161208-laredo_melva_3 161208-laredo_melva_2 161208-laredo_melva
Participants at the “Welcome, Paisano” press conference included Laredo Police Chief Ray Garner; Rodolfo Garza Benavides, Ayuntamiento Nuevo Laredo; Carolina Zaragoza Flores, Mexican Consulate General in Laredo; Carmen Lilia Canturosas, Regidora Ayuntamiento Nuevo Laredo; Blasita J. Lopez, Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau; Robert Eads, Assistant City Manager; and Raul Leal, Texas Department of Transportation, Laredo District.

LAREDO, Texas – ‘Tis the season to travel. And for the Laredo region it’s the season to welcome the Paisanos.

For the 19th year in a row, the City of Laredo will open the Paisano Rest Stop at IH-35 southbound, just off Mile Marker 13, starting Friday, December 16 at 12 noon and ending at 12 noon on Sunday, December 18.

The idea is to “help Mexican citizens returning home from throughout the U.S. have a smoother experience as they head home for the holidays,” Mayor of Laredo Pete Saenz said during a press conference.

In 2015, from Dec. 17 through Dec. 24, the City of Laredo received 155,707 vehicles on the three non-commercial bridges. They assisted 3,300 people in the Paisano Rest Stop.

“That represents a six percent increase when comparing the numbers to 2014,” Saenz said. “We have a lot of experience and we understand Paisanos are in a hurry when they are coming to Laredo.”

The overnight hours, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. are the busiest those days, according to Blasita J. Lopez, director of the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Because of the school holidays being different, according to the state, we hope to see small waves group of paisanos coming in as children get out of school… some on the 16th, and others on the 23rd,” Lopez explained.

During the 48 hours span of the Paisano Rest Stop operating, travelers will receive services from the Mexican Consulate, from Human Rights representatives, Health services; review documents necessary for travelers, information on bridge wait times, directions, simple mechanic help, refreshments, restroom facilities, and a small area to park.

Lopez said if a traveler thinks they might need to stay the overnight in a hotel, they should book a reservation earlier because “we traditionally see our hotels full to capacity.”

Nonetheless, the Texas Department of Transportation will be offering the Texas Travel Center, located on the north-bound side of IH-35 at Hwy 83 as an overnight parking facility with restrooms available 24 hours, Raul Leal, public information officer for TxDOT explained.

“The safety of the travelers is our priority and the traveler information center is an option to park overnight,” Leal said.

Carolina Zaragoza, Mexican General Consul for Laredo, added they also expect visitors from Canada since they use the NAFTA Corridor in their way to Guanajuato, Jalisco, Guerrero, Chiapas and Oaxaca.

“This is a very good example of collaboration between the two Sister Cities,” Zaragoza said.

Present at the press conference were Carmenlilia Canturosas and Rodolfo Garza Benavides from the City of Nuevo Laredo.

“Our first goal is to have a speedy and efficient traffic flow,” Garza said. “We asked the permit office of Banjercito to speed their service and they announced they will open 36 attention booths instead of 25, and this should help to alleviate the lines on IH 35.”

Another decision in Nuevo Laredo was to extend the space for parking at the temporal federal vehicle permit center (CITEV), and in case that space gets full, paisanos will be taken to another parking space available downtown.

“We want to help paisanos to stay the minimum time in line,” Garza said. “We will also be providing security, paramedics, restrooms, mechanical services, emergency contact info, and information in general.”

Canturosas added they wish paisanos to feel at home, and that is why they are improving the lights along the Colosio Boulevard, a loop that connects to Mexico’s national highway.

All officials expressed they want paisanos to have a positive, restful, and beneficial experience in Laredo before they continue into Mexico.

And, even after the Paisano Rest Stop closes, local authorities will continue providing support to Paisanos as they also start putting together a new program for when the paisanos come back to the U.S.

Official sites paisanos might also find useful online are:

Mexican authorities on http://www.gob.mx/cms/uploads/attachment/file/47748/fichero-2016.pdf and download it on smart-phones; or on social media @programapaisano and Google at +programapaisano.

Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-361-3360 or on social media at Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/welcomepaisanostoLaredo.

A special map application to route Paisanos to their destination can be found at ttr.sct.gob.mx/mappir.