I decided I needed a little R&R after a few rough weeks at work, so I took a drive down to South Padre Island. There’s really nothing special about South Padre…it’s just a touristy island with a bunch of condos and hotels that mostly cater to college spring breakers. There’s no quaintness or history and it is so built up that there is hardly any space between each building. The beach is better than Corpus Christi, but it’s nothing compared to Mexico. Once you go to Caribbean beaches, you’re spoiled, that’s for sure. But hearing the waves roll up on the shore always recharges my batteries and that’s what I needed.
It’s about a 5-1/2 hour drive from San Marcos, so I drove down one highway and then went down to the border to drive back up on another highway. Even though all the scenery looks exactly the same in South Texas, it just makes me feel like I’m mixing it up a bit when I take different routes.
Yes, that’s right…I said “went down to the border.” As many of my readers already know, I’ve crossed the border at Nuevo Progreso to do some shopping a few times. I posted my first trip there on my old blog, which you can see here:
It’s been awhile since I’ve been there, so since I was in the area, I thought I’d stop by for another visit. Highway 281 is literally right on the border and you can often see the border fence as you drive along. There are many homes in this area which have the border fence in their backyard which would seem pretty strange to me, but I guess they get used to it.
It’s a very Mexican influenced area of Texas, which is evident by the tiny colorful cemeteries you see along the way. They just appear here and there and don’t cover much ground. It kind of makes me wonder what the protocol is in deciding where a cemetery is going to be. You can’t just arbitrarily bury people anywhere, right?
You park in a big lot on this side of the Rio Grande River for $2.00 for the whole day. It was packed today. I’m guessing people were doing some Christmas shopping. There was virtually no one driving into Mexico as is evident here.
As opposed to those who were going from Mexico into the United States. The line was backed up all the way over the river and into the town.
You have to go through a turnstyle for 50 cents and walk over the river. I think Nuevo Progreso really values the winter Texans who aren’t afraid of crossing the border because there are a lot of them.
Here’s the river…
This is looking over the side of the bridge towards the Mexican side. People hang out here and beg for money from the people who pass over the bridge.
They put ball caps through the slats in the bridge hoping that someone will drop money into them.
Here’s the Mexico sign when you get into the town. Last time I was here, it was all gray. Now it’s the colors of their flag, which I like better.
I’ll have to admit that when I walk into Nuevo Progreso, I am so overwhelmed with streetside people bombarding me with their wares and trying to get me to buy drugs (the legal kind), dentistry and eyeglass services, that I just escape into one of the “normal” stores to get my bearings. Here’s one of those stores that has just about everything.
Michael Kors purses. (Well, I’m sure they’re not really Michael Kors purses for only $40.00, but who in the United States is going to know, right?)
Here’s another big store that I’ve gotten some things at. I would actually like to have this pig BBQ, but I wouldn’t want to carry it across the river.
Same with the sinks. Luckily, I have a Mexican sink in my bathroom, so I don’t need another one. It really does making going into your bathroom a little more pleasant.
These seemed to be a popular artistic trend. You would definitely need a theme for this somewhat depressing picture. And do they have Holland-like windmills in Mexico??
Another street scene…
Another street scene…
I decided to stop for lunch. I noticed the prices of drinks on the back of the menu. Considering how expenses mixed drinks have gotten in the United States, I couldn’t believe how inexpensive these drinks were.
I stuck with a Mexican basic, though, with my enchiladas verdes.
I was sitting on an outside porch area of the restaurant, which just invites all the young vendors to come by to sell their wares. I am just a wimp when it comes to this and a total soft sell. The only thing I ask from them is a smile. How can you say “no” to this?
And another sweetie. What a different life these children lead than what we’re used to in the states. It’s a whole different world.
This guy was trying to sell his wares to the cars in line to cross the border.
And my final visitor during lunch. I apologize for the fuzzy photo, but I had to include it because he was quite the character. He came up to me asking if I wanted my shoes shined.
Sidebar: After I had been walking around for about 15 minutes in town, one of my flip flops came loose at the toe and was basically unwearable. There I was, walking around dirty Nuevo Progreso with one bare foot. Gross!! I had to find a pair of shoes fast! I went into one shop and they had a “huge” selection of about five sandals, only one of which was my size. I didn’t have much choice because I had to have something! They wouldn’t have been my style of choice but when you’re in a pinch, you have to adapt. Luckily, they were very comfortable for tromping around town.
Anyway, it was pretty comical when the little guy came around to see if I wanted my shoes shined. I had to pass on that one.
He sat down and proceeded to tell me that he was hungry. I would have shared my enchiladas verdes (and chips) with him, but the waiter had already taken them away. I told him that maybe he needed to go home. I imagine these people have a very difficult life surviving here and rely very much on us gringos providing their meager wages.
Another street scene…
I wasn’t in the market for one of these…
These sure smelled good…
There are quite a few women who sit on the street with just a cup begging for money. Many of them have children in their laps. I don’t feel comfortable taking their picture, but just wanted to get one to show that this happens.
As in most Mexican towns, Nuevo Progreso has musicians. Another fuzzy photo, but these guys were very entertaining.
Lots of cosmetic and salon services available here…
I think I scared the heck out of this guy when I took his picture because he wasn’t expecting it. He was cutting up cactus to sell.
Decorative veggie cutters. I bought one of these last time I was there and have never used it once…haha!
They sell just about everything down here…
Tortilla presses and molcajetes…
Lots and lots of food vendors…
The side streets of Nuevo Progreso are much less traveled. I’ve never been down one and I never see any other visitors going down them. When I was thinking of coming here this time, I e-mailed the CEO of the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce to see if it was still safe. She told me that the outlying areas could be “tense,” but that there were no problems within the town. I hope that doesn’t change because these people need the business of Americans.
Lots of clothes available…
Here’s the main street. It’s a very noisy, dirty, dusty town, and excrutiatingly hot in the summer. There is not one blade of grass anywhere in the downtown area.
I don’t know whether this guy was making these for himself or selling them.
Shoe shining is a big deal in Mexico…
I have no idea what these are for and I wasn’t about to ask because if you do, then you’ll be pulled into a whole discussion of pricing and I just didn’t want to go there…especially since I knew I didn’t want one.
So here I am on my way back over the bridge. It’s only 35 cents to go back into the United States. I wonder how they figure that out…50 cents to get into Mexico and 35 cents to get out of Mexico. Weird.
The long line of cars going into the United States has gone down since I’ve been here.
On the side going back to the United States, the bridge is all fenced in…no open views to the river.
But the lines to go through customs were long! I’ve been here three times and this is the first time I’ve had this long of a wait. Oh, well, it was worth it. I always feel like I get good deals there and it’s always an adventure. I especially like to hear the reactions when I tell people I’m going to the border. “Are you crazy??” Haha..yeah, I guess I am. But that’s okay with me.