When we told our neighbors we would be staying in the Rio Grande Valley on the border with Mexico, they were afraid for us. It’s true that the news from south of the border has been frightening, terrifying, horrifying. Bodies thrown in the street, heads found far from the torso they came from, kidnap victims never seen again. We have enjoyed many visits to Mexico over the years - short ones on cruises and lengthy journeys driving through the country by RV. We have loved Mexico - the friendly family oriented people, great food, wonderful scenery, great beaches, Mayan ruins. But these days we wouldn’t feel comfortable driving our rig into Mexico. The violent drug cartels have no interest in us, but it would be too easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have friends who stay here in the valley regularly, who we met for the first time on a trip through Mexico. Every time we get together a frequent topic of conversation is how badly we feel about what's happening there and how much we would like to go back.
And so we had to satisfy our desire to revisit Mexico by walking across the border to Neuevo Progreso. It appears that the sole purpose of this town is to service the needs of us Winter Texans. Business has been so good there, that the nearby town of Donna lobbied to build another international bridge to encourage a similar tourist pilgrimage. The federales were not excited about having to staff another border crossing, so the locals raised extra funds to make it all happen. But then there was 2008. No one was in the mood to go shopping, the drug lords made all those headlines, and now the international bridge at Donna is languishing.
But we were happy to see that Nuevo Progreso is still doing just fine. We paid $2 to park the car, $.25 to walk across the bridge and there we were. After getting used to the aggressive vendors who sold us great stuff in Turkey, we were lulled by the gentle chant of, “manicures, pedicures, hair cut, shoe shine, dentist, drugs” as we walked past the touts for these economically prices services. The side walks were full of geezers taking advantage of the low fees. It seemed like every other building was a pharmacy; no prescriptions needed. Many of our fellow campers were waiting to get affordable crowns and root canals. Our one previous encounter with a Progeso dentist involved getting a new filling, which fell out by the time we got home. We’re glad we can afford to pay the price at home and can pass the medicos by.
Mexicans are a creative people. After all our visits here we already own most of the brightly colored handicrafts that appeal to us, but it’s still fun to wander from shop to shop looking for what’s new. Recycling and reusing is always in evidence here. Purses made from folded and woven magazine pages, hats made from cut up beer cans, scraps of leather left overs stitched together into fashionable garments. These folks know how to squeeze a peso.
We enjoyed a great meal at a restaurant with linen table cloths, tuxedoed waiters and live music. A multi course lunch complete with margarita and coffee came in for less that $25. It’s hard for a gringo not to love Progreso. Hope that some day we can resume our love affair with the rest of Mexico.