EDINBURG, Texas – State Rep. Rafael Anchía says he is offended when politicians from Austin come to the Rio Grande Valley for the sole purpose of taking photo ops on DPS gun boats.

The Dallas lawmaker gave the keynote address at the Hidalgo Tejano Democrats 1st Annual Gala held at the Memorial Event Center in Mission. The group honored ten local VIPs at the event.

“As a Texan I want to say proudly and loudly that I am border proud. I am proud of the border that we have with Mexico. I am proud of the fact that we sit in the middle of a North American continent and that we are an exporting powerhouse, thanks to the work that happens here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Anchía said, to great applause.

“While being border proud, it offends me on a regular basis when you have politicians from Austin who come down here for the sole purpose of taking photo ops on DPS gun boats. That, to me, is offensive.”

There was more applause.

“They don’t want to come down here and talk about our award-winning public schools, not to talk about UTRGV, not to talk about our great hospitals, but to talk about fear, criminality, violence, and essentially to trash the RGV. That should be offensive to you as it is to me.”

Anchía, a former chairman of the international relations committee in the Texas House, singled out Gov. Greg Abbott for criticism.

“We need leaders who celebrate the border instead of comparing the RGV, as the governor did a couple of years ago, to a Third World country. I don’t know if you remember that, it was in the 2014 campaign. We need leaders who will engage with the people, come down here not for a photo-op but to know the people, understand the people.”

Anchía said that when he was first elected he came to the Valley and met with the then mayor of McAllen, Richard Cortez. Cortez, now the Hidalgo County Judge, was in the audience. Cortez picked the “Tejano Pillar Award” from the Tejano Democrats.

“Mayor Cortez told me of his dreams and aspirations for this community. And he told me, and I didn’t understand it at the time. He said, soon, we are going to have a skyline here in McAllen. Understanding those hopes, dreams and aspirations, is what elected officials who ostensibly represent Texas should do,” Anchía said.

Anchía said that when you know the locals you do not do “stupid things” like putting out a tweet saying Zapata County is in the Rio Grande Valley. That drew laughs from the audience.

“I remember the heat he (Abbott) got for that and it was well deserved. When you know the people, when you know people’s hopes, dreams and aspirations, you don’t say silly things.”

Anchía won loud applause when he said: “I want to make a point that when you trash the border, you are trashing Texas. And it you are Texas proud, you must be border proud.”

In addition to Cortez, another recipient of a Tejano Democrats award was state Rep. Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez of Weslaco.

Praising Martinez’s leadership, Anchía said of Martinez: “It is not everybody in Austin that is willing to stand up for their community. It is not everybody in Austin who is willing to speak truth to power. And it is not everybody in Austin that can be counted on when times get tough.”


Anchía told how both of his parents came to the United States as immigrants. He said his mother came from Mexico in the mid-1950s at a time when her country was dominated by one party rule. Anchía said the PRI “won” the presidency for 70-plus consecutive years. Anchía said his mother taught bilingual education thanks to the education she received at a community college. He said but for that community college education the family would have had real financial hardship.

Anchía said his father came from the Basque region of Spain, a country which, at the time, was ruled by the Franco military dictatorship. He said neither of his parents came to the U.S. just for economic reasons. He said they came because of “higher ideals.”

Anchía said he has benefited from the “infrastructure of opportunity.” He said his father often says that the United States is the only country in the world where one can, in one generation, go from being a sheep herder or a goat herder to a lawyer or politician. 

He added that it should not matter what country an immigrant comes from or what zip code a citizen is born in. “As proud Texans we must fight to keep that infrastructure of opportunity in place.”

Voting rights and faith 

Anchía also spoke about voting rights and faith. He said the three things Texans need, in order to get from where they are to where they want to be, are faith, education and the right to vote. He said they were part of a three legged stool. 

“When you don’t have one of those things, when your right to vote is adversely impacted or diminished, when you don’t have that infrastructure opportunity that you need to get ahead, and when you don’t have that faith, you are out of balance. And our state currently is out of balance, unfortunately, under the current leadership.”

State Sen. Eddie Lucio was another recipient of a Tejano Democrats award. In his remarks, Lucio referenced his faith. Anchía later praised Lucio for his faith and spoke about a recent study of the New Testament. “They cut out every passage in the New Testament that talks about helping the poor. And it rendered the New Testament incomprehensible because every fourth verse in the New Testament directs us and commands us to help the poor, to help the less fortunate,” Anchía said.

Anchía said he had met with a prominent Valley businessman for lunch earlier in the day. He said the businessman asked if Gov. Abbott could be defeated in this year’s gubernatorial election. Anchía said, not only can he beaten, he has to be beaten.

Anchía said the trend lines are moving in the Democrats’ direction. He said Romney defeated Obama in Texas by 16 percent. He said Trump beat Clinton in Texas by nine points and that Trump beat Biden in Texas by five points. 

“More than Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, we are the new battleground state and the trend line is moving in our direction,” Anchía said.

Anchía said that in the 2020 presidential election, one million more Democrats voted in Texas than in 2016. He said 3.5 million new voters have been registered since 2018.

The worst kept political secret in Austin is that Gov. Abbott wants to run for president of the United States, Anchía said. He said this ambition has led to Abbott making mistakes as governor. He cited the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the failure of the electric grid during last year’s big freeze.

Anchía said Texans do not want big government or small government. “They want component government, they want government that works, government that is responsive, government that is effective,” he said. 

Anchía noted that if Texas was a country it would have the ninth largest economy in the world. 

“We are playing small ball. We are talking about trans kids playing sports, we are the ninth largest economy in the world. Larger than Mexico, Russia or South Korea. We are a powerhouse, but we are not acting that way.”

Anchía said if Democrats can break through and win one statewide campaign in Texas the border bashing would stop.

“People who come down here, hop in that gun boat and trash the Valley. The minute we punch one of these bullies in the nose, metaphorically, electorally, the attacks on our community will stop. Just one, just one breakthrough. Could be attorney general, could be lieutenant governor, could be governor, should be all of them. The minute that happens, this stops.”

Cortez remarks

Later, when Judge Cortez made his remarks from the podium, he referenced Anchía’s speech.

“What can we say about our guest speaker, I mean, wow, that is what we are about,” Cortez said.

Cortez said he was “very proud” of the work the county administration had done in recent times. He praised the partnerships the county had forged with local cities and schools. “We have been through some tough times. We have proven together, over and over, that when we do get together, great things happen.”

Cortez said local residents will see a better quality of life when new investment is brought into the area.

“We cannot be a good government if we do not provide excellent services. Forty percent in poverty, that is unacceptable. We have to reduce poverty. We have to build partnerships. I am not here to put people down. I am here to raise people up,” he said.

Tejano Democrats awards

The ten awards given out by the Hidalgo Tejano Democrats were: 

Tejano Lifetime Achievement Award: State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.

Tejano Man of the Year Award: Hidalgo County DA Ricardo Rodriguez

Tejano Woman of the Year Award: 13th Court of Appeals Justice Leticia Hinojosa

Tejano Humanitarian Award: Juanita Valdez-Cox of La Unión del Pueblo

Tejano Star Award: Hidalgo County Clerk Arturo Guajardo

Tejano Pillar Award: Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez

Hidalgo Gavel Award: State District Judge Bobby Flores

Tejano Gavel Award: Hidalgo County JP Jaime Jerry Muñoz

Tejano Service Award: State Rep. Eddie Lucio, III

Tejano Eagle Award: State Rep. Armando Martinez

Quality journalism takes time, effort and…. Money!

Producing quality journalism is not cheap. The coronavirus has resulted in falling revenues across the newsrooms of the United States. However, The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service is committed to producing quality news reporting on the issues that matter to border residents. The support of our members is vital in ensuring our mission gets fulfilled. 

Can we count on your support? If so, click HERE. Thank you!

Keep on top of the big stories affecting the Texas-Mexico. Join our mailing list to receive regular email alerts.

Sign-up for the latest news

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Rio Grande Guardian. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact