South of the Border (attraction)

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South of the Border's large welcome sign

South of the Border is a rest stop and roadside attraction on Interstate 95 and US Highway 301/501 between Dillon, South Carolina, and Rowland, North Carolina. It is so named because it is just south of the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. The rest area contains restaurants, gas stations, and a motel, as well as a small amusement park, shopping and fireworks. Its mascot is Pedro, an arguably racist caricature of a Mexican bandido.[1]

Historic background[edit]

South of the Border was developed by Alan Schafer in 1950.[1] He had founded a beer stand at the location in 1949 and had chosen because of its location adjacent to Robeson County which was at one time, one of many dry North Carolina counties.[2] Business was steadily expanded with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items imported from Mexico.[1] He had a great deal of success turning South of the Border into a tourist mecca.[3][dead link] South of the Border grew to over a square mile, required its own infrastructure, and had its own fire and police departments. Assisting in this growth was the fact that the new Interstate 95 and the existing US 301 intersect at the site of the South of the Border complex. South of the Border serves as a rest stop for vacationers and tourists traveling to and from Florida. US 501 is also the main route to Myrtle Beach.


Following the Second World War, branding became an increasingly important aspect of marketing products.[4] Mascots in particular added personality and inviting imagery, both important for tourist attractions. Initially, Schafer only employed sombreros and serapes to advertise South of the Border. [4] Schafer eventually created the mascot Pedro to add to the exotic element. Minstrel shows were still popular in Dillon County and about the time Pedro was created and embodies the way in which people exoticized Mexico or Mexicans while remaining intentionally campy.[5] P. Nicole King described Pedro’s image as a “southern Jewish guy in brown face” that was perhaps made partially in Schafer‘s image.[6] Pedro wears a sombrero, a poncho and a large mustache.[1] Schafer has previously dismissed criticism that Pedro is an unfair characterization of Mexicans arguing it’s a light-hearted joke.[7] Today, all South of the Border employees regardless of race, creed or color are referred to as Pedro, supposedly confusing and erasing racial differences.[1][8]

Notable features and people[edit]

Part of the film Forces of Nature was filmed at South of the Border. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, originally from nearby Dillon, South Carolina, worked for a summer as a poncho-wearing waiter at South of the Border to help pay his way through Harvard.[3]

Architectural styles and decor[edit]

The entire motif of South of the Border can be described as intentionally campy. Adobe style ornament is applied over inexpensive concrete block structures and combined with neon signage in Mid-century Modern (Googie architecture) or Roadside high-camp style. Most of the architectural styles of South of the Border are of the "Decorated Shed" type (Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown)[citation needed] however some aspects are "ducks" i.e.: designed as stand-alone advertisements for actual attractions—particularly the trademark giant, sombrero-clad neon figure which functions as the park's motel front signage and the illuminated sombrero-shaped tower.

Media Reference[edit]

A parody can be seen in The Simpsons episode "Bart vs. Australia." Marge and Lisa visit a gift shop titled South O' the Equator Gift Shoppe. Pedro is featured in the window of the gift shop with a sign stating "Pedro Sez: Eet's High Koala-T!"


The 165 foot (66 m) tall Sombrero Tower, built in the 1970s, is one of its attractions.

Among the billboards advertising South of the Border along Interstate 95 (SC) / Interstate 95 (NC) are the following:

Fill Yo' Trunque Weeth Pedro's Junque! Back up, amigo, you missed it! (just after the exit on I-95)
Pedro's Weather Forecast: Chili today, hot tamale! Keep America Green! Bring Money!
You Never Sausage a Place! (You're Always a Wiener at Pedro's!) Keep yelling, kids! (They'll stop.)
Sommtheeng Deeferent Honeymoon Suites: Heir Conditioned
Fort Pedro, Fireworks Capital of the US Etymologically Correck!
Howdy, Pardner! Top Banana!
Pedro's fireworks! Does yours? Too moch Tequila (Billboard appears upside down)
South of the Border Your sheep are all counted at South of the Border. (has a rotating wheel with sheep painted on it)
Caliente! Smash Hit! (junked car attached to sign)
I-95's best kept secret? Be a Deer! Bring some Doe (at South of the Border).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Reeves, James (2011), The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir, New York: Norton and Company, p. 47 
  2. ^ "HISTORY South of the Border". 
  3. ^ a b "In College: Bernanke once had job at South of the Border". Fayetteville Observer. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  4. ^ a b King 2012, p. 90.
  5. ^ King 2012, pp. 87, 91.
  6. ^ King 2012, p. 91.
  7. ^ King 2012, p. 93, 94.
  8. ^ King 2012, p. 93.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°29′52″N 79°18′35″W / 34.49778°N 79.30972°W / 34.49778; -79.30972