- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

CANCUN, Mexico — When she stepped off the plane from Philadelphia on Saturday, Tanishka Nadal had ambitious plans for spring break: "I want to have fun, but not tacky fun. Not like some college-girl-gone-wild."
But this is Cancun, where spring break excess is hard to escape.
Miss Nadal's hotel said it was too early to check in and sent her off to a welcome party where free drinks were flowing. A rum punch in one hand, the 19-year-old sophomore at Temple University went with the flow.
A voice came over the public-address system: "We need some sexy ladies dancing on the bar right now." Suddenly she was up there, writhing around in her bikini in a conga line of college students in various stages of drunkenness.
Saturday marked the start of the biggest week of the yearly ritual. Thousands of college students walked wide-eyed along the main strip, surveying the supply of alcohol and bare flesh that awaited them.
"I want to see something crazy, something I haven't seen before," said Chris Henderson, a 19-year-old freshman at Montgomery College in Rockville. "I want to have some fun, meet some girls and get a little drunk."
Across the bar, another group of four friends was way ahead of him. All had two drinks each and were sipping simultaneously through two straws. They had arrived in Cancun a day earlier and were in the spirit of things.
"We're just busy getting wasted and getting naked," said Carli Digenaro, a 23-year-old from New York who wasn't going to school but wanted a break, too. "I've been here 24 hours, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job."
Asked what her biggest accomplishment had been, she said a bar had given her a pass to drink free for a week. Asked why, she said, "these," and pulled down her bikini top.
Her friend Sonny Grancagnolo, 25, from the University of Arizona, was working on his tan and his buzz at the same time. Shirtless in the outdoor bar, he was several pina coladas into his afternoon.
"The main rule here: It's not premarital sex if you don't plan to get married," he screamed.
Surrounding tables hooted in approval.
The numbers of students on spring break is far down this year from previous years; estimates range from 30 percent to 50 percent. Terrorism-related fears of travel and a troubled economy have kept many home for the holiday.
For Cancun's tourism industry, that means trouble.
"Since September 11, Cancun fell into a hole," said Rudy Canet, 34, a master of ceremonies at the Bar del Mar. "After this spring break, I'm leaving."
But most of the revelers don't even notice. There are plenty to pack a dozen enormous clubs every night, and there is no shortage of alcohol.
Also, some college students said they had been dreaming of spring break in Cancun for years and that the low turnout created discounts they couldn't pass up.
"I've been watching Cancun on MTV all my life, and I've always wanted to come," Miss Nadal said. "It just looks like everybody's having such a good time."


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