I am officially initiated as a member of America’s senior citizenry having made my first pilgrimage to Algodones, Mexico, in search of wellness and healing. (Or for the less romantic, I was lookin’ for cheaper glasses and meds.)
We seekers pour across the US – Mexico border, by some estimates 30,000 daily, in search of affordable (or just less expensive) medical, dental, vision, and pharmacy services. In the four-square block area that is Algodones, barkers entice passersby to come inside and see the delights that await you in the dental chair. Free examinations with cleanings, root canals, extractions, bridges, crowns and dentures, at 75%-80% of the price in the US.
Many different pharmacies (“the best ones are the purple ones,” my optician receptionist assures me) provide your medicines, with some prescriptions at 95% of the price in the US and most others at significant savings.
“But if you won’t drink the water, how can you trust dental tools in your mouth?” you ask. And, “aren’t you afraid of the drug wars raging in the border cities?” Word-of-mouth (no pun intended) from satisfied customers abounds on the internet and in personal interactions with other pilgrims. Claims are that all the professionals in Algodones (rumored to be 350 dentists, for example) have a vested interest in keeping it safe for us to visit, as it is their livelihoods. And indeed, I have never felt unsafe there, no more than the usual discomfort of being out of my comfort zone.
Not all is doctors, dentists, opticians and pharmacists, though! Pinatas, painted iron work, and other Mexican art make the market place colorful.
The worst part of the whole experience? The LONG line waiting to pass through Immigration and Customs to get back into the USA. It doesn’t seem like there are 30,000 shoppers in Algodones, until you walk blocks to the end of the line! Most folks don’t drive across into Mexico as auto insurance is expensive and a security-patrolled parking lot is conveniently provided by a local Indian tribe within easy walking distance of the border on the US side.