Valley Morning Star
Nuevo Progreso, Tamaulipas — Travelers crossing to and from Nuevo Progreso on Friday said they felt safe in this border town despite increasing reports of violence in Mexico in recent months — including five more slayings Friday in nearby Reynosa.
For years, Nuevo Progreso’s vendor-lined streets, trinket shops and restaurants have attracted regular travelers from the U.S. side of the border. Friday, several travelers said they still felt comfortable traveling to Nuevo Progreso, calling it a safe and quiet spot along the often turbulent Mexican border.
Having just crossed over the Progreso International Bridge from Mexico, Kathy and Ed Barnard of Mission said they felt at ease while strolling around Nuevo Progreso on Friday morning.
“I felt perfectly fine here,” Kathy Barnard said, adding that it was her second time visiting the city to dine and shop.
Recent outbreaks of border violence had concerned the Barnards before making the trip, they said.
“I read and listen a lot to what’s happening across the border,” Kathy Barnard said. Border violence, she said, had been in the back of her mind before traveling across into Mexico. “If we didn’t see any cars in the parking lot here, we would have turned around and headed back.”
Cars filled the parking lot on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande as travelers made their way back and forth across the bridge Friday.
Sue Koehoorn, a Winter Texan from Wisconsin, walked back from the bridge with a group of friends, having just returned from her last trip of the year to Nuevo Progreso before heading back home to the Midwest.
For years Koehoorn has frequented Nuevo Progreso for dining, shopping and festivals, she said.
“Sometimes we would come once a week — that often,” she said. Although Koehoorn and her friends used to travel to other border cities such as Reynosa and Matamoros, Nuevo Progreso is now the only border town where she feels safe.
“Here, we try to stay on the main drag and we stay in groups just to be safe,” Koehoorn said, adding that a December shootout in the town had made her feel nervous for some time. “We haven’t heard any reports of violence other than that one,” she said, adding, “We still feel comfortable coming down now.”
Late last year residents and tourists in Nuevo Progreso had a taste of the violence that plagues other Mexican border cities. A shootout between gunmen and the Mexican army broke out on Dec. 5 and spilled into the main streets of the city. The battle sent hundreds of tourists fleeing for cover. There were no U.S. casualties in the shooting, but Mexican officials have refused to release any more details of the incident. Witnesses at the time reported at least two fatalities.
Since then, Nuevo Progreso has remained quiet and tourists seem to feel safe making short trips into the town, despite escalating reports of violence along the Mexican border, including in nearby Reynosa, where five deaths Friday pushed the number of gunmen killed across the region to at least 25 since Tuesday.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Mexico last month to inform U.S. citizens about the security situation there.
“While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including tens of thousands who cross the land border daily for study, tourism or business and nearly one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico), violence in the country has increased,” according to the bulletin.
“It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks in Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if victimized.”