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 offensive caricature of a Mexican bandido. South of the Border has long served as a rest stop for vacationers and tourists traveling from the Northeast United States to Florida.
South of the Border was developed by Alan Schafer in 1950. 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. Business was steadily expanded with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items imported from Mexico. He had a great deal of success turning South of the Border into a tourist mecca.[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.
Following the Second World War, branding became an increasingly important aspect of marketing products. 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. Schafer eventually created the mascot Pedro to add to the exotic element. Minstrel shows were still popular in Dillon County and at about the time Pedro was created, he embodies the way in which people exoticized Mexico or Mexicans while remaining intentionally campy.
Pedro is an exaggerated cartoon-like representation of a Mexican man; wears a sombrero, a poncho and a large mustache. P. Nicole King described Pedro’s image as a “southern Jewish guy in brown face” that was perhaps made partially in Schafer's image. Schafer has previously dismissed criticism that Pedro is an unfair characterization of Mexicans arguing it’s a light-hearted joke. Today, all South of the Border employees regardless of race, creed or color are referred to as Pedro, confusing and erasing racial differences.