Ah yes, this weekend was the “big” weekend for paisano traffic. If you are of Mexican descent or live in Laredo, you are already familiar with who paisanos are. Those in the U.S. with strong ties to Mexico who visit Mexico, mostly by driving, during the holidays or summers. People like…. ME! Before moving to Laredo, that is.These last few years have been tough for the downtown area of Laredo because of the massive number of cars, trucks, trailers, buses and other vehicles driving across the border. The congestion has strangled regular Laredo traffic so this year, El Partner and I decided not to get gridlocked in and took a trip out of town. We saw Laredo bracing for the impact with activities like the Farmer’s Market moving to a week before, signs going up to direct traffic and stores preparing not only for the last minute shoppers but paisano shoppers too (oh, & shoppers from Mexico too!).
It was just a trickle :(.We checked out the Paisano Rest Stop that the Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau in cooperation with the Consulado Mexicano (Mexican Consulate) and other agencies set up every year to help paisanos with some of the documentation needed, as a resource for questions and to provide a hot cup of coffee and snacks for the travelers. I’m not saying they were not full and well utilized, I was just surprised that in returning, the downtown area was not as packed as in previous years. I actually had no problems with traffic on Sunday when in past years, I’ve thought of setting up a taquito stand to sell to the long lines of traffic waiting for hours to cross. Maybe more travelers chose to take the Colombia bridge or… maybe many past paisanos are not wanting to risk the potential violence they might encounter if they travel to Mexico in its current condition.
I wrote about my father and his compadres traveling last year at this time and my perception that traffic had not been as heavy in past years. It seems even lighter this year – except… the Paisano Rest Area is reporting to NBC’s Pro8News the same number of people served as in the past (clip not yet available).Hmmm, doesn’t seem like it or maybe travelers did take another bridge besides #1 and #2 that go through the heart of Laredo. Or maybe travelers have just chosen to stay in Laredo and camp out at the Walmart parking lot (there seemed to be no parking spot available anywhere!) and they plan to surprise us on Monday?? Or maybe it was Laredo residents like me who decided to check out the Paisano Rest Area and unintentionally inflated their numbers in exchange for free coffee – just kidding, just kidding.
Who knows – the bottom line is that there were plenty of people from “up North” as well as people coming in from “down South” who packed Laredo stores but not Laredo streets (well, not to the level seen in past years). Unfortunately for me, they don’t include my family – not this year.