LAREDO, Texas – The border port of Laredo has always been known to welcome paisanos with open arms and make them feel at home after traveling for long hours but still be miles away from their home towns in Mexico.
This year, the Queretaro Caravan Association advanced a couple of days to the mass influx of paisanos arriving at the border. They were also joined by travelers from the states of Zacatecas, Querétaro, Oaxaca, Nuevo León, Guerrero, Guanajuato, and San Luis Potosí.
The first flow of paisanos on the Seventh Annual Caravan crossed to Mexico on Thursday, December 15.
Awnings and information booths were located at parking lot of the Wal-Mart, on Mile 5 of I-35. In order to make their journey agile and simple through this border, authorities provided basic information services to the group of paisanos.
Enrique Malacara Martinez, General Director for the Immigration and International Liaison Institute for the State of San Luis Potosí, located in the center of the Mexican Republic, is a forced passage for tourists since Highway 57, which runs inside the state, practically crosses the country.
“About 15,000 families return to their municipalities, communities of origin (in San Luis Potosi),” said Malacara. “We work closely with the Mexican consulates in the United States.”
Juan Manuel Esquivel, who traveled to Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, said he had been living in the United States for 23 years. It was his first time returning to his country.
“I have my mother and my three brothers,” Esquivel said. “It’s important you travel calmly and safely. The caravan is a good opportunity to travel to Mexico and visit my family.”
Esquivel said that he missed everything about his homeland, especially his relatives and the exquisite food.
During a short ceremony in Laredo, Mayor Pro Tem Juan Narváez, explained that representatives of the customs of Mexico and the United States were assisting in filling out all the necessary documents for crossing the border.
Braulio Monroy Villeda, treasurer of the Queretaro Caravan Association (and who coordinates the part of Chicago and Michigan) said that he was traveling with a group of 600 cars, but that at least ten people had told him that they would not return to the United States when the new year comes.
“They feel like there’s going to be a problem. They have uncertainty, although this does not mean that something is going to happen, “Monroy said. “The Paisano Program helps us a lot in the area where I come from. They help us to talk to the corresponding authorities so that this is faster and easier for us.”
Selene Salazar, Municipal President of Jalpan del Cerro, Querétaro, said that they expect more than 150 vehicles of civilians arriving in their city this Season.
“I think they feel happy and confident to see their authorities here,” Salazar said. “Knowing each story closely, how they move, and doing it in a sensitive way (it’s important), every story has something special in particular.”
José Ramón Torres García, Municipal President of Rio Verde, San Luis Potosí, stated that the goal of the seventh caravan is to bring the paisanos to their destination, and protect them from both organized and uniformed delinquency.
“Many times, our paisanos are victims of extortion, abuse, assault by authorities. The objective of this caravan is to protect them from these abuses and help them arrive safely to visit their loved ones,” said Torres Garcia.
Blasita López, from the Laredo Conventions and Visitors Bureau, said that the city welcomed the paisanos and hopes that each year they will continue to choose this port as their preferred crossing point.
“That’s why we are very close to the caravan and we have a very important operation. We also adopted the word Programa Paisano,” Lopez said. “For us the paisano represents a lot”.
Meanwhile, in Nuevo Laredo, the Governors of Tamaulipas, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca; Of Nuevo León, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón; Of San Luis Potosí, Juan Manuel Carreras López; And Guerrero, Luis Bernardo Nava Guerrero representing the Governor of Querétaro, Francisco Domínguez Servién, issued the official exit sign on the parking lot of the Cultural Center.
“The Federal Police will be on call. The governments of the states will work together to make them feel supported,” said Garcia Cabeza de Vaca. “Once they have been able to celebrate this festive holiday season, they will know that we will receive them until the first day of January in this same port of entry to ensure that they can cross in an orderly way.”
The Seventh Caravan was escorted from Nuevo Laredo to San Luis Potosí by the Federal Preventive Police and the police of each state.
Editor’s Note: The above story was translated from Spanish to English by Diana L. Arellano.