Progresso, Mexico: Cheap drugs, get a tooth fixed, or chow down on great food!

Photo by Sheree Zielke

Looking for drugs? Do you need a tooth fixed? Or maybe you just have a yen for a darn good taco.

A visit to Brownsville, Texas is great but you must spend at least one day in a foreign country when in the area. And that’s so easy to do, because Mexico is just a short drive, or walk, away.

You can choose from a variety of entry points (International Bridges), but double your fun with a drive up Hwy 281, the “Old Military” highway, and hang a left at Progresso.

Read on . . .

Photo by Sheree Zielke

Winter Texans (yes, that’s an official term for aging Texans seeking a tropical getaway between November and March) have found a nirvana in Brownsville, Texas. While the city has much to offer, it’s got nothing on the price of drugs (prescription drugs — I don’t know about the other kind) or the low cost of dental care on the other side of the border. Take a trip into Mexico on any day of the week, and you will see thousands of retirees and other tourists wandering the streets.

You can cross over from downtown Brownsville into Matamoros, Mexico, but Hwy 281 is a picturesque drive, loaded with historical markers, and old cemeteries. The highway kind of parallels the famous Rio Grande River, too. You won’t want to try crossing the American/Mexican border at just any point off the highway, however; too many banditos and drug smugglers, according to locals. So, stick to the main border crossings, like Progresso.

Photo by Sheree Zielke

Here’s what to expect during a day in Progresso, Mexico:

1. Free parking on the US side of the border – no security guard but there is 24 hours closed circuit surveillance

2. A twenty-five cent admission fee to cross the International Bridge into Mexico

3. A long walk over the Rio Grande River – it looks more like a ditch

4. Beggars calling from beneath the International Bridge

5. Dentists, dentists, and more dentist – you’ll see about 50 different dental offices within the first few blocks – offices are pristine, and services are VERY cheap

6. Pharmacies, pharmacies, and more pharmacies – join the rest of the wise foreigners who buy their brand name prescription drugs here – at a fraction of the cost. You’ll only be allowed to bring a 90-day supply back over the border, however.

7. Kiosks of endless junk – everything you can imagine

8. “Silver” jewellery and silver jewellery

9. Hand-embroidered bracelets customized with any name – cheap at $3 each

10. Leather belts

11. Taco booths with aggressive taco merchants

12. Great tacos and enchiladas – try Elsa’s on Benito Juarez for cheap terrific Mexican food

13. Sidewalk hustlers selling everything they think a gringo will buy: big spinning flowers, wind chimes, Chiclets gum, straw hats, peanuts, wooden toys, woven bags, ropes of garlic, cheeses, car windshield shades, bracelets

Photo by Sheree Zielke

14. Sidewalk beggars (lots of moms with little kids)

15. Cheap margaritas

16. Gross washrooms with potties full of excrement

17. Army guys and at least one anti-personnel vehicle

18. Lots and lots of gringos

19. Pottery

20. Cheap liquor and extremely cheap pure vanilla (a buck a bottle)

21. Bootlegged recent movies

22. Avocadoes

23. Charming (in their ugliness) very cramped side-by-side shacks posing as shops

24. Old traffic guys who help you angle park your car

25. A van with a big pink princess castle piñata stuck in its rear

26. Multiple solicitations for everything from cheap pharmaceutical drugs and dental treatments to manicures and shoe shines

27. Hands of beggar women poking between the bridge frame seeking your loose change

28. Thirty cents admission back into the USA

29. A 75-cent fee per bottle of liquor or wine after passing through USA customs

30. A great time!

Photo by Sheree Zielke

Be smart any time you visit Mexico, no matter where you cross the border. Don’t drive your rental car across the border; if you do, you must buy additional insurance when renting the car. Don’t take things from strangers — you know what I mean. Do spend a little money to help the local economy. Take your camera. There will be very few places, in the world, where you’ll be able to take shots of armed military personnel, without worrying about being shot. Be sure you have all the official travel documents you will need to prove who you are.  Getting into Mexico is one thing; getting back out is quite a different story.

Cheers,
Sheree Zielke

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4 Responses to “Progresso, Mexico: Cheap drugs, get a tooth fixed, or chow down on great food!”

  1. peggy salinas Says:

    You about said it. have the price of tax on liquor off, though, as it\\\’s $1.25.
    Fun pix and a good list!! Peg

  2. Sheree Says:

    Thanks, Peg.

  3. LINDA Says:

    I HAVE BEEN THERE SEVERAL TIMES.I GO ABOUT 2 -3 TIMES A YEAR.
    I WENT ON MOTHERS DAY WEAKEND AND WAS SURPRISED TO SEE ALL THE MEXICAN MILITARY PERSONEL STATIONED AT THE BORDER.EVEN ARMED GUNMAN ON THE BALCONIES.AFTER I GOT ~2 BLOCKS INTO
    PROGRESSO THERE WERENT ANY MILITARY PERSONEL TO BE SEEN.
    WHAT IS GOING ON THAT THEY ARE STATIONED CLOSE TO THE CROSSING BUT NOT ANY FURTHER INTO TOWN?YOU HAVE THE PICTURE OF THE SANDBAGS AND THAT ABOUT WERE THEY WERE ON THIS PAST WEEKEND. THANKS LINDA

  4. Sheree Says:

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think this is normal behaviour on the part of the Mexican government, Linda. Does anyone else know if this armed military presence is normal, or was there some other reason for all the guns?

    Sheree