JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Juarez’s reputation for drug violence doesn’t faze U.S. visitors like Adrian Escobedo, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident who has been driving his family to La Feria Juarez every summer for at least the past seven years.
“First of all, it’s an experience because we’re in Mexico,” Escobedo said. “Everything is delicious and then we come for the rides. We’re about to buy some tickets so we can go ride. It means a lot and it’s a tradition we have going on.”
La Feria is entering its two final weekends at its traditional location on Plaza de la Mexicanidad (the Big Red X) just southeast of El Paso’s Bridge of the Americas port of entry. The fair will continue from June 23 to July 9 at an alternate location deep in south Juarez.
This city’s top tourism draw – more than 400,000 patrons came last year – succeeds in no small part thanks to visitors from El Paso and other U.S. cities, said Wendy Valenzuela, a spokeswoman for the event. Americans, mostly families, account for 30% of gate receipts.
“It’s fun and it’s safe. In all the years I’ve been here, we’ve never had anything bad happen,” he said.
Escobedo on Thursday brought his children, his parents, and his brother and his children to the fair. “Safety-wise, there is no problem whatsoever,” he said. “I would recommend for people to come here. […] We always had a strong relationship being neighbors. We live over there but our family is here. So, it’s something we need to keep going.”
Karen Gurrola, an East El Paso resident, also mentioned family and cultural ties as a reason for visiting Juarez.
“It’s kind of a tradition. We’ve been coming since I was little,” she said. “When I bring friends, they’re always surprised by the size (of the fairgrounds).”
When asked what she likes most about La Feria, Gurrola said, “the food, it’s always the food. I like the tacos, my parents like the enchiladas.”
If there is something visitors would like to change about the fair is the prices. Escobedo, Gurrola and other fairgoers said the food prices have gone up substantially compared to previous years.
That is a concern that fair organizers are trying to address. Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar on Monday said the city told vendors to post the prices of their food and merchandise so visitors would not be surprised. And with the surprising recent strength of the Mexican peso, U.S. visitors’ dollars don’t go as far anymore.
The peso on Thursday was trading 17 to 1 to the dollar at money exchange houses, but most stands at the Juarez fair posted “16 to 1” signs regarding the dollar.
A KTSM/Border Report crew of three ended up paying $72 for three orders of tacos, guacamole and chips, flautas, one bottled water and three servings of fruit-flavored water. A single ride on the Ferris wheel or the bumper cars costs 100 pesos, or $6.
Gurrola and Escobedo said those prices are affordable for most U.S. visitors. Gurrola further said there is nothing comparable to La Feria in El Paso.
Fair official Valenzuela said the nightly concerts at the fair are a value added. Spanish singer Natalia Jimenez headlines Saturday night’s show while Mexican regional music singer Luis R. Conriquez is Sunday’s attraction at the open-air auditorium.