Spring Break '09: Beyond Cancun's Beach

by Melissa Mahfouz
Special to iVoryTowerz

It’s that time of the year again. Police units brace themselves for a month-long arresting extravaganza, alcohol is infinitely plentiful, and the partying is an all-day everyday activity. Welcome to Spring Break 2009. College students across the country flock to sea-side resorts for a week void of worries, responsibility, and parental supervision. Cancun, Mexico is a destination hotspot for students on Spring Break: 18+ drinking age; relatively inexpensive accommodations; mouth-watering seafood; and partying frenzies are alluring to students seeking an escape. This may seem all fun and games, but travel a mere ten miles from the hotel chains in the heart of Cancun, and one can see the real Cancun, the real Mexico, not some tainted version of it.

Cancun’s population of roughly 750,000 has a clear majority of 60% categorized by the Mexican government as “impoverished.” The “poor” make the equivalent of $400 monthly, while the “extremely poor” less than $250 a month. For these residents, the luxury for them is 24-hour electricity, accompanied by sustainable, potable water. Cancun, for all its natural beauty, is not an intended target of criticism, but rather this engulfing so-called “rich/poor” disparity that continues to separate reality from fiction. Sea-side locations in the Caribbean and Central America serve as other prime examples, where tourism provides economic sustenance for the region, and yet impoverishment rages through surrounding villages and communities. A small dose of irony is that the very individuals who live in such dismal conditions work in the hospitality service sectors of the economy, providing for tourists and other well-off visitors.

The purpose of this piece is not to instill a sense of guilt in readers, but rather, to reiterate that there is an entirely different world that exists over the span of a few miles from the hotel districts to inland communities. Yes, Spring Break merits for enjoyment and entertainment, but just be thankful you are not a few miles down the road.

(The photo of Cancun is by Marcelo Gonçalves via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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Michelle said...

I totally agree with you. I went to Cancun in college and my friends and I went on tours all over the place, just to check out all of the spots that aren't the usual "Spring Break hot spots". You see a lot of things that not everyone sees.

Heading to Spring Break Cancun is a great place to check out, not to mention an easy way help out the less fortunate. Students go down there with a lot of money and if locals are selling little items or offer hair braiding, you should really consider throwing a little extra cash their way. It's just polite.

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