My favorite academic experience was my internship that I completed in a small village outside of Merida. I met once a week with a woman who started a fair trade co-op. By the end of the experience, I had improved my knowledge of life in her small village, her co-op, improved my Spanish speaking abilities, and made a new friendship.
In recent months, American media has been full of troubling stories about drug violence in Mexico. However, students interested in the Central College Abroad Merida program should not let the news get them down. In contrast to other regions of the country, Yucatán is a safe and culturally rich corner of Mexico. The area has been recognized for its relative peace and security.
As of February 2012, the State Department has changed the way information is presented about Mexico. While the travel warning remains in effect, safety information is now given on a state-by-state basis. The states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche and Chiapas, which is where program activities take place, have all been labeled: No advisory is in effect.
The Washington Post recently published an article about Merida titled “Mexico beyond the drug violence,” praising the city as a haven of peace and cultural pride:
Merida - slogan "city of peace" - is not one of the main routes for drug trafficking. Residents can't take credit for that, but they take pride in their urban culture and the low rate of violent crime. Meridians are deeply proud of their tradition of civility and "tranquilidad." What's dangerous in Merida, residents know and the tourists who come here learn, is eating too many habanero peppers or other good food.
A message from the Merida resident director
As resident director, I constantly monitor the local and national news to remain abreast of what is happening locally and throughout the regions where we travel when planning, implementing and supervising our program-sponsored field trips and when helping students plan their own trips. All independent travel must be approved by me. Please believe me when I say that I and everyone involved in Central College Abroad take our responsibilities for student safety very seriously.
At the same time, I and all of the program staff here in Merida emphasize safety during our orientation session and whenever we are traveling as a group or when students are traveling independently. We stress the importance of using good common sense and the need to be alert and aware of our surroundings at all times. Students are also required to have their cell phones working and with them as an additional safety precaution. This is common to all of Central’s overseas programs.
I am always available to answer specific questions about safety or any other aspects of the program. Please feel free to contact me via telephone or email.
Evelyn Nadeau, Clarke University
Associate professor of Spanish and language and literature department chair
Nadeau visited Merida January 2011.
"One of the reasons I wanted to visit the Merida program was because of the concerns I know students and their families have,” says Nadeau. “I wanted to be able to say that I'd been there and could absolutely assure everyone that it's safe. And, it is definitely safe!”
Nadeau brought her 14-year-old son to Merida for the visit.
“My son and I walked all over, even at night, and never had a bit of trouble or any feeling of insecurity,” says Nadeau. “My only advice would be to use the same common sense you use when you go to a big city like Chicago — be aware of your surroundings, suspicious of those who seem overly friendly too quickly, and don't do anything that compromises your awareness and alertness."