Don’t go there! I hear it from both my fellow Americans as well as Mexicans. The Border is a dangerous place, and Nuevo Laredo is the worst of them all! Everyone merely passes through Nuevo Laredo, and these days they try to do so in broad daylight and as quickly as possible.
The border region has a bad reputation and ongoing bad press. Of course the press goes out of its way to find threats and incite fear sometimes, so I decided to ignore the hearsay and see for myself what the situation is. Bottom line: people live their lives, work, marry, have families, and spend their entire lives in some of these border towns, and I wanted to see who they were and what life was like. So I decided to spend the Christmas holiday with a family in the border town of Nuevo Laredo to see and experience life in a place of such infamous reputation.
This Christmas trip was to be my fifth time in Nuevo Laredo. I first visited Nuevo Laredo in 2005. On an adventurous whim, I decided to venture into Mexico for a short visit to Monterrey- just three hours south of the border and just far enough in to consider myself fully within Mexico. Nuevo Laredo was, as it was several times after, merely a wayside stop on a bigger journey.
Since 2005, there has been a marked change in the tone of things. In 2011 I rode through to find that soldiers have wholly replaced the local police force. These soldiers took positions at the border, in the city, and along the highway. They were not just standing there with weapons strapped to their shoulders and keeping up appearances: these soldiers were poised and ready for something. One could tell that there was some threat out there which they were taking very seriously.
I arrived via I-35 and crossed at International Bridge #2. The sun had already set and I was rather nervous to be crossing in the dark. Despite my sense of adventure to go in the first place, I kept remembering my friends from Monterrey who had pushed hard to clear Nuevo Laredo before sunset for fear of their lives. The final 3 miles of US Interstate was packed and chaotic as everyone was searching for a place to rest for the night on the “safe” side of the border. Once I cleared this chaos, the bridge had very light traffic which flowed through very quickly after I paid the $3 toll (please note that, unless otherwise indicated, all further references will be in Pesos and not Dollars). On the Mexican side I had to drive through some speed bumps and around barriers, but was ultimately waved through without even the most perfunctory glance at my passport. Before I knew it, I was in Mexico and driving the streets of Nuevo Laredo.