Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Mexico: Yanqui, Behave! ; to Curb Teenage Drinking, Jurez Raises Age Limit to 21 for Its American Consumers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Mexico: Yanqui, Behave! ; to Curb Teenage Drinking, Jurez Raises Age Limit to 21 for Its American Consumers

Article excerpt

The southbound parade of cars packed with teens forms every Friday and Saturday night.

They come to this side of the US-Mexico border to party at watering holes promising liquor to anyone 18 years old and with a pocket full of greenbacks.

The allure is not new. But as communities on the American side of the border have gotten serious about enforcing the legal drinking age (21), the flow of youths going south has risen.

The problem of cross-border underage drinking has led to occasional US police clampdowns on inebriated youths returning north. And local communities have periodically held meetings to address this particular binational problem. But no Mexican authority has moved to help.

Until now.

In defiance of Mexican federal law and local bar owners, the governor of Chihuahua, Patricio Martnez, says bars in his state should stop serving liquor to foreigners who are minors.

No Texan, New Mexican, or

any other American kid 18 to 20 years old can be served a beer or a tequila at Ciudad Jurez nightspots, even though in Mexico they are adults.

"There's no reason Jurez should continue to be the cantina for El Paso, Texas' minors," says Governor Martnez in a statement released by his office.

By making his call, Martnez has taken flak for disregarding Mexican law - which establishes adulthood at 18 - and is seen as a party buster by some under-age American youths. But he has achieved almost hero status for some people on the northern side of the border, including educators and parents who see a foreign official they knew little about sticking his neck out to help them protect their kids.

"I salute [Martnez] for taking up this issue and trying to work with us," says Henry Dorantes, assistant principal of Coronado High School in El Paso. "Finally we have someone taking a stand."

Martnez's action also gets a thumbs up from the Mayor of El Paso, Carlos Ramrez, who says a "gentlemen's agreement" he worked out with Jurez bar owners last year was never respected. Following the governor's initiative last week, some bars on Jurez Street in downtown Jurez - popular in the day with US tourists seeking Mexican trinkets and at night with partying gringos - have put up signs prohibiting entry to US citizens under 21.

But the governor has opened a legal can of worms and suffered the criticism of Mexicans - including Jurez business leaders as well as the mayor - who ask which country's laws the governor took office to uphold.

The problem of cross-border, alcohol-tinted partying captured local attention after five El Paso youths returning from a night of drinking in Jurez were killed in a one-car accident Jan. …

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