Mexican tourists brave dangerous highways for Semana Santa

Many Mexican travelers are on vacation and shopping in the Rio Grande Valley this Semana Santa or Holy Week.

Cecilia Garza is one of them. She made the trip from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, mainly to get the most for her dollar.

"In Mexico you buy one pair of jeans for 500 pesos, but here you can sometimes buy three for the same price," Cecilia Garza said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials said Tuesday that hundreds of travelers from Mexico have crossed through the Brownsville International Bridge and other points of entry throughout the Valley, both on foot and on vehicles.

They said the number of travelers from Mexico is slightly down from last year, but not by much.

"This time of year is always busy for us, CBP Spokesperson Eddie Perez said. We always have a lot of people seeking permits to go into the interior of the United States and this year is no exception. We've had a lot of people seeing those permits."

Many are choosing to travel through Mexican highways in their own vehicles despite reports of high-jackings, hold-ups and even mass murders by Mexican cartels.

However, Garza did not want to take that chance and took a bus with several friends.

"It's riskier to travel in your own car because I think you draw more attention, Garza said. We still run a risk on a bus, but it's a smaller risk."

Garza said despite the evident soldiers, marines and federal officers as well as several checkpoints during her trip from Monterrey to Matamoros, she was still nervous - especially since she was carrying hundreds of dollars in cash.

"I was really nervous because I thought we were going to get mugged by armed men at any moment, Garza said. Luckily everything turned-out well."

Perez said anyone bringing more than $10,000 in cash, must declare the money when entering the U.S.

However, he said carrying large amounts of cash is becoming a thing of the past, with more travelers relying on credit cards for their purchases.

Garza said she'll be just as vigilant on her way back to Monterrey, but is glad she took the trip to the U.S.

"We just cant be locked-up behind four walls living in fear," Garza said.