The Rio Grande Valley’s Happy Place

There is a “happy” town across the river from Progreso, Texas, called Nuevo Progreso. I say it is a happy town because whenever we crave a Mexico break, we head that way for a fun-filled day.

Going to Progreso – it is known as simply Progreso here in the Rio Grande Valley – for good food, cheap beer, live music, dancing, and shopping is only the icing on the cake. When we head out there, we make an appointment for a dental check-up and teeth cleansing. There are many dentists in town, and most people I know have a favorite, and we are not the exception.

As soon as one steps into town from the Weslaco-Progreso International Bridge, vendors bombard you with information on dentists and pharmacies for low-priced medications. One just walks by saying, “thank you, no thank you, not right now, thank you,” and while it can be annoying at its worst, it is utterly amiable at its best.

During the fall and winter months, I wear leather shoes or boots to get them shined and catch up with the local happenings with the shoe shiner. Sometimes, I take a bag of shoes and wait around shopping while my boots get this old-time classic service. Because most of us opt to wear tennis shoes or any form of synthetic footwear, these shoe shiners don’t make the money they used to make decades ago. Every year I see fewer of them.

This week bestowed lovely weather, so we called our dentist and booked our annual check-up before driving there. Then, we went to the Red Snapper for Mexican-style seafood dishes and DJ music. This place is further from the bridge and is not as crowded as other area restaurants. The winter months bring what we call “Winter Texans,” also known as Snowbirds, in other parts of the country who spend lots of time in this happy town.

Prices are affordable in Progreso restaurants. My husband ordered “Chuy’s Special,” consisting of fried fish and shrimp, a shrimp cocktail, and french fries. I ordered the shrimp shish kabob served with onion rings, french fries, and a small salad. Before bringing our meal, we were served a seafood broth with tortilla chips and salsa. My husband ordered brandy and soda, and I ordered a Topo Chico mineral sparkling water. The total for the meal was $31.50, not including the tip.

Other popular services include manicures, pedicures, hair cuts and styling, brow enhancers, facials, body massages, and general medicine doctors. One can also find cheaper pet meds and treatments and a fantastic selection of tea, coffee, packaged sweets, beauty products, clothing, and so much more. Ointments for pain, spider veins, skin blemishes are just a drop in the monsoon of products one can find. One particularly caught my eye this time. It was an ointment named “Chupa Panza,” (belly suck). Maybe next time!

We visit a famous shop a few feet from the international bridge because it is on the way in and out if you stay on the same side of the street. This is not paid advertisement; therefore, I will not mention the name, but nobody can miss it. It even has a store on the US side of the border. We were there a couple of days ago, gawking at the overwhelming amount of products. I wanted to bring back Mexican candy, and I could not decide which! Listening to the lively DJ playing English and Spanish music while shopping is a perk in this place. The bar and dance floor are open from nine in the morning. I always find myself moving to the rhythm or singing along. How can we not want this versus sitting at home!

We do not always walk across, but we did on this sunny Tuesday morning. It was about 10am when we crossed, and we could hear the birds chirping amidst the cool breeze. When we walked over the Rio Grande River, we listened to the happy whistling of Whistling Ducks bathing on its bountiful waters near the shrubby banks. It was peaceful and distant from the noise of network news about the Mexico – US border. When we cross with the car we pay a bridge toll of approximately $5.50 round trip and $2 for parking for the day. The parking lot we prefer offers $10 car wash and they do a good job.

I like to call Nuevo Progreso a market city because it is just that; a market with Mexico’s cultural liveliness. It is nothing like the interior of Mexico, but it is certainly a happy place.

Essential tips: Don’t forget your passport or if you do not have one, bring a copy of your birth certificate with a picture ID, and you will be fine. Nothing is required to cross into a border town in Mexico. Walking shoes, hat or cap, cash for things you might want to buy from street vendors.

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