But for those still planning a trip to Mexico, the U.S. Consulate in Merida, Mexico, recently released a Web video on how to stay safe, have fun and avoid bringing trouble upon oneself.
"If you're not going to do it at home, think twice about doing it in Mexico," one consulate employee says in the video. "Always stick with a friend. Watch what people put into your drinks."
"It's not a theme park, it's a sovereign country with laws," another reminds travelers.
Likewise, State Department spokesman Robert Wood weighed in from the podium recently, when he declared his love for Mexico and for spring break.
"OK, I'm guilty," Wood conceded. "I have gone down at least once in my life for spring break."
"But look," Wood added. "Mexico is a wonderful place to go and vacation. People just need to, you know, take sensible precautions to protect themselves. I don't have anything more to say on it than that. I mean, it's just using common sense and taking necessary precautions."
President Obama announced this week that he will personally travel to Mexico in April to meet with President Felipe Calderon to discuss curbing the violence, among other issues.
If you do go, Mexico offers travelers opportunities to unwind on warm beaches, view art and artisans at work and get off the beaten path. It also offers the chance to learn something new, like languages or cooking skills. A visit to Mexico can fulfill any of these pleasures with the added advantage of being relatively inexpensive to reach, as well as a place where the dollar still goes a long way.
Oaxaca, Mexico, lures travelers to its cool, shaded plazas, dry mountain air and ruins of empires long past. D.H. Lawrence lived here and chronicled the spectacle of market day, which extends back to pre-Colombian times and continues, to this day, as a riot of color that showcases the local culture of the surrounding indigenous villages.
Foodies are rhapsodic about the 11 different kinds of mole that evolved from the remarkable chocolate made here, and history buffs will obsess over the Zapotec ruins and the technological and intellectual powers they bespeak. Painter Rufino Tamayo, one of the first Mexican artists to use the vivid colors of the villages in his work, was from Oaxaca. Benito Juarez, Mexico's only pure-blooded Indian president, harks from here as well.
Oaxaca's history is told not just through the museums dedicated to these men, but also the charming architecture and nightlife taking place around the zócalo, the city center. For language classes and cultural tours, contact the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca at http://www.icomexico.com/index.php. It can also arrange home stays with local families.
The southern state of Chiapas borders Guatamala, and this mountainous region is rich with Mayan culture and natural beauty. And the dollar goes far in this lesser traveled region.