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Christmas season brings Mexican shoppers – and an economic boost – to Rio Grande Valley shops

McAllen's revenue took a 50% hit when the southern border closed to non-essential travel. Now the community is preparing for a rebound.

MCALLEN, Texas — Vendors along the Texas-Mexico border are anticipating a lucrative end to 2022 as the busy holiday season gets underway.

One week before Thanksgiving and Black Friday, stores in the Rio Grande Valley community of McAllen are readying store shelves and stocking inventory, anticipating an influx of shoppers from the south.

“People from Mexico come once every two months,” said Karina Rosales, who has managed a small boutique named Shangri-La for the past eight years. “They spend $1,000, $5,000 on average. We have foot traffic all day."

Among the popular items shoppers cross the border to purchase from Rosales: Perfumes, glasses and jewelry. 

Credit: KENS
Karina Rosales has run McAllen's Shangri-La for eight years, and relies on Mexican business.

According to McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez, Mexican shoppers contribute to 30% of the local economy.

“It's a huge month for our community, and really for the valley," Rodriguez said. "The vendors all across the Rio Grande Valley, and especially here in McAllen, depend greatly on the Mexican shopper."

Rodriguez emphasized that Mexican shoppers are more important in 2022 than in years past. When the southern border was closed to non-essential travel during the pandemic, McAllen took a 50% revenue hit. 

That affected businesses tremendously. 

“It was a tough time,” Rodriguez said. “It was hard to project how we’re going to do the rest of the year, and really hard to project how we’re going to do the following year.”

Credit: KENS
McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez says the city is poised for a post-pandemic economic rebound with borders back open.

With the border and bridges now open again – and long lines of cars signifying a healthy international economy at least in this region – Rodriguez said the hope is that McAllen and other Texas cities continue to rebound.

"We got our friends from Mexico back," he said. "We know the vendors are excited about this year and hopefully getting back to normal."



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