East End Transit

Why have bus lines to Mexico bloomed all across the East End? Maybe because it's a family affair.

It was a quiet moment, one whose intimacy spoke to family connections, just as the trip north to be part of a marriage celebration did. Family ties are strong among first- and second-generation Mexican immigrants, who, unlike most other waves of immigrants that have entered the U.S., are relatively near their original homeland. Those family bonds have done much to fuel the Hispanic bus boom. The buses make it possible to go home cheaply, and to go home often.

But if the pull of family has lifted the East End bus companies into prominence, the question remains whether that pull will last. Historically, America has had a way of making people forget where they came from, of making them Americans first, immigrants second. As the first generation gives way to the second, and the second to the third, will the buses south be as alluring? Or will the appeal shift to cars and planes, as it has for other Americans?

It's an unanswered question, and one that, as the number of first-generation Hispanics continues to swell, may be moot for years to come. For the moment, it's easy to see why the buses are thriving. They're a good way to travel. The buses are clean, the movies are good, the drivers are well-dressed and courteous. And more, the East End bus companies offer a break from American corporate culture, with its rules and ruthless efficiency. Technically, I hadn't entered Mexico until I reached Nuevo Laredo. But spiritually, I was there the moment I hit the bus station in the East End.

Research assistance for this story was provided by Catherine Wentworth.

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