Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jam...and Nuevo Progreso, Mexico...

I apologize up front about the length of this blog post. I took lots of pictures when I went to Nuevo Progreso so I've included a LOT of them here. You can just scroll through fast if you get bored.

But first and foremost, I have to give a special thanks up front to Jamqueen for sending me some of her wonderful jams. Oh, my gosh...they truly ARE wonderful. The one on the left is Strawberry Rhubarb, the right is Blueberry Lime and the back one is Blackberry. My son was there when the box came today so we had to try them all out right away. Blueberry Lime...how crazy is that??? But what an incredible combination...the tartness of the lime is perfect with the sweetness of the blueberry.

I tried the Strawberry Rhubarb with peanut butter and it was great...really kicks up the ol' PB&J a notch or two...or three or four. I will never be able to go back to Welch's again. Thank you so much, Ann...you made my day! You truly are the Jamqueen!

Now, on to Mexico. When I drove down to South Padre Island, I decided to go along the southernmost highway along the border to get there. I got to an intersection where a sign indicated the international bridge was to the right. Being the curious person I am, I turned right to find a parking lot for $2.00 just before the bridge to Mexico. Since this was my first time here, I asked the woman at the parking booth, "What is here?" She looked at me like I was an idiot, and said, "Mexico." After a moment of silence, we both just laughed and I admitted it was my first time there and I didn't know what I was doing. She explained that I could park my car in the lot and walk over the bridge to Mexico as long as I had my passport. Since I had known I was going to be so close to the border, I threw my passport into my backpack before I left just in case, and was glad I did. I parked the car and proceeded to cross the border.

Before I get to that, here is what you see on the Texas side of the border...

Pretty much nothing. There are some gas stations, a few homes, lots of fields like this...

So I had no idea what to expect when I crossed over the Rio Grande. I will say that the adventure started out badly when I tried to take a picture of about six Homeland Security officers standing together and had the camera up to my face when one of them shouted, "Ma'am!! You are NOT allowed to take pictures!!!" Whoa. I put on my "I'm a stupid tourist" face and sheepishly apologized, putting my camera into my purse. (The last thing I wanted was for them to confiscate my camera.)

So then you have to go through these turnstyles to get to the bridge over the Rio Grande River. (Sidebar: This is actually a picture of the turnstyles going from Mexico back into the U.S. I didn't want to take any more pictures after being yelled at on the U.S. side, so I didn't get any shots of the U.S. turnstyles.)

It cost 25 cents. I didn't have a quarter. They had a change machine for one dollar bills. I didn't have a one dollar bill because I gave my only dollar bills to the parking lot attendant because I didn't know about the 25 cent turnstyle. I had plenty of 20's and 10's and 5's, but no stinkin' 1's. Damn. So I went back down to a little ice cream store they have just before the bridge. I went inside and asked if I could have a quarter for two dimes and a nickel and the girl scrounged through about three different baggies to find ONE quarter. Yes! I could finally cross the bridge.
So this is what the Rio Grande River looks like when you're walking over it.

So I get over the river into Mexico and no one has asked me for my passport. Since I have already had an experience of going to Mexico without going through immigration, I didn't want to do that again. So I walked back over the river to see if I missed something. I went into the duty-free store to ask the clerk and she told me, "They don't care who goes into Mexico...they only care about who comes out."

Okay, so back over the river I go. This is what you see when you get to the other side.

And these are the hats you see between the slats of the bridge from people begging for money.

The Mexico sign on the other side...

And this is the other side of the bridge.

And, BAM!! You are in Mexico. What an incredible contrast to what's on the other side of the border. Almost unbelievable...like crossing some kind of Twilight Zone.


Since I haven't been anywhere other than Isla Mujeres in Mexico, I didn't know what to expect. I was pretty nervous at first because it was SO much more congested and city-like...not to mention all the guns and tanks and things.

But as I walked around, I started to feel more relaxed because of the familiar smells and sounds. Like the bakeries...

Not to mention the vendors...



One of the things that surprised me was the incredible amount of people trying to get you to use the dental services there. They are pretty cheap considering this sign...

I talked with an American woman in one of the shops and she said she doesn't have dental insurance and goes to a Mexican dentist on a regular basis and loves him. Hmmm...food for thought.

A streetside taqueria...

They had lots of outdoor vendors, but also had BIG indoor stores. These places had prices on the items, so there was no bartering. But they had just about everything you could imagine at incredible prices. I saw a lot of the same things I've seen on Isla, but at much cheaper prices. And everything here was in U.S. dollars.



Plastic fruit...

Plastic donuts???

These ceramic vases were a great deal...they were about a foot-and-a-half wide and only cost $8.75. If you got something like this at Lowe's, it would cost you at least $75.00.

WARNING...WARNING!!! The next photo is rated...

I had to take a double-take in this aisle. Every single sexual position is represented right here for your pleasure...even including angels and devil statues. I spent hours in this aisle. Hahahah! I kid. Actually, I just had to make sure there wasn't anyone watching while I took pictures so that they didn't think I was some American pervert!

They even had saddles. That's some fancy horn, huh? Maybe cowboys come over the border to buy them here.

hey had lots of vendors selling food...

And a lot of vendors catering to the American customer...especially Texas as you can see here with the familiar Texas star...


I noticed that a lot of the children looked very serious and/or sad. As I became more familiar with the area, I tried to get them to smile and was successful a few times...


I had lunch at one of the nicer restaurants on the strip. The price was great...about $8.00, but I think they catered to Americans because it seemed more TexMex than authentic Mexican. Here are my chips and salsa. The salsa was WAY different than anything you'd get on Isla, but it was actually pretty good. More like a chili kind of flavor...

The green enchiladas I got were good, but, again...too Americanized. I should have gone to one of the little road-side taquerias instead.

But it was fun to sit there and watch everyone go by.

Here's my handsome waiter.

And the adorable little boy who stopped to ask if I wanted to buy a flower. How could I turn that face down? I tried to get him to smile, but it didn't happen.

I swear I was the only one around with a camera taking pictures. Everyone else was just shopping or walking around. So when this guy saw me, he wanted me to take his picture. "Texas A&M"...go figure.

Just more pics...


One of the things that impressed me (or depressed me) was the women that would sit on the sidewalk just begging for money with nothing to sell...just holding out a cup.


This one was particularly sad to me as she held a sleeping child in her lap while trying to sell small pieces of candy. (I thought it looked more effective in black and white.)

And more pics...



They were even selling puppies...

And were big on purses...

...and religious items...

Now these are some of the things that reminded me of Isla. Can you picture this guy on the Playa Norte??

And they also have holes in the street!

And people sweeping the water from the street...

Have you seen a similar basket-man on Isla??

And this car was blaring music and an announcement about something...which reminded me of the crazy car that runs around Isla announcing the circus going, "Ooh-ee-ooh-ah-ah-...ting-tang-wallah-wallah-bing-bang!"

And there are always the bicycles...which we've all photographed in so many different ways.

Things that you DON'T see on Isla include...

And just some final shots...











So what did I think of my experience in Nuevo Progreso? I loved it. Although I was a little nervous at first, once I got my "sea-legs", it was all good. I would go back in a heart-beat. There are so many things about Mexico that are similar...like when I asked a shop clerk to get a wind chime from the ceiling and he grabbed a rickety old ladder that swayed precariously when he stepped on it. You just smile, shake your head and say, "That's Mexico." Between all the rules, regulations, stipulations and laws in the U.S., I'm getting to the point where dealing with the rickety ladders there is preferable to all the red tape here.
But that's another post...

12 comments:

Star said...

What a beautiful post! I live in the Yucatan, near another Progreso. We see alot of the same things here , but much more quiet . Great photos !

Life's a Beach! said...

Great post Deb! I think Progreso has grown quite a bit since I was there in the 80's, but it was hustling and bustling even back then. My aunt drove her car over the border to some restaurant where she tipped the guy a dollar and he watched the car for the duration of the time we were there. And the food was Tex-Mex.
I think you see a lot more women and children begging in border towns. I know lots of people here in Phoenix who go to various border towns to have dental work and buy their prescriptions.

Loved all the photos! Thanks Deb!

Vee said...

Really enjoyed your adventure, Deb. How long were you there? Pretty cool to walk into Mexico!

jeanie said...

Deb, I admire your sense of adventure. What a great day!

Martha said...

Deb, I receive Google Alerts on Nuevo Progreso and got yours. What a wonderful impression you give our our little neighbor, Nuevo Progreso!
I am the CEO of the Weslaco Area Chamber of Commerce and I live in Progreso Lakes, a tiny community just to the right of the bridge to NP.
We love Nuevo Progreso and feel safe there. I know many don't because there is so much negative happening in large border towns.

Thank you for your positive post!
Martha Noell

Islagringo said...

Excellent. Just excellent. You captured the feel of Mexico through your photos. I only take exception with your shoe shine remark. It is a very respected and much used profession throughout Mexico.

Isla Deb said...

Star - Thank you! And, yes, I've heard about the other Progreso on the coast and would love to visit there some day.

Beck - Thanks...and, yes, it was definitely hustling and bustling!

Vee - I actually went there twice on my little trip. First on the way down...then, when I decided not to go to Galveston, I stayed overnight on South Padre Island, then went back again the next day for a few hours.

Jeanie - Yes, I was a little nervous the first time, but I'm so glad I went. It made my little trip SOOO much more fun.


Martha - I really enjoyed Nuevo Progreso. I wish I lived closer to the border so that I could go to Mexico much more often. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Wayne - I will always be the first to admit when I've said something stupid. I didn't know about the respect of shoe-shining in Mexico (probably because I've never seen it on Isla), so I've removed my ignorant remark. Thanks for educating me on this...and your compliments!

Jamqueen said...

How did I miss this blog post--just saw it today! Thanks for the compliments on the jam!What a great post on MX! The photos are great!

mexico bound said...

Fab Review.....THANK YOU~ We are leaving tomorrow night from Louisiana and CAN NOT WAIT.....we have been before, but it has be a few years...your pics and comments were perfect~

mary ann said...

you did a great job! we are leaving next wed. from louisiana. cant wait. we havent been since jan 2007.

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San Antonio Texas Dentist said...

I applaud your lifestyle, I don't know if I could do what you do; travel where you travel. It takes the right amount of guts and common sense to have a good time on these trips. I'll be sure to come back to this blog.