Rocky Point still attracts Americans despite drug violence


by Angela Kocherga / 3TV Border Bureau

Posted on February 3, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 9 at 3:15 PM

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PUERTO PEÑASCO, Mexico -- Mexico's beaches have long been a favorite playground for Americans, but drug violence has many thinking twice about a trip to Mexico.

Nevertheless, plenty of people are still visiting their favorite vacation spots south of the border. Some tourists are even venturing into regions covered by State Department travel warnings.

Proximity made Puerto Peñasco a popular getaway. Known as Rocky Point to Americans, it's just an hour's drive south of the Arizona border.

“As soon as we walk in the house we're in a different world,” Christine Shea, a Tucson resident and Rocky Point homeowner.

There was a time when the beautiful beaches and perfect weather would have attracted a crowd in this area on the Sea of Cortez.

These days many people are afraid to visit. When it comes to drug violence in Mexico, clearly the beach is not the border, but even places like this one have felt an impact because of the perception that the entire country of Mexico is dangerous.

Violence has started to creep close to some destinations that are popular with Americans.

In 2010 the U.S. government warned travelers to only drive to Rocky Point during daylight hours due to reports of suspicious illegal check points on the highway.

Tourism plummeted. It fell even more after gunmen shot the police chief of the seaside town in 2010.

He survived but some worry the local economy is dying.

Vendors are struggling. Their message for tourists – the beach is safe. Come back.

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by Americans who love the place.

Rocky Point visitor Candy Thompson says, “Don't be afraid of Rocky Point. Please come down and support Rocky Point.”

Tourists have not been targeted by drug traffickers.

According to the State department, one U.S. citizen died in Rocky Point in 2011. The cause of death was a motorcycle accident.

A total of 109 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico in 2010, the vast majority were in regions coping with drug violence, not resorts.

Those who enjoy visiting Rocky Point never expected to see the vacation spot listed in a travel warning.

“I'm going to be careful where I should be careful and conservative and I'm not going to let that whether it's on a list or not deter me from enjoying what Mexico has to offer,” says one American visitor.

Tourism is a leading source of income in Mexico and the government there has an ad campaign to convince Americans it's safe to visit.