Shopping in Mexico
Along the Rio Grande

Progresso, Mexico

February 26th, 2000

When we were staying in Harlingen (Texas) at the Tropic Winds RV Park we heard people talking about going to Progresso, Mexico. We contemplated it with some trepidation. We had been to Mexico (Metamoros) sometime ago but this was a new town; What would we encounter? For anyone who has never been in to Mexico I remember our first time. We were filled with apprehensions about what it would be like. Would anyone there speak English? Would they let us across the border? Worse still, would they let us back? Would the natives be friendly to Americans? Worry, worry, worry!! If you're ever faced with this situation the first thing you want to do is talk with people who have gone there. Find out everything you can. Get a map, if possible. Usually you can get one wherever you are staying. If you have concerns about the language and want to try to communicate in Spanish, take along an English-Spanish dictionary (although I can assure you it isn't necessary). OK - we're armed (ah with the above - NEVER NEVER take any kind of gun into Mexico). With our good friends, Lynn and Sue Davis to guide us, we start towards the border, there are several parking lots just this side of the border crossing. We chose the one that seemed to be the most secure, and the easiest for egress going back home. (IF WE EVER GOT OUT OF MEXICO - quiet, insecurities). We got out of our car and joined the many other people, on foot, walking across the bridge. (I might add that it is possible to drive into Progresso, but I really don't advise it. You have to get special car insurance and everything is so close you really don't need transportation after you get there.) We had to pay 25 per person to get through the amusement park-type turnstile. As we started to walk across the bridge that spans the Rio Grande River and got to the Mexican side we started noticing kids that were underneath the bridge. Someone had told us that these people under the bridge were outcasts. They were part Mexican and part Indian and no one would accept them, so they lived under the bridge and begged for money. We never asked any locals about this but it did make a rather heart wrenching story. Here was this small army of people, mostly children, down below begging for money. Of course, we had been warned not to give the beggars any money or we would be inundated with beggars. Some of the kids under the bridge had gotten very resourceful and had long poles with plastic milk jugs cut open so you could easily drop money into them and it wouldn't get lost. Sue couldn't see these children without giving them something. Finally, she ran out of quarters and we went on our way. As we crossed the bridge there was store after store of everything you can ever imagine. They had stalls on the edges of the sidewalks, and small stores. You could buy silver jewelry, hats, hurraches (or Mexican leather shoes), small handmade wooden folding tables. Of course, you couldn't pay whatever they were asking, you had to barter for everything. If you are a person who likes to barter this is the place for you. Actually, it is an understood rule that you are going to barter, so consequently they raise their prices knowing this. And you barter, understanding this. (HUH?) As you would walk along your senses would be assaulted by strange odors; cooking foods, herbs being sold (one man was walking along with large strings of fresh garlic around his neck - and NO he was not running off Vampires). Again, we found a number of small children, and women sitting along the sidewalk begging for money. Some of the children were playing very small accordions and singing. Also, included in this assault on your senses was Mexican music being piped out of one store, after another. We danced on the sidewalk to one of the songs and had Mexicans and tourists alike smiling. I'm still trying to find out what "Loco Gringo" means. Hmmmm. One of the things that surprised me was the stands that sold frozen Margaritas that you can drink while walking along the street. They came out of a machine that looked like a Slushy Machine. These actually were some of the best Margaritas I had had. Interspersed in between the many tourist stores were pharmacies everywhere. We found out that a large number of Americans come to Mexico with the specific purpose of buying medications you can get in Mexico either cheaper than in the U.S. or without a prescription. Everywhere in the pharmacies were large signs for Viagra. You can also get antibiotics, pain medicine, etc. Many of the drugs sold were actually the ones put out by the American manufacturers but some were the Mexican equivalent. We checked for the medicines we take, just to see what the cost was, and one was a lot cheaper but it was the Mexican equivalent so we decided not to risk it. If you decide you want to purchase you might check for certain, but we were told by an undocumented source that you are only supposed to buy a month's supply of any drug to bring back into the U.S. Also, there are liquor stores that have cheap prices on a lot of their alcohol, but again I believe there is a limit as to how much you are allowed to bring back. Along with the stores along the streets there were passageways leading back to courtyards with more, yes you guessed it, stores. Lining these courtyards were benches for shopping-weary males to wait while their wives went off bargain hunting. Well, Laura saw this mechanical bull (OK it was really a mechanical cow) intended for small children but she got on it and wanted her picture taken. Well, the next thing we know four of the bored husbands seated on the bench across from her were up searching for quarters in their pockets and fighting over who would put the quarter in the machine to see this crazy woman ride this bull. Once again we were able to provide entertainment for our fellow tourists. Finally we were shopped out and started back to the border with all our booty. Just before we got to the border we spotted Arturo's Restaurant. We decided that we might as well eat a good "Last Meal" before we were all detained indefinitely at the border crossing. (A little insecure perhaps?) Well, we stepped inside only to see tuxedoed waiters, linen tablecloths, crystal, and silver. Oh-oh, big bucks. Oh well, you only get to Mexico once in awhile. As we were graciously seated we were given our menus and got a very pleasant surprise. The prices were extremely reasonable. We each ordered different Mexican dishes. The portions were plentiful, the food was well prepared and excellent. We paid our bill and walked the "last mile" to the border. What would happen? Would we get out? We walked up to the U.S. Customs Officer who asked us if we had anything to declare. (Since we had under the limit of alcohol they allowed us to take into the U.S., no cigarettes, and no drugs we were passed along). And they asked if we were U.S. citizens. At this point it is a good idea to have some ID with a picture on it. Driver's License are good. The next checkpoint we were required to pay Texas tax on the alcohol we had. (At this time it was about $1.25 per bottle). Then we were walking to our car. Wow, piece of cake. Maybe we'll come back tomorrow. (Don't you bet-shopping is not our favorite thing to do). All-in-all it was a great experience, and we highly recommend it if you get near enough to Mexico.