DONNA, RGV – When the previous administration takes almost everything with them, including light bulbs, desks, and chairs, a new city leadership has to look for help from other quarters.

Such is the case with Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, Mayor Juan Diego Guajardo. He reached out to cities in the Rio Grande Valley and at least two have come to the rescue. Donna has provided a water storage unit and Peñitas has provided a fire truck.

“We are very grateful for the help we are getting from the Rio Grande Valley, particularly the cities of Peñitas and Donna. The last administration left us with nothing. We have had to start from scratch,” Guajardo said.

This is the second time Guajardo has been elected mayor of Rio Bravo. When he took office for a second time, ten months ago, he found little to work with.

“The city had only four trash trucks and we have built that up to more than 20. We received a city that was 90 percent without light and out of the 140 neighborhoods that exist in Rio Bravo, we have changed the light cables and restored lamps in more than 40. We are doing everything as it should be,” Guajardo said.

“I can tell you, the citizens are tired and they want politicians to think and act like citizens because citizens make decisions without bureaucracy. The citizens are tired of being sent all over the place in order to get a problem solved. The government is supposed to be here to help, not defraud its citizens.”

Donna Mayor Irene Muñoz said she was pleased her city could help Rio Bravo because its citizens are in desperate need.

“Can you imagine having drinking water that is not drinkable? They have had to drill wells to get water. Now, with this water tower, this storage tank, they will be able to deliver potable water,” said Muñoz.

“Speaking to the mayor, Rio Bravo is in need of a lot of equipment, for their city, for their schools. We want to see if our schools can help. We want to help with whatever they need, police equipment, fire equipment. We carry one another’s burden. Whatever we can do, we will. I am proud of our city, to help and share what we have with a neighbor that is in greater need than we are is very important.”

The connection between Donna and Rio Bravo is easy to explain. They share an international bridge. The tie-up between Peñitas and Rio Bravo less so. The donation of the fire truck by Peñitas to Rio Bravo came about thanks to a chance meeting between the two mayors.

“We were at the same event, socializing and we were introduced. We hit it off immediately,” said Peñitas Mayor Rigo Lopez.

“It might seem strange. Why would a small city like Peñitas, with a population of 7,000, help a larger city like Rio Bravo, with a population of 140,000. But, they need a helping hand right now. Our country is wealthier. We are proud to live in the United States and we want to help our neighboring country. We have a big heart and we want to help them in whatever way we can.”

Lopez said Peñitas recently got a new fire truck, allowing its oldest one to be donated to Rio Bravo. “The mayor said he needs help with his fire department and also help in his schools. They need computers for their schools. We will see what we can do. This is just the beginning of our friendship, we would like a formal sister city arrangement.”

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Mayor Guajardo said he is working closely with Donna and Weslaco officials to increase truck traffic at the Donna-Rio Bravo and Progreso international bridges.

“We want to develop more warehouse space on the Rio Bravo side of the bridges. We think this will lead to more truck traffic. But, we know we need to improve safety and security. We have an agreement in place whereby the State of Tamaulipas is going to be in charge of the safety of Rio Bravo and its neighborhoods,” Guajardo said.

“Mexico is a beautiful place and many people from the Valley used to cross over often to visit the beautiful places we have and to see their families. For fear of their safety, less people cross over now. We hope this starts changing soon.”