|PHARR, December 10 - State Sen. Eddie Lucio has proposed that the new university being created in South Texas should be called UT-Las Americas.
Lucio said naming the institution UT-Rio Grande Valley or UT-South “does not look at the big picture” of what the university could become in the coming years by developing educational and academic ties with Mexico and the rest of Latin American.
“When it comes to naming our new university I would hope the UT System Regents could consider naming our new university something more global, more hemispheric than UT-RGV. Naming it just for our area is not a wise thing to do. If we are going to attract national interest and international interest a good name for it would be UT-Las Americas,” Lucio told the Guardian.
“I think the name UT-Las Americas would resound across Latin America. It would set the stage for greater things for this region, this part of North America, and for the country.”
Lucio made his comments in an exclusive interview with the Guardian at the opening of his new district office in Pharr. Asked if he had submitted his preferred name to the UT System Regents, Lucio said: “I have done it verbally.”
The UT System Regents will select a name for the new university of South Texas on Thursday. The institution will be created out of the ashes of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, which are being collapsed in order to allow the new institution access to Permanent University Funds. UTPA and UTB were prevented from accessing this endowment, which derives income from oil and gas production royalties.
UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has suggested three names to the UT System Regents – UT-Rio Grande Valley, UT-South, and UT-Pan American. He did this because these were the three most popular names submitted by South Texas residents. However, the Regents are not obliged to listen to Cigarroa. The UT System offered five potential names at the start of the public input period – UT of the Americas, UT-Las Americas, UT-International, UT-Rio Grande Valley, and UT-South.
Lucio said he has just returned from Panama, where he saw the new, eagerly-awaited, ship canal currently under construction. Lucio said the canal will allow larger container vessels to cross from South East Asia via the Pacific Ocean and reach markets on coast of the Gulf of Mexico. He said when this happens South Texas will be even more economically wedded to international trade and to Latin America.
“I just got back from Panama. I was at the base of the new canal, at the very base of it, looking up at the giant walls surrounding me. I walked on the swinging gates of the current canal. I studied how things work there and most important the impact the canal will have on the Third Coast of this country, the Texas Coast. It will be something extraordinary. We will have imports that will outnumber present volumes by the tens of thousands every year, because of bigger container ships making it through the canal. The cost of distribution is going to drop. I am excited about the future,” Lucio said.
The importance of international trade with Mexico and Latin America was discussed at the BiNational Economic Development Zone Summit at UT-Brownsville last Friday. Ana Luisa Fajer Flores, director general for North America Affairs in the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told those at the summit that U.S. trade with Mexico is now worth about one million dollars a day. Alan Bersin, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spoke about trade links increasingly running north-south, not east-west.
Lucio said if UT System regents truly want to develop the new university as “bilingual, bi-literate, and bi-cultural” they will embrace a name that captures this flavor. He said UT-Las Americas does that best.
“UT-Las Americas gives us a big picture, much more so than UT-Rio Grande Valley or UT-South Texas. We have a remarkable opportunity with the naming of this new university to send out a strong message: that we are thinking globally, that we have big ambitions and new horizons; that we dream big. This is about putting us on the map throughout our hemisphere. We can do this by calling our new university UT-Las Americas.”