Many “paisanos” travel south during the holidays

Lines of Mexico-bound cars wait for the chance to cross the U.S.-Mexico border at the DeConcini port of entry in the twin border cities of Ambos Nogales on Dec. 17, 2020. Inspections by Mexican customs officers has increased crossing times as more Mexican Americans head to Mexico to spend the holidays with relatives, despite restrictions on non-essential travel at the border.

Despite an increase in COVID-19 cases and heightened fears of the newer omicron variant, Americans are filling Mexico-bound buses for their traditional Christmas season trip that last year was interrupted by the pandemic.

Last year at this time, relatively few people had been vaccinated and virus-related border travel restrictions were still in place. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that business was down 48% compared to previous years. h

Now, business is hopping for dozens of bus lines serving border cities and destinations deep within Mexico. Most run through Laredo and El Paso.

“Yes, we have more people than last year,” said José Rafael Ramírez, who works for Dallas-based Autobuses Pegaso. “A year ago buses were not full (and) we had fewer runs. But now buses are leaving full again”.

He said last winter his company trimmed schedules to one or two daily runs, compared to five or six full buses leaving their East Dallas terminal this year.

“People are relaxing (and) they feel more confident traveling,” said Ramírez, despite warnings from health officials about rising numbers of positive coronavirus cases.