PROGRESO, RGV – Progreso International Bridge hosted its 42nd annual Tourist Appreciation Day recently.

Julie Guerra-Ramirez, director of Progreso International Bridge, says Tourist Day can feature anywhere from 11,000 to 13,000 pedestrians. The event celebrates tourists, primarily winter Texans, for their patronage and is also attended by Rio Grande Valley, Nuevo Progreso, and Rio Bravo officials.

“Local official mix and mingle and do a lot of networking at my offices while we wait for Mexico to call us to say they are ready to the go to the middle of the bridge to do the abrazo (hug),” Guerra-Ramirez said. “That is when our Mr. Tourista meets up with their Mr. Tourista and they do the abrazo with the mayors and all the dignitaries from both sides.”

Guerra-Ramirez said the event is always held on a national holiday in Mexico and is a way for the towns of Nuevo Progreso and Rio Bravo to thanks Winter Texans for their patronage.

“I get a lot of calls. When is tourist day, when is tourist day. A lot of Winter Texans wait until after that day before they go back home, back north,” Guerra-Ramirez said.

“We have found that it’s not only the winter Texans that are joining us now, but a lot of the locals also. The tourists begin crossing at about 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. and they spend the whole day over there enjoying what the merchants have for them. They give the tourists gifts and bring their own entertainment from out of town–a variety of dancing and different music, so it’s an enjoyable thing.”

Among the gifts are free margaritas.

One of the dignitaries invited to attend the 42nd Annual Tourist Appreciation Day was Sergio Contreras, president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

“It is exciting to continue the traditions of embracing the relationships with our friends, family and partners in Nuevo Progreso. It adds additional economic benefits, builds upon our culture and most importantly strengthens the relationship with our partners in Mexico. We are excited to be invited,” Contreras said.

Another dignitary invited to attend was Pablo (Paul) Villarreal, Hidalgo County Tax Assessor and Collector.

“Mexico and the United States, we are brothers and sisters. Today is the 42nd Annual Tourism Day. I was lucky enough to be chosen as the 35th Annual Mr. Tourista a few years back. To me, this is family. Our Winter Texans, we love them, we love our Mexican neighbors, we love our American people. This is about enjoying life and thanking God for the blessings we receive every day,” Villarreal said.

This year, veteran TV personality Ron Whitlock was present to give out grapefruit.