LOS DOS LAREDOS - Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

by Paris Permenter & John Bigley

The glassblower works with the molten glass, fresh from the 1400 degree oven. In seconds, he blows air through a long rod, blowing open the end of the molten glass like a piece of fiery bubble gum. Quickly, his assistant uses tongs to shape and roll it into a drinking glass, one that will be fired overnight and later sold to shoppers in Nuevo Laredo.

Stop by the El Cid glass factory, Nuevo Laredo's only glassblower, to see the production of the blue-rimmed glassware that's popular throughout Mexico.


Hundreds of times of day, seven days a week, for over twenty years, this scene has been repeated at the El Cid Glass Factory. Nuevo Laredo's only glass factory is a magnet for Christmas shoppers looking for gifts that exhibit the quality of Mexican craftsmanship at prices that allow them to play Santa to just about everyone on their lists.

If you're looking for a weekend of shopping, then consider a trip to Mexico's Nuevo Laredo and its sister city, Laredo, Texas. These cities are favorite destinations with shoppers looking for quality, quantity, and bargains along the border.

This year, Mexico shopping is especially a bargain for U.S. shoppers because of the devaluation of the peso. San Antonio's Jose E. Martinez, former director of the US Trade and Development Agency and special assistant to President Bush, says "we can buy their products 30 to 40 percent cheaper that we would have a year ago." The President of Free Trade Alliance San Antonio explains that, "You will be helping them by paying them in dollars and at the same time you help yourself because you get a much cheaper product." Martinez points out that the best bargains are shopping, entertainment, and transportation.

But the bargains begin before you cross the international border. In Laredo, spend some time on Zaragoza Street, and enjoy a bazaar atmosphere where electronics, clothing, shoes, gold jewelry, and the world's finest perfumes are sold at a fraction of the retail price.

For Mexican imports such as pottery and wrought iron furniture, try the markets of the San Bernardo area a few blocks north of Zaragoza. The stores along San Bernardo are a good place to shop for larger import items if you won't be driving into Mexico.

But every Christmas shopper eventually heads for Nuevo Laredo and the seemingly endless procession of shops that line the avenues. From the moment you cross into Mexico, you'll be struck by the array of colors, merchandise, and sounds that define Old Mexico.

You'll reach the main avenue into Nuevo Laredo by crossing the Old Bridge or International Bridge No. 1. The bridge leads right onto Avenida Guerrero, the main shopping strip. Here you'll find merchandise whose price tags run the gamut from a dollar for trinkets from street vendors to thousands of dollars for fine jewelry at top of the line shops. Side by side, two of the city's top shops, Marti's and Deutsch & Deutsch, tempt shoppers with the merchandise of fine department stores. Here you'll find the best that Mexico has to offer: handmade clothing, beautiful glassware, exquisite home furnishings, and spectacular paintings.

XJust outside the doors of these elegant shops, you can buy a silver chain from a vendor for just a few dollars. Or head down the street to Nuevo Laredo's top shopping destination: the New Market or Nuevo Mercado. The block long, open-air market is filled with shoppers every day. Its two floors contain over 100 small shops selling everything from jewelry to serapes to onyx chess sets. Be prepared to bargain at all the market shops. Negotiation is a friendly game here, and both the merchant and the shopper usually go away happy.

xLooking for silver jewelry? You'll see silver jewelry of every description - whether it be rope necklaces, dangle earrings, or cuff bracelets. Look for sombrero earrings, bangle bracelets, and shrimp earrings. On all silver jewelry, check for the "925" stamp to ensure silver quality.

How about textiles? Colorful serapes, fringed blankets sporting bright stripes or Mexican designs, hand embroidered Mexican dresses are other good buys. Leather goods including belts and wallets are always popular for the men in your family, sold at most of the market stores. Onyx chess sets, bookends, bowls, and fruit are also popular Mexican souvenirs.

XFor a free vacation packet to Los Dos Laredos: contact the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 790, Laredo, Texas 78042 or call 1-800-361-3360. Stop in the offices at 501 San Augustin between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. for brochures.