Monday, December 19, 2016



Note: local interest primarily.

Where have all the 'paisanos' gone?
By Paulina Pineda
Nogales International Updated 1 hr ago (2)

Martin Hernandez, left, and Inocencio Quezada Mujica, both of Northern California, are making the more than 37-hour drive to Michoacan, Mexico for the holidays.
Photo by Paulina Pineda

Raul Quevedo, his wife and two children are making the more than 2,100-mile trip from Modesto, Calif. to Mexico City for the holidays. The family stopped at the Circle K convenience store on Mariposa Road Tuesday for a stretch before crossing the border.
Parked outside the Circle K convenience store on Mariposa Road, Inocencio Quezada Mujica chowed down on a burger as he leaned against his truck and chatted with friend Martin Hernandez about their trip to Mexico.

Quezada and Hernandez, ranch hands in Chico, Calif., are making the more than 2,200-mile trip to the west-central Mexican state of Michoacan for the holidays. With their truck bed and a trailer piled high with possessions, the men are among the hundreds of thousands of Mexican nationals living in the United States who head south of the border for the winter season to visit family.

"Paisanos," as the travelers are known, are usually a common sight in Nogales in the weeks leading up to the holidays, easily identifiable by their out-of-state plates and loads of gifts meant for loved ones in Mexico. This year, however, the vehicles have been noticeably less ubiquitous, and a search for paisanos on Tuesday and Wednesday along Mariposa Road and Grand Avenue turned up only a handful.

For Quezada, the political climate and economic situation in Mexico are two reasons why he thought twice about making the trip this year. In addition, the roads are often dangerous and there is little police enforcement south of the border, he added.

"We have no guarantee, no security on the road," he said, adding: "Just arriving at the border makes my hair stand on end. You can't even trust the police anymore."

Quezada also suggested the difficult economy might be discouraging long-distance travelers, while others speculated the political climate in the United States could be playing a role as well.

Local law enforcement and state transportation officials said they have also noticed a decline in paisano traffic this year – especially downtown, where backups from the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry have stretched a mile north in years past.

One such traffic jam stalled southbound traffic on Arroyo Boulevard Wednesday evening, said Sgt. Robert Fierros, a spokesman with the Nogales Police Department. But he added that it was only the fourth time since Nov. 1 that the department has had to set up traffic control in the area, a low number by seasonal standards. The bottleneck, which was backed up less than a half-mile to West Plum Street, only lasted about an hour.

But Fierros wasn't ready to downplay paisano season quite yet. He said that while traffic seems to be slower downtown than in years past, it may be because travelers have become more familiar with traffic flow in the area and are going through the Mariposa Port of Entry on the western edge of the city instead of the Dennis DeConcini crossing.

"Although it's fairly close to Christmas … we can probably still expect a big flux to come through in the days right before Christmas," he said, adding later: "Next week there should be more after most schools start their Christmas breaks and more families make the trip."

In previous years the Arizona Department of Transportation has also set up electronic signs on Interstate 19 encouraging travelers to avoid downtown Nogales and use the Mariposa port instead, but this year it hasn't been necessary.

"I spoke with our maintenance team in Nogales … and while they have discussed using those signs this year we have not seen a need for that so far," said ADOT spokesman Tom Herrmann, adding that the agency will continue monitoring traffic headed toward the border.

Sales down

The slower season has affected area businesses, such as hotels and gas stations, which profit off of paisanos' last-chance gas fill-ups in the United States.

Arun Patel, owner of the El Dorado Inn Hotel on Grand Avenue, said there's usually a couple of paisanos that choose to stay overnight and make the rest of the trip the following morning – but not this year.

At the Fastrip gas station on the corner of Mariposa and Grand, bookkeeper Lupita Gallego said not only have they noticed fewer travelers, their sales are also down this year compared to this same time last year.

Asked if she had any insight on why that was the case, she said: "I assume it's because of the president. People don't want to go because what I've heard is that they're afraid they're not going to be allowed to cross back."

And though some travelers interviewed for this story joked that the incoming Trump administration would make it difficult for them to return after the holidays, others like Raul Quevedo of Modesto, Calif., said that is a genuine fear for his two oldest daughters.

Quevedo, a native of Mexico City who was waiting Tuesday to receive a temporary vehicle import permit in the Circle K parking lot, said he and his family were planning to stay for a month.

Asked if the family made the trip on a yearly basis, Quevedo said when possible, adding that this year he's noticed that it's "much calmer."

"I don't know what is happening because before you would get here and there were so many cars that were headed to Mexico," he said.

However, others like Jose Garcia of Sacramento and Juan Valencia of Santa Rosa, Calif., who were traveling to Guadalajara and Michoacan, respectively, said they haven't noticed a difference.

"We go about four times a year and I haven't had any issues," said Valencia, who was traveling with his wife and three children.


Southbound bus processing changes at ports
Nogales International Updated 3 hrs ago (0)

Southbound cross-border bus traffic will shift from the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry to the Mariposa port between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting next week.

The change, which takes effect at 6 a.m. Monday, Dec. 19, will remain in effect until further notice, the U.S. General Services Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

"Bus operators are advised to plan ahead and use the Mariposa crossing during these hours when traveling southbound into Mexico," the agencies said in a news release Thursday.

Southbound buses can still cross into Mexico through the west side lane at the DeConcini port during the nighttime hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Anthony Kleppe, lead asset management specialist at the U.S. General Services Administration, said that buses are being rerouted so that the GSA can increase the weight limits on all four lanes at the DeConcini port. He said GSA and CBP will revisit whether or not buses can once again cross through DeConcini after improvements are made.


No comments:

Post a Comment