TBT - "The Trouble With Nuevo Progreso"

It is unfortunate that the 'War on Drugs' over the last 40 years has resulted in so much tragedy in the world - including my favorite place - Mexico. The Drug War has been one of those fiascos where there is little difference between the good guys and the bad guys - on both sides of the law, on both sides of the border.

Barbara and I invested in some Texas income property back in 2007 - close to the Mexican border. The Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas is a world apart kind of place. Historically, like South Florida, it does not readily identify with the rest of the United States. A crossroads of people with more in common with Latinos then Anglos.

One of the benefits of living or visiting ëThe Valleyí is the ease in which you can pop across to the Mexican side for a few hours to enjoy a great meal and do some shopping. But by 2011 the drug cartel violence in the Mexican border towns had escalated to the point were few Valley residents or tourists crossed the border anymore.

The closest border crossing from our property is at Nuevo Progreso. The town's main street runs about ten blocks straight from the Rio Grande bridge border crossing and is lined with about a hundred stores - mostly dental clinics, souvenir shops, and pharmacies catering to the 'Winter Texans' - mid-westerners that spend their winters in the Valley.

When I arrived in Texas that year for the annual check up on our biz, I asked an old friend who lived in Brownsville if he wanted to walk over the bridge at Progreso for lunch. He went on and on about all the shoot outs between the drug cartel guys and the Mexican army, and the problems with kidnappings, robberies, etc. And besides - his wife was forbidding such fool hardiness.

'Chicken!' was my response to that. We had been friends and worked together in Central America in the middle of civil wars in the late '70's and early '80's - so I had to push his buttons on his reluctance to cross over. Then I said: "Go with me to the middle of the bridge crossing and we will be able to look down Progreso's main street to see if it looks calm - then we will just proceed carefully"

So off we went - and as we strolled down the all but deserted main street (past a couple military machine gun positions) my buddy got a call from his wife. After admitting we were in Mexico - he got an earful. At Arturo's fine dinning restaurant we were one of just two tables in the place with patrons (ours was the table nearest the rear exit and away from the windows). Afterwards we casually worked our way back to the bridge - the sidewalks, normally congested with venders and tourists, were mostly empty.

Even under the worse of circumstances people try to continue with their daily lives. Life goes on. We enjoyed the visit, great food and cheap souvenirs - and appreciated not having to deal with a hoard of tourists!

I consider driving on I-95 to be one of the most dangerous things one can do in life - madness and carnage on a daily basis. You do not want other peopleís fears, or lack of perspective, to sabotage what you enjoy doing!