Updated on January 9, 2017
From Texas to Mexico: Crossing the Border cont.
I lived in Texas most of my life. Thinking about it now, I am puzzled that I didn’t visit Mexico before this year. When I was a senior in high school, a good friend at the time, mentioned that we could go and visit her family for our senior trip. I was very excited, but she got a boyfriend and decided to get married instead. A few years ago after a family trip, we discussed going to Mexico together. That year all the violence was publicized. We changed our mind and Mexico disappeared from my radar. Ironically, it seemed too far away.
Since travelling internationally, I realize how small the world is. It is all a matter of perception. Going to Mexico no longer seems like a difficult undertaking. It is as simple as putting gas in the car, good music on the radio and grabbing my passport. Getting up the next morning after visiting Piedras Negras, Mexico, we got in the car and headed north to our next stop.
Del Rio, Texas to Cuidad Acuna, Mexico
Driving into town, I began to look for a gigantic Mexican flag. I wasn’t sure if all Mexican border towns had one, but I welcomed the idea. Alas, I didn’t see anything. In fact, the road to the international bridge was not very interesting at all. There were no stores or markets like we had seen the previous day. All you could do was drive to the bridge and over into Mexico. The town was very quiet, but there were plenty of Mexican military officers around the bridge. We drove a few blocks and around the corner, (so that I can say I have driven in Mexico) and found parking.
We took off walking through the main square filled with dentist offices and other pharmacies. This town had more independent businesses selling Mexican souvenirs. I read that there were a few bars and restaurants that were very popular with tourist a few years ago, but they had to close their doors due to the lack of visitors in the last few years. Walking past them was sad, but then I saw the sign for the Oficina de Turismo!
I walked in, using my bad Spanish, and asked where was the office. The lady kindly led us to the door leading upstairs. Thankfully, I did not have to use my Spanish. The young man there answered all of our questions in English and made sure to tell us repeatedly “It is safe. It is safe.” He recommended taking a taxi to see Lake Amistad. What he said was the largest lake in Mexico.
We decided to make a mini tour of the city by ourselves before going out to the Lake. The people were very helpful with our questions and after have lunch in the square, riding the mini bus, and going to the supermarket, we were ready to go to the Lake. The first taxi we hailed was willing to take us out to the lake. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I didn’t realize it was so far. The drive was worth it. If the pictures could only express how beautiful it was.
Progreso, Texas to Nuevo Progreso, Mexico
SNOWBIRDS! That was the first thing out of my mouth about one mile away from the border. License plates from Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Minnesota, Idaho, and so many northern states, you would not believe it unless you have seen something like it before. There were older people on walkers, in wheelchairs, on canes and hobbling across the border. We were arriving right in the middle of rush hour bridge crossing traffic. The hawkers in front of the stores, on the main street, knew it and they were out full force.
“Manicures. Pedicures. Medicines for you. Dentist for you. The best one in town.” Everyone was selling something. The sidewalks were crowded with people. I loved it. In the other cities, it seemed that the noise level went down once you crossed the border, here it went way up. Restaurants, bars, Mexican souvenirs and plastic surgery, whatever you want, you can get it walking down the main street of Nuevo Progreso.
Bean stopped in as many stores as I would let her. She spent every penny she had on the first sweet, shiny things she found. My mom only wanted a bakery and I needed real food. We went to a side street and at the persuasion of the family yelling “Tacos and Lonches” we sat down for lunch. Having never heard of lonches before, we asked for an explanation. The gentleman told us it was a sandwich with meat, cabbage, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and avocado. For the price, we decided to have a plate of tacos and a plate of lonches. The first bite melted in our mouth. In minutes, we devoured our shared plates of food and decided to order more lonches. The proprietors were thrilled. The man sitting at the next table seemed to enjoy us as well, watching us like we were a T.V. show.
The whole time we were at our table eating, there was a steady stream of individuals, young and old, looking to make a dime. A young girl came in and started to touch our hair. Bean was somewhat shy for a short time. When the girl wanted to sell her last few pieces of gum, Bean gave her the only two quarters she had. She received 6 pieces of gum. Bean thought she won the lottery. As soon as she could, she began to stuff her face full of little pieces of gum. My mother and I said thanks for a great meal as we left completely full. We still wanted to find that bakery!
Leaving the city center, it was much quieter. The residents went on with their lives while the tourist looked for a great deal. After asking a few people where to find the bakery, we located one with freshly baked sweet breads. The prices were great and we chose the most colorful cookies and breads. Once again, my Spanish helped me, but I still wanted clarification when it came to the correct price in pesos. The baker was kind enough to write it down for me and we happily paid and left to enjoy our treats.
We did so much in three days, and yet there was more to do. I will definitely plan a trip to Mexico in the future. I must start working on improving my Spanish again so that I make it easier for anyone who has to listen to me. I am thankful that even though there are bad things, crazy things in the news about Mexico, we didn’t encounter one negative event. Not one! Every single interaction that we had, and because I asked a lot of questions there were many, was positive. Whether we were paying for services or asking directions, we were treated with hospitality. One gentleman told us if we needed any help at all,come back to see him and he would do whatever he could to help us. He blessed us, as did many of the people, and that touched me. Meeting people like that gives me a desire to keep traveling. So I am off again on another adventure!