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Between violence and the pandemic, heritage tourism to Mexico has gotten complicated

a three story building with tunnels underneath at the border to Mexico with cars driving under and a sign that says mexico on the building
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
The Laredo port of entry into Mexico at the U.S-Mexico border.

Some families organize caravans of dozens of cars to trek through Mexico safely.

From Texas Standard:

Heritage tourism, common for decades among Mexican Americans, has been declining in recent years. Between the pandemic and fears of violence, more and more Mexican Americans are choosing not to visit the places where they have roots in Mexico, and it's hurting the country's economy – especially during peak tourist times like spring break.

Dallas Morning News Mexico border correspondentAlfredo Corchado tells Texas Standard that those who do make the journey have had to change the way that they travel.

Listen to the interview with Corchado in the audio player above or read the highlights below:

– For many spring breakers, trips to Mexico means partying in Cancun. Heritage tourism, on the other hand, is an opportunity for families to reconnect with their Mexican roots, Corchado says.

"They want to make sure that the next generation knows about all these colonial gems, this part of their own history," he said. "So it's not just immigrants taking back their their kids to visit their relatives, but to really see the best of Mexico."

– Tourism is key to Mexico's economy, including in Guanajuato, where Corchado has been reporting. He says local officials are "trying to put the best face forward" to attract visitors to a city that depends on foreign investment.

"Tourism is a big deal, that it really does hurt them," he said.

– Heritage tourists who do come to Mexico are changing how they travel to stay safe. Some fly directly to their destination, instead of traveling through the country. Others orchestrate caravans of dozens of vehicles, and follow advice from family members in Mexico to only travel at certain times, keep gas tanks full and avoid certain roads.

"A lot of the families who live in the United States, I mean, they're determined to go back," Corchado said.

– Others have decided to forgo traveling to Mexico for now. Corchado says there aren't hard numbers about how much travel has dwindled, but he says immigrant groups in the United States have told him some families have chosen not to visit their hometowns because of the risks.

"The violence is so fluid that it may be, one week things are fine and then the next week things are down. The Mexican government says things are getting better, but yet the number of disappearances has also gone up," he said.

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Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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