Trouble In Paradise

There was a disturbing story this past week concerning a Wisconsin family’s tragedy in Cancun, Mexico. The family arrived at an all-inclusive resort and within hours their two college aged kids, who had gone to the pool for drinks and a swim, were found floating face down in the water. Their daughter was unconscious with a low pulse and foam coming out of her mouth. She was eventually flown to Florida, declared brain dead, and taken off life support. The son survived with a forehead injury and severe concussion. Both had alcohol levels over twice the legal limit for driving in the U.S. The son related that the last thing he remembers before waking up in an ambulance is being invited to take a shot of Jägermeister mixed with Red Bull by a group of men at the bar.

Questions abound as to whether the two were drugged or served dangerous, unregulated booze. Regardless of the reason for their blackouts, other stories have surfaced which shine a harsh light on the tourist scene south of the border. A 2015 report found that 43% of all alcohol consumed in Mexico is illegal hooch produced under unregulated conditions and potentially dangerous. Dozens of travelers have reported similar blackouts, with many questioning how they could become incapacitated so quickly and wondering whether they were targeted. There have been reports of robbery, sexual assault and extortion in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and other resorts.

This is sobering news considering the number of Americans that visit these resorts annually. I have visited Cancun myself and can certainly see how the combination of carefree tourists, booze and unscrupulous operators could have a negative consequence. At one popular party spot, I recall – fortunately – scoffing numerous times at the suggestion that I should join the conga line atop the bar and take a big gulp of whatever it was the smiling barista at the end of the line was proffering.  That I ended up doing precisely that is testament to one’s loss of inhibition when thrust in to the middle of a seemingly innocuous alcohol fueled celebration. (Perhaps that’s why tourists on Bourbon Street don’t seem to mind the stench of garbage and, what, piss, vomit, excrement?)

Of course the real story could be that the two kids – young adults – just got carried away and drank too much. It is almost inconceivable that one Jägerbomb, or even a few, could result in an alcohol level that high. But there is a lesson to be learned. Stay away from the anonymous concoctions offered at these types of resorts and stick to bottled beer and watch the bartender pour the alcohol for mixed drinks from the bottle. Of course even then you can’t know if the booze has been replaced with a cheaper, illegal substitute. It’s probably best to have a “designated driver” of sorts, a person who will maintain a sufficient level of sobriety to keep an eye on the group. Here’s a tip. Next time you decide to book a Mexican vacation invite a non-drinking friend. If you can find one.

Just be sure to exercise situational awareness at all times and don’t over indulge.

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