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HIDALGO, RGV – The traditional ‘Abrazo’, an embrace between border mayors symbolizing friendship and partnership between the United States and Mexico, serves as a way of overcoming the negative rhetoric the White House has shown towards the border, according to local leaders.

On Thursday morning, Hidalgo Mayor Martin Cepeda and his wife Ana, along with Reynosa Mayor Maki Esther Ortiz, Rio Bravo Mayor Juan Diego Guajardo Anzaldua, and Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca’s international trade representative Francisco Galvan, walked together to the midpoint of the Hidalgo-Reynosa International bridge to engage in the friendly embrace. The Mexico Consul in McAllen, Guillermo Ordorica Robles also participated.

Hidalgo Mayor Martin Cepeda

“This ‘Abrazo’ is an example for all of the communities along the border, from California to Texas, to show that unity exists between both countries, and between both cities, where we are only divided by a river,” Cepeda said.

Following Cepeda’s welcome, Ortiz gave her view on where Reynosa stands regarding the much-debated border wall issue.

“There are many other things to do than waste time in building a wall,” she said.

“We must continue working on the tourism that will benefit both of us, so that Americans can visit us and get to know our culture, and so that we can also get to know their advancements in technology, infrastructure and commerce.”

“Our pending issues are much stronger than a wall, such as the issues on immigration, economy, health, and security,” Ortiz added.

A communal walk into Reynosa followed the ‘Abrazo’, where the three mayors and local residents gathered in the plaza “La Republica” to continue the celebration with traditional Mexican music, food, and dancing.

Reynosa Mayor Maki Esther Ortiz

When asked what it meant to have the ‘Abrazo’ during the era of Trump, Cepeda said: “That man is not my president, he is a very insecure person that does not know what he wants. He wants fame for himself and does not want to help our people.”

Cepeda said President Trump should be focusing on regions other than South Texas.

“Terrorists are not coming through the border, they are coming through other areas. He should focus on the international airports in the north, or Canada.”

With ICE raids and deportations occurring throughout the nation and Trump’s recent speech on immigration reform, Cepeda said the president is only heightening fear and dividing communities.

“Trump is scaring a lot of people and (as a result) there are many hard-working people that do not want to go to work. These honest and hard-working people do not deserve this treatment,” Cepeda said.

He went on to say that “since the new president took office, there has been a lot of dividing of people, but it is noticeable that he has tried to divide more Mexican-American people, Hispanics, and Latinos.”

Cepeda said that recent visits from federal elected officials such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz were too brief in nature and while they may have been intended to alleviate fear, they did not provide sufficient time to discuss border issues in depth.

“The secretaries are coming, but they are only being sent to calm the people. They did listen to us but they had very little time, and we needed more time,” Cepeda said.

Speaking to reporters after the ‘Abrazo’, Mayor Ortiz spoke about the need for more maquila workers. Ortiz urged Valley residents to continue visiting for job opportunities and to take care of their medical needs.

“All of these places are safe, and we invite them to visit us and see their doctors,” Ortiz stated.

“We have a lot of opportunities for work in our maquilas, based in a city that has 66 percent of the maquiladora industry in our state. We have more than 120,000 employees in the maquilas, and right now we are in need of 10,000 more employees.”

Along the same lines, Cepeda told reporters that more international bridges should be built in the Hidalgo-Mission area after reports revealed an increase in visitors.

“More bridges should be made because commerce, on our last report from the international bridges, from McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa and Anzalduas, has increased by five percent in pedestrian crossings. We are happy about that because it means that people are visiting us.”

When a Reynosa-based reporter asked whether Trump would ever change or understand the border’s issues, Cepeda said: “I don’t think he will change, he does not understand the necessities of the nation. Even before the election he had other problems, and I do not think he is going to last the four years in office.”

Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia

PostScript: Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia also spoke about Trump on the same day as the ‘Abrazo’. Garcia had a different view to Mayor Cepeda.

Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia

“Trump was not my choice for president, but he is my president today and I am rooting for him and his administration and for our country,” Garcia said.

“And that is what we have to do. He is our president. I was also very encouraged by his speech just recently, you hear jokes here and there about ‘will the real Trump stand up.’ I like this one.”

Garcia made these remarks to a reporter following the 13th annual State of Real Estate Forum hosted by Edward’s Abstract & Title Co. The event was held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

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