informed of the drug war recently.

“I was super excited to go, but now I’m hesitant,” she said. “I just feel in the dark.”

Butler, along with two high-school friends, will stay in Riviera Maya — a city not mentioned in the alert.

Perkins said it is important to know the situation in Mexico has not recently changed.

“There is just more media attention given to it because there are students traveling there for spring break,” she said.


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