I believe it's been well known for a long time now that a sizeable percentage of shoppers at Houston's high end mall the Galleria are from Mexico, but I'm still a bit surprised to see it expressed in such stark terms.
Red, green and white are more than just traditional holiday colors to Patricia Porto.
The many wealthy shoppers visiting her boutique this Christmas season make her think of another color scheme -- that of the Mexican flag.
The Galleria has long been a favorite among both Mexico's elite and middle class.
At least 20 percent of the shopping center's customers come from Mexico.
"Without the Mexicans, there is no Galleria," said Porto, who counts Mexican customers as 70 percent of her business.
Not too surprisingly, most of the business from these foreign visitors is for the real expensive stuff, but the story did note that some middle class folks make a regular trek up north, too. The fear of terror attacks slowed things down recently, but there's a bigger factor at work:
[Porto] remembers when, in the 1980s after two peso devaluations and a recession, fewer Mexican customers shopped at Galleria stores.
And for the last two years, business was slow. Many Mexicans were afraid to travel to the United States because of the terrorist attacks.
But business has picked up again, despite the recent weakening of the Mexican peso against the U.S. dollar. And, for some middle-class Mexican shoppers, that's an important factor in the decision of whether to come to the United States.
"When there's a big difference in the exchange rate, it affects how they want to spend their money," Tourneau's general manager, Ed Gelber, said. "If they have so much money that it doesn't matter, then it doesn't matter."