March 05, 2009, 7:22 p.m.
Officials from Sonora, Mexico, met with University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton and other university officials Thursday to assure them that students traveling to Sonora for spring break will be safe.
Last month, UA Dean of Students Carol Thompson sent an e-mail to all students to alert them about a travel advisory from the U.S. State Department warning of increased border violence related to Mexican drug wars.
The alert advised students to avoid traveling in Mexico during spring break.
Epifanio Salido, director of the Sonora office of tourism said he believes the message was “misinformation.”
“It’s only to be aware, like being aware in Miami, like being aware in south Phoenix,” Salido said at a news conference at the Mexican Consulate here following the meeting with Shelton.
The Sonoran officials presented information to UA about how to travel safely in Mexico. The information includes a brochure with important phone numbers, such as 066 for emergencies and 078 if a car breaks down.
“The Sonoran representatives wanted to convey their sincere commitment to safety for students,” Thompson said.
Another meeting between Sonora and university officials and students is planned after spring break.
“We look forward to continued collaboration on binational issues that impact the university and the region,” said Johnny Cruz, director of media relations for the university.
The university’s spring break is March 14-22.
In past years, thousands of students have traveled to Mexican cities including Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, which is about 212 miles from Tucson along the Gulf of California coast.
“What’s important is that the university opened the doors” to listen to officials’ concerns, Salido said.
Salido said 98 percent of tourists who visit Sonora are American.
Seventy-two percent of them are from Arizona and they spend about $100 a day while visiting, Salido said.
“That is why we are here, because of how important Arizona is for us,” Salido said. “Sonora is different from Tijuana. Sonora is different from Chihuahua. Sonora is safer for tourism.”