Mexican border city hopes to lure spring breakers

By Olga R. Rodriguez

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, March 9 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

"If I see a group of three or four spring breakers, I will have to take a picture with them because that would be a rare sighting," Raul Garcia, general manager of the Garcia's complex, said as two customers perused his souvenir shop packed with colorful clay dolls, ceramic vases and plates.

"It will be difficult (to get them back), but we need to let people know people still live, work and have fun here."

In a sign that fear may be easing, parade participants from nearby Brownsville, Texas, crossed last week into Matamoros to join the annual Charro Days festivities. Such scenes were common several years ago, when floats decorated with the U.S. and Mexican flags, dancing horses and marching bands would parade through Brownsville and cross the bridge to join participants in Matamoros' parade. Together they would march and dance down the city's main avenue toward downtown, where the binational celebration lasted for hours.

Even in Ciudad Juarez, where killings have declined from 3,075 in 2010 to 483 last year, officials are making efforts to increase border crossings from El Paso, Texas. Once dubbed the most violent city in the hemisphere, Juarez has opened a visitors' center in El Paso and plans to offer shuttle services from there by the end of this year.

But authorities north of the border are not swayed. A State Department travel advisory cautioning Americans about visiting Mexico remains in place as cities still deal with cartel violence that has kept heavily armed soldiers patrolling the Mexican border.

The Texas Department of Public Safety also cautions the thousands of Spring Breakers visiting the state this month to stay put, as it has the last few years.

"We have a responsibility to inform the public about safety and travel risks and threats," the state agency said in a statement, citing the "the unpredictable nature of cartel violence and other criminal elements."

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