7D1_6339 7D1_6221 7D1_6229 7D1_6213 7D1_6193 7D1_6233 7D1_6240 7D1_6242 7D1_6344 7D1_5876 7D1_5796 7D1_5784 7D1_5757 7D1_5813 7D1_5820 7D1_5976 7D1_5993 7D1_6033 7D1_6140 7D1_6178 7D1_5828 7D1_6054 7D1_6420 7D1_6428 7D1_6433 7D1_6466 7D1_6469 7D1_6511 7D1_6538 7D1_6557 7D1_6376 7D1_5875 7D1_6744 7D1_5865 7D1_5871 7D1_6736 7D1_6727 7D1_6721
<
>

NUEVO PROGRESO, Mexico – As Winter Texans prepare to return home, the border city of Rio Bravo honored their annual stay in the Rio Grande Valley with a goodbye celebration.

The annual Tourist Day Celebration and ‘abrazo’ across the Progreso International Bridge took place on Thursday.

Valley Mayors Irene Muñoz of Donna, Henry Hinojosa of Mercedes, and David Suarez of Weslaco, along with Tamaulipas International Trade Director Francisco Galvan, walked across the bridge from Progreso, Texas.

Rio Bravo Major Juan Diego Guajardo Anzaldúa and his wife, along with Rio Bravo’s Secretary of Economic Development Maria Elena Cavazos walked across the bridge from Nuevo Progreso, Tamaulipas. They met in the middle and embraced.

With all the negative rhetoric Mexico and Mexicans have endured in the early months of the Trump administration, Rio Bravo officials said they are proud to see thousands of visitors from the northern states of the U.S. still visit the border region.

“Despite what has been happening, people have not stopped visiting us and we want to let them know we appreciate it,” Guajardo told reporters, speaking in Spanish.

“I also want to thank entrepreneurs for continuing their trade with us and say that we will give tourists the attention necessary to best accommodate and care for them.”

While the fiesta was put on by Rio Bravo to say ‘thank you’ to the Winter Texans, it was clear the snowbirds had great affection for Mexico. In several interviews with the Rio Grande Guardian, Winter Texans expressed their support for Mexico saying ‘they do not see anything wrong with Mexico’.

“I feel awesome, I don’t think there is any problem about being here, I think it’s great to see everybody having a great time,” said Lorraine, a Winter Texan who stays in Weslaco while she is in the Valley.

“I love them [Mexicans], I love the Mexican culture,” she added.

With regard to the border wall and immigration, John, another Winter Texan, said: “I don’t think building a wall is going to help, they need to do other things. The administration should concentrate on making it easier for people to get across legally. Legal immigration, helping them build a path to citizenship, or a green card.”

From early in the morning, Winter Texans were able to enjoy the festivities.

Progreso’s main road to the bridge was closed to traffic and arranged in the style of a Mexican street market and filled with artisan vendors, Mexican food stands, and a stage for traditional Mexican dance performances.

Along the market a cardboard cut-out of President Trump stood outside a food-court tent with a sign attached, asking for tips to build the wall. The sign said $28 billion is needed for the wall, and so far Trump had raised $6.25.

A Winter Texan made a joke about it and said: “I just don’t understand how they let Trump cross the border.”

Valley leaders also expressed their views on the border wall and the friendship between both countries.

“It’s good to come here to take advantage of affordable health care for some of us that do not have health insurance, we depend on each other,” Mayor Muñoz said.

“I certainly hope Winter Texans can change the rhetoric. There’s a lot of tourists that come here and they enjoy it.”

Mayor Hinojosa of Mercedes said, “we are all united, we have families on both sides, and we have been helping each other in business.

“I am not comfortable with the wall, and I do not agree to it because it’s not just, there’s no necessity to extend the wall, we are of the same blood and the only thing that divides us is just water.”

Editor’s Note: The photos in the slideshow were taken by reporter Stephanie Jara.