WESLACO, RGV – The economic development director of Rio Bravo says a border wall will not divide the “brotherhood” that exists either side of the Rio Grande river.

“We know the new administration in Washington, D.C., does not speak for Texas. We know there is a huge difference and that we are still brothers. Nothing is going to separate the people on the border, certainly not a border wall,” said Maria Elena Cavazos.

Maria Elena Cavazos

Cavazos made her comments at a news conference held at Weslaco City Hall to announce the annual Winter Texan Appreciation Day, which includes an abrazo on the Progreso International Bridge and a party in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico. The festivities take place next Tuesday, March 21.

Also appearing at the news conference were Weslaco Mayor David Suarez and Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa. They agreed with Cavazos that this year’s “abrazo” takes on added significance due to anti-Mexican comments by President Trump.

“I think this year’s abrazo is more important than ever because of the rhetoric coming out of Washington and the possibility of policy changes that will impact the border region,” Suarez said.

“We don’t want to create a division between our two communities, on either side of the river. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

David Suarez

Hinojosa agreed. “This abrazo is important, especially in today’s times, when they want to continue building a border wall. The bonds that tie us are generational on both sides, not only bonds of friendship and family but also business.”

Cavazos said she and the residents of Rio Bravo are grateful for the continued visits of Winter Texans. She said they have continued to visit Mexico despite negative coverage in the national media about the border region being a “war zone.” She said the celebration will be a symbol of the brotherhood between both countries.

“We want to show that we really care about you (the Winter Texans) and strengthen our brotherhood. Our mayor is interested in having everyone with us to show the world we are a brotherhood,” Cavazos said.

“We also want to say thank you and goodbye, and let them [Winter Texans] know that we are really grateful they visit us during the winter months and that we will wait for them next winter.”

Henry Hinojosa

In addition to the morning ‘abrazo’ on the middle of the Progreso International Bridge, there will be festivities throughout the day in Nuevo Progreso, including traditional Mexican food, dances, and mariachi bands.

When asked about the rhetoric Mexicans have endured from President Trump, Cavazos said she would like officials in Washington, D.C., to “come experience the brotherhood” that exists along the border.

“The approach that is being taken towards Mexico is very unfortunate. It is not nice and it doesn’t speak well about another human being,” Cavazos said.

“I would like them to see the real brotherhood that we have because if you live far from the border you don’t really get to see that we really depend on each other in different ways, and not just in terms of money. Our brotherhood goes further, our blood, our culture, our food, we need each other and a wall isn’t going to stop us, we have to unite and demonstrate that we are one and we need each other.”

Hinojosa said he could not agree more. He said he hopes Washington, D.C., begins to understand that the Rio Grande Valley cannot make it without the people of Tamaulipas and vice versa.

“It’s interchangeable, its interlocked. As I said earlier this is generational on both sides, not only in friendship but in the sharing of our economies. One cannot do without the other,” Hinojosa said.

“You have a lot of our citizens living in Mexico, along the border right now. You have a lot of Mexican nationals on this side doing the same. And you have the shopping and the trade that goes on every day.”

Mayor Suarez of Weslaco said he hopes Winter Texans “convey the true picture” of what life is like on the border when they go back north.

“Winter Texans are the ones people up north really need to talk to. If they talk to them they can see what type of people we are,” he said.

Suarez said Weslaco Economic Development Corporation recently performed a license plate study on the bridge which showed that most visitors came from cities like Monterrey and Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon. He said now fears the number of visitors will decrease because of the actions and posture of politicians in Washington.

“Our biggest fear is that the wall rhetoric or an increase in tariffs will scare people away. That our Mexican friends and family will not come over here and shop,” Suarez said.

“There’s also a lot of Mexican merchants that live here in Weslaco and pay taxes here but run their businesses over there. That’s revenue from sales taxes that could dry up.”

Suarez said the Valley would take a big hit if a border adjustment tax was introduced. He said companies importing goods from Mexico would pass the tax increase on to consumers.

“The tax will be passed to our citizens, and then Mexico will do the same thing and increase the tariff going that way,” he said. “It [a tariff] will get talked about (by Weslaco City Commission) because it is detrimental to our economy and we may pass a resolution in opposition when the time is right.”

In her interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Rio Bravo’s Cavazos shared a message with Mexican nationals living both in the Valley and in the border towns of Mexico.

“I think instead of making us [Mexicans] feel smaller or inferior, the negative comments made us realize how important we are and the value that we have. So, it (the rhetoric of Trump) has helped us find our voice, to become more united, to increase our self-esteem, and have a little more sense of our roots,” she said.

“It is very important to be aware and to not forget our roots. Our roots are not in Mexico and they are not in the United States. Our roots are a common land. One piece of land. We are a brotherhood and we cannot forget about that.”

Cavazos repeated her claim that the views of Washington, D.C. does not reflect the feelings of Texans towards Mexico. “The new administration’s voice is not that of Texas. We know that there is a huge difference, that we are still brothers. It doesn’t matter if a new administration comes, nothing is going to separate us.”