One of the greatest advantages of living in southern Cochise County is its proximity to its foreign neighbor, Mexico.
It’s not just the authentic cuisine and colorful artwork that attracts Cochise’s residents -- it’s the dentists, the doctors and the pharmacies, their no-nonsense treatment of patients and their lower prices that keep Americans coming back.
“I go to Mexico because it’s more affordable,” says Sierra Vista resident Bonnie Gordon. “I love my dentist there.”
Bisbee resident Jay Allen drives into Mexico three or four times a week.
“I was born in Bisbee,” Allen, 66, says. “Mexico is a part of my home. Between my friends who live across the border and all the services offered there, it’s great living on the border.”
Thousands of Americans cross into Mexico daily for their medical, dental and pharmaceutical needs.
In an article in Newsweek magazine in May 2019, Patients Beyond Borders, an organization advocating for medical travel, said that as many as 800,000 to 1 million American citizens make the trip from the U.S. to Mexico for affordable treatment each year.
Josef Woodman, the CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, told Newsweek that he, too, chooses to go to Mexico to save money on dental care. Woodman said he traveled to Cancun to go to the dentist to get work done and ended up paying about $4,000.
He said a similar treatment plan in the U.S. would have cost him more than three times that amount.
"So, I saved about $10,000," he told Newsweek. "And that is not unusual. You can save a lot of money."
At Farmacia Naco (Naco Pharmacy) in Naco, Sonora, it’s not unusual to see Americans standing in line for medications or even toothpaste and hand lotion.
Longtime employee Patricio Gamez Perez said he usually sees about 10 U.S. citizens per eight-hour shift at the pharmacy, daily.
“It’s not so much in quantity (of Americans), but more in the amount of money spent here by people from the other side of the border. It’s less expensive here,” Gamez said in Spanish.
Gabriela Diaz, a dental technician at Clinica Dental Larios in Agua Prieta, Sonora, said her dental clinic has been in business 19 years and Americans have long been coming through their doors.
Not only are the fees reasonable -- a basic dental cleaning is $30 -- but the clinic is conveniently located about a block from the port of entry with Douglas.
“I would say that at the moment (our clientele) from the U.S., it’s about 30 percent of our patients,” Diaz said.
She mentioned that the percentage of dental patients from the U.S. is lower than normal at the clinic. She believes it could be related to the pandemic and said she hopes for an increase of U.S. patients this year.
But it’s not just about the savings that keeps people like Gordon and Allen going back to Mexico.
It’s the personal attention.
“It reminds me of old-time U.S.A.,” said Gordon, 54, of her dentist in Naco. “I get good, personal service.”
Gordon, who lives in Sierra Vista, said her doctor and his staff treat her like family and she always feels they truly care about her wellbeing.
Gordon also said driving into Naco, Sonora, for her dental appointments usually ends up becoming a social event.
“It's a great drive and then I go into Bisbee and have lunch and see friends,” she said.
For Allen, it’s about the “talent” he sees in his neighbors to the south.
A motorcycle and automobile enthusiast, Allen goes to several people in Agua Prieta who work on his vehicles both mechanically and aesthetically. He also has a lot of iron work done in Mexico for his unique residence in the Lowell neighborhood of Bisbee.
“It’s not a third-world country,” Allen says of Mexico. “There is a lot of talent in those border cities.”