Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2020

Spring break in Mexico is problematic and political

By GILLIAN LELCHUK | March 16, 2017


Beachfront Solutions/ CC BY-SA 2.0 Many students spend their spring breaks in Mexico without knowing the consequences.

Spring break is finally upon us, and for me, that means three things: Procrastination will rise to an all-time high, visits to the dog park will become essential and my newsfeed will be full of pictures of friends visiting places like Cabo and Puerto Rico.

Earlier this week, I was scrolling through Twitter, and I saw two screenshots of a white college-aged male’s Instagram. In the first picture, he and his two white friends stood in front of an American flag. The caption read, “Build the wall.” The second picture featured him downing a shot on a beach in Mexico, no caption needed.

That got me thinking.

This is supposed to be a week of fun, sun and relaxation, so by all means, lounge around on the beach. You’re a Hopkins student. You deserve some time off. But if you’re spending your well-earned break drinking a margarita in a Latin American country, at least think a little bit more about the political implications of your visit.

Tourism can be an incredibly important part of a country’s economy, but it’s also important to recognize the irony in American college students jetting off to Mexico while the President plans to build a border wall. Maybe you’re going just for the beautiful views, but when you use a foreign country as a vehicle for your alcohol-induced bikini snapshots, you actively participate in a narrative that excludes the people who live in those countries.

When you publicize Cabo as the place to be during spring break, you abuse Mexico and ignore the growing tension involved in immigration politics. If you support Trump’s border wall and spend your break in Mexico, you easily assert that this entire nation exists only for your enjoyment. If you don’t think Mexicans have a right to visit America, why should Americans have the right to visit Mexico?

You probably weren’t thinking about politics when you bought your plane tickets, and that’s fine. Spring break is supposed to be a break, and you shouldn’t have to think about politics and foreign affairs all the time. But you have to admit that something is wrong with this picture.

Your country’s official stance on foreign affairs is “America First,” the exact same slogan of a World War II era group that urged the United States to appease Hitler and ignore the plight of the European Jews. America First means we look after ourselves before anyone else. And America First means that our college students’ spring vacations are more important than the human rights issues that drive people to leave Latin American countries in the first place.

I’m not trying to blame you for having a good time. Immigration, xenophobia and human rights issues are obviously not the fault of any one spring breaker. But what happens when you add them all up? When you include the conservative white people who want Trump to build the wall? When you reduce entire nations to one city? Yeah, that can be a problem.

This isn’t meant to be a call to action or meant to call anyone out for spending their vacation in a certain way, because in the end you’re the only person who can decide whether or not you go to Cabo next week. Just keep in mind that your actions go beyond yourself, and when you travel abroad, in a way, you represent the entirety of the United States.

And don’t you want the world to see us as more than just drunk college students?

Gillian Lelchuk is a junior Writing Seminars and mathematics double major from Los Alamitos, Calif. She is the Opinions Editor.

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