NOGALES, SONORA — A two week Easter break in Mexico translated into long lines at the Nogales border crossing for Isauro Perez and his family who were headed for shopping in Tucson.
“A couple of gifts, if we can, a bit of clothing and some personal items,” said Perez. Perez waited in line in heavy northbound traffic with his wife Iris, two children and his mother-in-law. The family lives in in the southern Mexican state Oaxaca and travelled to Arizona. They flew into Hermosillo and drove to the border.
For Ortiz, it was a homecoming of sorts. She’s originally from Nogales, Sonora and prefers shopping in the United States.
“The clothes and other things aren’t the same in Mexico,” Ortiz said. “I grew up here in Nogales, so I still search for things I used to get when I crossed when I was younger.”
For Americans, the Easter break ended Sunday. In Mexico students and many employees get two weeks off for the holiday. And that means extra retail dollars for border states like Arizona.
“They’re shopping, they’re at the malls, they’re out buying, they’re out doing activities,” said said Christopher Teal, U.S. Consul General in Nogales, Sonora. ” It has a huge impact for our economy in Arizona and our economy in the United States, I can’t speak positively enough really about that part of the relationship.”
Mexicans spend more than $7 million in Arizona according to estimates provided by the U.S. Consulate in Nogales but that sum increases during Easter holiday vacation season.
For local Nogales, Sonora residents like Carlos Valdez, it can be hassle crossing the border this time of year.
“Since it’s vacation time, it’s taking three hours,” Valdez said. “Three to four hours to cross.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials will fully staff lines at the Nogales until the end of the break April 3.
Despite long lines and a weaker peso and currency exchange rate that favors those with dollars, many visitors from Mexico still prefer to shop in the United States citing higher quality and deeper discounts.
“They say the dollar is expensive, but comparing prices with Mexico, it ends up being about the same,” said Rodolfo Soto, who was visiting from Hermosillo.
It isn’t just businesses in Arizona that are getting a boost, however. Street vendor Julio Salvide-Torres also sees a spike in his sales. He has been selling snacks near the Nogales border crossing for 15 years. He said this is one of the times when vendors make the most money.
“We look forward to these days when there’s a long line, because when it’s a normal day there isn’t really a line,” Salvide-Torres said. “It’s empty,”