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Film Revives Cowboy's Matchmaking Business

'Cowboy Cupid' Ivan Thompson, left, and his client, Gary Childs, at a hotel in Casas Grandes, Mexico. Childs, a rancher from Michigan, says he came to Mexico to "find a slim, attractive young lady that appreciates a good man."
John Burnett, NPR
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'Cowboy Cupid' Ivan Thompson, left, and his client, Gary Childs, at a hotel in Casas Grandes, Mexico. Childs, a rancher from Michigan, says he came to Mexico to "find a slim, attractive young lady that appreciates a good man."

Ivan Thompson's cross-border matchmaking business has dwindled in recent years, under competition from the Internet. But a new documentary about "Cowboy Cupid," who arranges marriages between American men and Mexican women, has boosted interest in his services.

Thompson's life had never been much of an advertisement for his own business. Seventeen years ago, he put an ad in a newspaper in Juarez, Mexico, for a wife. He was astonished when he got about eighty responses. One of them led to marriage, but it only lasted nine years.

Despite his failed cross-border marriage, the former rodeo cowboy and horse trader realized there was a plentiful market of lonely American men who were tired of American women -- and lonely Mexican women who were tired of Mexican men.

What they lacked was an introduction.

Thompson charges about $3,000 for his personalized matchmaking service. The business is not incorporated, it doesn't have a name, and there are no contracts. Just a handshake.

It's really only a sideline. Thompson lives mainly on his Social Security. He says his business dwindled as the Internet became a more popular meeting place for couples.

But he says things are starting to turn around. A new documentary about Thompson, Cowboy Del Amor by Israeli filmmaker Michèle Ohayon, has received favorable reviews -- and Thompson's phone is beginning to ring more often.

Ohayon says her film has been generating clients for Thompson in the unlikeliest places, including retirees who saw the documentary at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

"There's a lot of lonely guys out there who want to be matched, and they want somebody they can grow old with," she says.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.
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