“Way down here you need a reason to move
Feel a fool running your stateside games
Lose your load, leave your mind behind, Baby James
It sounds so simple I just got to go
The sun’s so hot I forgot to go home
Guess I’ll have to go now…”
“…Oh, down in Mexico
I never really been so I don’t really know
I guess I’ll have to go…”
As James Taylor sang, there is a lure to visiting Mexico when you spend so much time on the other bank of the Rio Grande River in Texas. While Betty & I have stayed at a resort in Puerto Vallarta, we were a little more apprehensive about visiting a border town, especially with all the negative press about drugs, gang violence, and corruption in Mexico.
Here on South Padre Island, many visitors make the day trip to the other side, so we took up the offer of a nice couple from Sutton, Ontario, to go with them and their Clint Eastwood look-alike friend from Newmarket, Ontario, to Nuevo Progreso Mexico. While there are closer crossings, the hour and a half drive to Progeso, Texas took us through some of the farm country that borders the Rio Grande River, with the border fence curiously stopping and starting along the way, presumably to provide river access for the adjacent farmers.
Once in Progreso, we parked our vehicles and walked across the short bridge to Nuevo Progreso, joining hundreds of other North American tourists who filled the sidewalks of the border town. The Customs check was so minimal I don’t remember it, but before we knew it we were walking the streets of a very different land. On both sides were drug stores catering to anyone who wanted cheap pharmaceuticals which elsewhere are sold by prescription only, but are there sold over the counter at a fraction of the price. Interspersed were dentist offices (stores?) where one can receive everything from a cleaning to a root canal at a much lower price. And on every block, both sides of the crowded sidewalks were full of local vendors, selling everything you could imagine, along with some unimaginable items!! Now living in a motorhome with limited space, we had to take a disciplined approach, not picking up the many hand-carved and hand-painted keepsakes being sold at discount rates.
While we appreciated the industrious nature of the locals in Nuevo Progreso, the underlying poverty was extremely disconcerting, to the point where it has taken a few days to process the experience. Under the circumstances I felt uncomfortable taking pictures of any of the inhabitants, so there are no photographs connected to this post. Now we have been, I wish I could join James Taylor in singing:
I never really been but I’d sure like to go
I guess I’ll have to go now.”