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BROWNSVILLE, RGV – With border security and immigration near the top of Washington D.C.’s agenda, Brownsville’s annual Hands Across the Border ceremony highlighted the bi-national friendship and partnership Matamoros and Brownsville share.

An additional highlight was presented by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, along with U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, and Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, with the launching of the social media campaign “#TamauliPazAhora.”

With the desire to preserve the safety of Matamoros, a city Vela visited frequently when growing up, the #TamauliPazAhora campaign seeks to restore peace and provide safety to the Tamaulipas community.

“I want to promote peace on both sides of the border, I want to do whatever we can to make Tamaulipas the same place it was 20 years ago,” Vela stated.

With crime and violence taking a stranglehold on Tamaulipas, particularly Matamoros, Vela says he has teamed with Mexican representatives to promote the campaign.

“We are working together with the Mexican representatives to do everything possible to procure the safety in Tamaulipas,” Vela stated.

He added that the goal is “to get to a point where we can enjoy our border culture on both sides.”

Tamaulipas citizens can use the hashtag #TamauliPazAhora via Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat to report violence and stay alert to any crimes in Tamaulipas.

O’Rourke said: “We want to secure the border and I am not sure if there is a better way than this one, both countries and cities working together to secure the communities, and celebrating the culture, economy, family, the history and the future.”

After the Hands Across the Bridge event, a “Charro Days” celebration continued at the UT Rio Grande Valley Brownsville campus and the Texas Southmost College campus with the “Charreada” where the anthems and flags of both nations were presented. This was followed by Mexican folkloric performances from UTRGV’s Folklorico Tizatlan and children of TSC’s Raul J. Guerra Child Development Center.

Afterwards, Veronica Gonzales, UTRGV vice president for governmental and community relations, introduced U.S. Reps. Vela, Gonzalez, and O’Rourke who further discussed the social media campaign and their continuing support of the border region’s cross-cultural community and business partnerships.

Fernando Landeros Verdugo founder of “Fundacion Teleton” was then introduced as Mr. Amigo. According to the Mr. Amigo Association, this title is given to a ‘Mexican citizen who has contributed to the friendship of the United States and Mexico.’

During his speech as Mr. Amigo, Landeros was overcome with emotion and took a tearful pause after stating the significance it had for him to receive the recognition at the border, given the current political circumstances.

He then glanced at his three children who were in the audience and then at his wife who was joining him on stage and said, “I want my three children and my wife and all of my family to be able to cross a safe bridge, a bridge that unites us. Let us continue to build bridges.”

In concluding his speech, Landeros made a powerful statement that addressed the negative rhetoric thrown at the border by stating, “our dignity is our essence, and although some would want to oppress us, at the end of the day, our dignity and our humanity will carry us forward.”

Editor’s Note: Reporter Apolonio Sandoval, Jr., contributed to this story from Brownsville, Texas.