NUEVO PROGRESO, Tamaulipas – Nuevo Progreso and Rio Bravo tourism leaders are planning their best party ever for Winter Texans.

This year’s Tourism Day is on March 21. It is an opportunity for Mexican traders, doctors, dentists and restaurant owners to say thank you to the Winter Texans for their custom. In February alone, Nuevo Progreso sees an average of 70,000 people walking across the Progreso International Bridge.

“We want to say a big thank you to the Winter Texans before they go back up north,” said Rosa Maria Pizaña, president of the 150-plus member Progreso Dentists Association.

“We are planning a great program with dancing and music and food. Tourism Day 2019 will start at 9 a.m. on March 21. So, please, come and have a great time.”

Pizaña gave the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM an exclusive interview at a Day of the Dentists celebration at Arturo’s Restaurant in Progreso. Rio Bravo economic development and tourism officials held a breakfast to thank the dentists for their work.

“We like to support our local dentists. In many ways they are the front door to Mexico for our visitors from the United States. They treat patients real fine. They provide a very friendly and high quality service,” said Manuel Martinez Cano, secretary of economic development and tourism for Rio Bravo. Progreso is part of the municipality of Rio Bravo.

Pizaña said there are 149 dentists practicing within Progreso’s four-block downtown area. “We have patients from as far afield as Canada. We give the best service. Our message is: Do not be afraid. Please visit us. We can help. We are fully accredited.”

Martinez Cano said preparations for Tourism Day 2019 are going well.

“We will have Maya and Aztec dancing, so our visitors can see the authentic Mexican traditions. There will be free food and drinks. You can leave your car on the U.S. side and if you have a drink, no problem, you can take a taxi back.”

Martinez Cano said he and his tourism team will be visiting with mayors across the Rio Grande Valley in order to invite them to Tourism Day. “We want to offer our hand of friendship. We welcome the people that live in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as the Winter Texans. We have  a lot of friends and family on the U.S. side.”

Asked if tourism has declined in Progreso due to the perception of violence or because of ugly rhetoric about Mexico from certain leaders in the United States, Martinez Cano answered affirmatively.

“Per year we have about 170,000 visitors to Progreso. In February alone it can get as high as 70,000. But, our numbers have declined. Eight years ago, our numbers were much higher. We are probably down 20 or 30 percent,” Martinez Cano said.

“Whatever is said in Washington, we are friends. We share a bridge. That bridge unites us. It does not divide us. We are welcoming people. Our nature is to be friendly.”

Martinez Cano said the only way Progreso business owners can counter any negative perception and the rhetoric is to provide great prices and friendly service. He said city officials can do their part by making the area safe.

“Look around. Look at all the Winter Texans eating here. They are not afraid, they are not wearing bullet-proof vests. They are just relaxed and having a great time.”

Economic Development

Asked about Rio Bravo’s economic development program, Martinez Cano said he and his team are concentrating on bringing more chain stores and maquiladoras into the municipality. Currently there are six maquiladoras.

“We are a friendly city that is open for business. We have a population of about 120,000 people, much smaller than Reynosa’s 1.2 million people. Close to 60,000 Rio Bravo residents work in Reynosa. That tells you we have a lot of qualified workers. Our students, when they graduate from university, they have to go outside Rio Bravo. We want to change that.”

Martinez Cano said that the Donna International Bridge should be fully operational by the end of 2020. In other words, it will be able to handle fully loaded trucks going north or south. 

“In the longer term we want to capture more more of the fresh produce business. That is a top goal. We can take the stress away from the Pharr Bridge. By 2024, the plan is to have the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge on a par with the Laredo trade bridges. We do have to provide more installations for the maquilas, such as water, electricity and gas but we are working on it. We have a lot of potential.”

Martinez Cano pointed out that the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge is ten minutes away from downtown Rio Bravo, while Progreso International Bridge is just two minutes away. 

“We have made our highways much safer for traffic. We are a safe community. We do not have any complaints. People say your car will be stolen. Not at all.”

From Rio Bravo you can connect to two autopistas, one going directly to Monterrey and the other to Victoria and Tampico, Martinez Cano added.

“We are working with Tom Logan and Valley Metro to have a bus service from Donna to Rio Bravo. You will be able to hop on the shuttle and do your shopping in Donna or Rio Bravo.”