FALCON LAKE, Texas — Despite a bloody drug war raging just across the border, some Americans living near Mexico act as if it's still a backyard playground.
In the last two weeks alone, two American tourists have been killed in Mexico in vicious attacks — one while riding a personal watercraft and another when his bus was hijacked. And a Mexican police commander investigating one of those deaths was killed this week, his severed head delivered in a suitcase to a local army post.
But Texas officials keep encouraging boaters to enjoy the bass fishing on a border lake. And Gov. Rick Perry has not urged people to take any special precautions, suggesting only that U.S. and Mexican authorities increase the law enforcement presence in the area.
"There's like a psychological aspect to these kinds of warnings, that folks just don't take them seriously, or perhaps they believe the authorities are simply issuing these for liability reasons," said Fred Burton, vice president for intelligence at Stratfor Global Intelligence, which analyzes the drug war.
"There are people that say, 'Well, I know this area. I'm comfortable. Nothing will ever happen to me.' "
Tiffany and David Hartley may have been two of those people. They were working in Reynosa, a Mexican border town rife with drug violence, when Hartley's company moved them to McAllen, Texas, just across the Rio Grande, for safety.
The couple decided to ride personal watercraft across Falcon Lake, which is divided by the border, to photograph a historic church. They were on their way home when pirates opened fire, killing Hartley, according to Tiffany Hartley.
Just days later, a student from the University of Texas-Brownsville was shot and killed in Mexico. Jonathan William Torres, 19, was one of two people killed when his bus was hijacked in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville.
The State Department has issued repeated travel warnings to Americans traveling to or living in Mexico, with a particular focus on the area just south of the border. The warnings say that kidnappings are occurring at "alarming rates" with U.S. citizens often the target.
In the days after Hartley disappeared, Texas officials stood on the shore of Falcon Lake and encouraged Texas boaters to enjoy the fishing on the American side.