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Mexican vacation? Much more than beaches and violence

Just ask Malia Obama, whose recent visit is helping to resuscitate tourism.

But the US travel warnings site states “no advisory is in effect” for Oaxaca.

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(The White House had asked media to scrub stories about Malia’s visit due to an age-old policy barring media from covering the president’s children when they are unaccompanied by their parents. But after an earthquake struck Mexico, officials felt obliged to comment, announcing that Malia, Obama’s eldest daughter, was safe.)

Across the border from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas — which does bear the shame of a high advisory warning — lies the American town of Harlingen, Texas. Jo Liston runs a travel agency in Harlingen called Go…with Jo! None of her travelers has been a victim of violence in Mexico, she said, but that hasn’t mattered much. Her business to Mexico, which was once booming, has all but vanished.

Liston recently visited Puerto Vallarta, where an annual tourism fair was taking place — the fair had relocated to the port city after a quarter-century of Acapulco serving as the host. Llanes, the tourism board marketer, said American buyers at the fair had increased by 50 percent from 2011.

While there, Liston said, she sensed a feeling of optimism about the Mexico travel industry for the first time in years.

She wondered if that sentiment soon would be reaching Americans back home.

“It’s too bad because it really is a beautiful country. I’ve never had any problems,” Liston said.

“But that’s not what they’re reading, or what they’re seeing.”