Thousands of college students have converged on Cancun for spring break. While drug violence may pose a risk in some regions of Mexico, the big problem for students at the beach is “being too drunk,” said Chris Palumbo, a student spending spring break in Cancun with friends.
Palumbo, 21, was one of the few students not holding a can or beer or plastic cup full of alcohol one morning.
For most students in Mexico for spring break the biggest threat is excessive drinking, not the drug gangs who have grabbed headlines in some regions.
“They cut your limbs off and sell your organs on Craig's list. I''m just kidding," said a smiling student who said his name was Eric Dempsey and then “DJ Hazy Hays.”
He joined another friend and gulped down big drinks.
On stage, girls in bathing suits with a beer logo on them danced to loud music as a DJ announced, “We’re going to get the drinking contests underway now.”
For plenty of students the drinking was well underway before noon. One smiling student waved a nearly empty tequila bottle as he stumbled through the sand.
“Your system just gets used to it,” said Zach Sklar, 21.
Every year on its website, the U.S. State Department offers safety tips for students heading to Mexico for spring break.
In the advisory titled “Know Before You Go,” the state department states alcohol is involved “in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on spring break.”
Calls to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to check on any crimes reported during spring break this year were not returned.
"Don't go with random people," said Morgan Peri, a 20-year-old student who shared her own common sense approach to staying safe. She and other friends stay in a group and watch out for each other.
“You have to pace yourself,” said Chris Palumbo one the friends in the group.
Binge drinking can also lead to accidents.
"Going out there if I was too drunk," said Palumbo pointing at at the ocean, "I wouldn't have come back."
Warning signs posted along the banks of the lagoon highlight another possible hazard for intoxicated students: crocodiles.
A few years ago a college student from Texas who decided to relieve himself in the lagoon was bitten by a crocodile. His injuries were not life threatening.
Police said the student from Dallas had been drinking heavily at several bars before he waded into the lagoon. The trip to the hospital may have kept him from spending time in the local jail.
"It's about 36 hours for a misdemeanor" for public intoxication, said Carmen Perez, an officer working at the Cancun police station in the hotel zone.
Out on the strip lined with bars and nightclubs, an officer on patrol said police give students the same advice every year, "Have fun but don't drink too much."
Across the street a busload of students pulled up to nightclub. Some had been drinking on the beach all day. A group of three young men stumbled off the bus and yelled "Spring Break 2013!