‘Winter Texans’ Undaunted by Border Violence
Editor’s Note: The following press release was provided by the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
Increases in drug related violence in Mexico haven’t stopped John Macduffee from returning to the Rio Grande Valley, where they rendezvous with other “Winter Texans” at the Broke Mill RV Park in Del Rio.
“Everything is calm, cool and collected,” said MacDuffee, a 70-year Winter Texan from the Syracuse area of New York. “The press has got people scared.”
“There are absolutely zero worries in my mind about safety,” said Scott Wofford, an Abilene-based chiropractor who stays at Broke Mill RV Park while tending patients at his satellite office in Del Rio.
“The Border Patrol in Del Rio is so prevalent I don’t have a worry in the world,” he said, adding that he particularly enjoys restaurants in the Del Rio area as well as the camaraderie and social events that take place at Broke Mill RV Park. “We have lots of cookouts here. I just have the time of my life,” Wofford said, adding that he’s even thinking about purchasing a home in the area.
The safe atmosphere on the Texas side of the border comes as no surprise to Mike McCarson, a former Border Patrol agent who owns the Broke Mill RV Park.
He said media reports about violence between drug cartels inside Mexico have left many people outside Texas with the impression that the border is not safe for tourists when, in reality, it’s as safe as it’s ever been.
“There has been violence between the cartels, but that has taken place in Mexico, not here in Texas,” McCarson said, adding that the negative publicity has resulted in a 10% decline in overnight traffic at his park as well as a decline in his Winter Texan business.
Fortunately, he said, native Texans know better, and they continue to stay at his park, offsetting losses he might have otherwise experienced as a result of the negative publicity.
While there has been increased violence this year in several areas of Mexico, there has not been any notable increase in violence on the Texas side of the border, according to law enforcement agencies.
“We as an agency would have to say we do not see an increase in spillover violence from Mexico,” said Mark Qualia, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, adding, “If there is any spillover violence from the cartels, we’re going to be the first ones to see that impact.”
Qualia added that the number of agents assigned to the border has doubled in the past decade to about 20,000 agents. “And that’s just the Border Patrol,” he said.
Several Texas law enforcement agencies on the U.S. side of the border also say they have not seen any significant increases in crime, either.
Perceptions are hard to shake, however, and some RV parks have had a few cancellations this winter as a result of media publicity about violence on the Mexican side of the border.
“When people hear border violence, it doesn’t matter if it’s in a one-mile area, people think it’s the whole border,” said AJ Wright, who owns the 25-site Desert Hills RV Park in Comstock.
Wright, whose park is six miles north of the border, had a few cancellations a few months ago, but he says his business is picking up again now. “We’ve had no incidents here. So we feel very safe,” he said.
Both native and Winter Texans have similar views about the warmth and feeling of welcome they find among businesses throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Many also say they continue to cross the border into Mexico in locations where they feel comfortable doing so.
“We’ve never had any problem in Mexico, and we’ve been treated so nicely there,” said Marion Snell of Ackerly, Texas, who travels to Ciudad Acuña from time to time with his wife, Joy, to obtain medical treatment and prescription medications.
“As far as Del Rio and Acuña are concerned, we have no worries,” said Snell, who uses Broke Mill RV Park as a base when he makes his cross-border trips.
Sandra Chrane, 69, of Abilene, Texas, frequently stays at Broke Mill RV Park and has not had any problems on either side of the border. “We go there all year long,” she said. “We enjoy the park and the lake and we go over into Acuña. My husband goes to the dentist there and we’ve never had problems.”
Texans who travel to other Mexican border towns have similar accounts.
“There’s no problem going to Nuevo Progreso,” said Wanda Boush, an 88-year Chicago native and former Winter Texan who now lives full time in a mobile home in Alamo, near the Mexican border. “Everyone goes to the dentists. Everyone goes over there to buy prescription drugs. It’s safe to eat in the restaurants there. It’s safe to do your shopping.”
Boush herself goes into Mexico to purchase medicine for her cat.
Tom Brooks, who manages the KOA on South Padre Island, with 200 RV sites and 18 park model lodges, said his winter visitors also continue to make trips in Mexico. “A lot of our winter people go there for medicines and to see doctors,” he said, adding that his business levels are consistent with last year’s figures.