Spring breakers staying in Texas

March 18, 2009 4:58:38 PM PDT
From Cancun to South Padre Island, Spring Break is a busy time of year at the beach. Students from Texas and across the country are along the border, but many aren't crossing it.The recession, Hurricane Dolly, and travel warnings at the Mexican border have had little impact here. There are just as many spring breakers this year as in years past, but unlike in years past they are staying right here.

There is a time for families here on South Padre Island. This isn't that time though.

Spring breakers have taken over here. Over 40,000 of them this spring break.

"It's lovely. It's lovely. I am thinking about moving here," said Jerome Phillips.

Despite their proximity to Mexico, just a 30-minute drive to Matamoros, very few leave the beach for the trip. The ones that do make the trip, go warily across the international bridge.

"I was scared because there are shootings going on in Mexico," said Amanda Fenton.

Fenton's parents warned her not to cross the border and yet she was here with four classmates from Oklahoma.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought," said Fenton.

Fenton and her four friends had Matamoros to themselves. Spring breakers just aren't coming here from Brownsville or South Padre to explore. The signs here point to a tourism information center, but the vacant, run-down office shows you just how much tourism is down.

"It used to be thousands and thousands (of students)," said store owner Manuel Garcia.

Garcia's has run his business for 63 years. This year, his shop is a little emptier and the bar a lot emptier. The days when the street out front was clogged with thousands of spring breakers is a fading memory.

Years of drug cartel-fueled violence on the Mexican border and State Department travel warnings this year have virtually shut that down.

The American Consul General of Matamoros, a mother herself, said Matamoros shouldn't be off limits, but does understand the caution.

"If there is an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire, that's where the danger is," said Cecelia Herrera.

There is a police presence in Matamoros, but it's far less than we saw in Cancun earlier this week. We're told the Mexican military patrols the streets at night, but the streets were empty of police during the day.

Back on South Padre Island, it's not carefree. Police have averaged 23 arrests a night, mostly for public intoxication, but when you consider 40,000 people are here, then 23 arrests isn't too many.

- Headlines at a glance