There’s safety in numbers when traveling some of Mexico’s highways, which was why Mexicans living in the United States chose to join a convoy to Zacatecas on the weekend.
Federal Police and Green Angels met the 70 vehicles — loaded down with family members, Christmas presents and even furniture for relatives in Mexico — at the San Jerónimo-Santa Teresa border crossing between Chihuahua and New Mexico, and headed south for Zacatecas.
The initiative is intended to provide safe passage for Mexicans living in the U.S. and avoid extortion and other dangers.
For José Fernández of San Francisco, California, it’s all about safety, though he said if something is meant to happen, it will. But if a driver has a flat tire or mechanical problem, he said, there’s help at hand after which everyone continues the journey.
Their departure was not without fanfare. Officials from the National Immigration Institute (INM) and state politicians from Zacatecas were on hand to give the visitors a sendoff on their journey of more than 1,000 kilometers.
Joining the convoy for the first 40 kilometers, as far as the Samalayuca desert, were agents of Grupo Beta, or Beta Group, and Programa Paisano, or Fellow Citizens’ Program, both part of the INM and designed to aid migrants and Mexican citizens traveling from the U.S., respectively.
Members of the convoy were among 70,000 Mexicans living in the U.S. who have already crossed the border into Chihuahua for the Christmas season, a segment of travelers whose numbers have risen 60% in the past five years. The state Economy Secretariat said they will mean an economic benefit of more than 140 million pesos this year.
There were long waits at the border crossing on Saturday, when vehicles were backed up for eight kilometers on the U.S. side.
The wait time to cross into Mexico was three hours or more.
Convoys have been standard practice for a few years between border cities in Tamaulipas and Ciudad Victoria in the south of the state.