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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggies head south of the border for cultural exchange

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Photo by Photo by Benjamin Hirsch

Junior Ezekiel Pickerning and freshman Jacob Pickerning travel to the tourist town of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico for a night of cultural exchange.

Sitting ripe across the Rio Grande awaits the Mexican border, a lively place for entertainment and cultural exchange for all to indulge.

Six hours from College Station lies the tourist town of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, where shops, restaurants and bars line the streets. A 75-cent pedestrian toll to cross the bridge and a quick stroll through Mexican immigration is all it takes for a tourist to go from Texas to Mexico. In fact, you don’t even need a passport, a state ID will work just fine. 

The border is often portrayed as a dangerous place and is not the typical tourist destination for travelers heading to Mexico, but for Aggie brothers Ezekiel and Jacob Pickering, going to Nuevo Progreso to kick back on a Saturday night for dinner and drinks requires no second thought. I myself had the privilege of journeying to the border with the Pickering brothers to take in the experience alongside them — an experience I don’t regret. 

Chemical engineering junior Ezekiel said he recommends that everyone visit the border because it’s simply fun. Ezekiel said he can easily fall victim to boredom within his daily routine, so it is valuable to get out of his comfort zone a little bit. For him, the border offers a remedy from the regular College Station life and allows him to think about what life is like for other people. 
“I probably would have said ‘no’ to that in the past because I would have just told myself I can study or be irresponsible, but I knew I wouldn’t do anything more valuable with my time. I’d probably sit on the couch, play video games and drink beer,” Ezekiel said. “I would rather do something enriching, something I won’t forget, something that won’t fade away into the clouds of everyday life.”

Accounting freshman Jacob said his trip to Mexico was very enjoyable and he highly recommends it to others.

“[Nuevo] Progreso was great; some of the people we met there were really cool and it was a good time,” Jacob said. “It’s a really fun thing to do. We tend to forget that we’re that close to Mexico and that we have the opportunity to go there. I said ‘yes’ because I’m always up for an adventure, even if it’s small. I seek out things like this to make my weekends a little bit better.” 

It’s attitudes like these that help transform an inward-looking individual into an open-minded cosmopolitan. Watching these two crack open a cheap beer and shoot the breeze on an upper balcony of a bar overlooking the town brought a sense of tranquility to my typically hasty routine. I took a sip of my beer and watched the cars line up bumper to bumper waiting to get into the U.S. We were infatuated with our presence in Mexico, giddy thinking how fast we traveled to another country, excited wondering where the next adventure would take us.

In addition to being a tourist town, the border also serves as a home for many. For those who do live on the border, the routine life of cultural exchange seems to  always be enjoyable. Biological and agricultural engineering sophomore Romelia Flores, hailing from Eagle Pass, said she enjoys living on the border and makes a point to cross into Mexico for food, drinks or whatever else she wants.

“Mexico is beautiful. Each little town is so beautiful and has its own special thing; they’re all unique. I think it’s a whole different culture, even though it’s so close to the U.S. The food itself is really good and there’s a lot of cool things, like the mercados and the little shops,” Flores said.
Spanish graduate student Jesus Rivera said he spent a lot of time in The Valley and that he did a lot of growing up there. The border offers a different perspective on Mexican culture for Rivera than what is portrayed from a distance, with plenty of opportunities for all travelers who cross into Mexico. 
As an outsider, I was grateful to encounter an outgoing community and pleasant smiles with a charitable degree of magnetism. Walking the streets of the border town was light and easy; it was peaceful. For tourists like myself and the Pickering brothers, it can easily be a place to relax and break away from the normalcy of life. For others, however, it is a bit more meaningful. 

“I would spend my summers with my grandparents across the border,” Rivera said. “If you were to swim across the river, it’s faster to get to my grandma’s house in Mexico than to drive. There’s a misguided fear of what Mexico actually is — it’s relatively safe. [Nuevo] Progreso can be very attractive to some people. With college money you can stretch your dollar buying drinks, you can have a good time relatively cheap. It can be a learning experience; you can have fun.” 

Fun is something we are all looking for, and everyday life can seem to hinder that sometimes. It is easy to forget what you do on a daily basis, Ezekiel said. Days blend together and it all gets lost very easily. His trip to Mexico, however, was an unforgettable experience, and one that will go down in memory as an edifying time. 

“I’ve decided to start saying ‘yes’ to more things,” Ezekiel said. “I couldn’t tell you what I did two days ago, but I can tell you about Mexico.” 

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