Wealthy Mexicans seek safety in The Woodlands

THE WOODLANDS, TX They are a happy family. The kids enjoy playing with the family pet bird. It is an ideal situation that the father says comes at a great sacrifice.

"The main concern was to get my family in a nice and secure place," the father of one family said.

The father doesn't mind showing his family member's faces, but they don't want to use their names or reveal exactly where they live in The Woodlands. The father says it's just not safe in Mexico; violence can strike at any time and Mexico's wealthy are a target for criminals.

"Several kidnappings specifically in the business community -- the owners of factories, unfortunately many of my friends," the father said.

He moved his family and his business to The Woodlands last year.

"It's not money that's worth enough to risk the security of your family," he said.

It's a decision an increasing number of Mexican families have made over the past couple of years.

Mariana Saldana is at the forefront of those home sales. She is a Realtor who for years has built a predominately Mexican clientele, people who would buy vacation homes in Houston. However, recently she's noticed a change in what her clients want.

"They have such terrible violence in different parts of Mexico. As soon as something happens to somebody in a family or relative they start trying to pick a comfort zone," Saldana said.

She says that comfort zone is in The Woodlands. The large gated neighborhoods with 24-hour security have become a favorite. Her clients want safety and proximity to the airport and to Houston.

Virtual tours mean clients can see what they're getting ahead of time. She's sold 25 new homes in The Woodlands in the past couple of months and has 30 sales pending now -- all of them to Mexican families.

"They're buying more expensive properties. They're buying properties they're going to live in versus just a vacation home," Saldana said.

"We have seen about a two percent increase in our families from Mexico," said Jeanne Lewis with The Woodlands Development Company.

The Woodlands Development Company says the increase has created an economic boom. Advertising in Mexico has been stepped up to encourage home buying.

For this Mexican family, though, the move has been life-changing. They're able to do here what can't be done back home.

"'I'm not afraid to let my kids go outside or to the pool or whatever, that's the feeling that I almost forget. You get used to the fear," the father said.

It's a sense of freedom for families not looking for jobs but for security.

Realtors and the local chambers of commerce tell Eyewitness News they will help people from other countries, like Mexico, navigate through the system in order to buy property and set up their businesses legally.

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