MCALLEN, RGV – U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez invoked the recent El Paso shootings when praising the rich diversity the Indian community brings to South Texas.

The McAllen congressman was guest speaker at a festival to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of India’s independence from Britain.

On June 15, 1947, the British House of Commons passed the Indian Independence Act, or Mountbatten Plan, which divided India into two dominions, India and Pakistan. It called for each dominion to be granted its independence by August 15 of that year.

“Happy Independence Day to everybody. It is an honor to be here,” Gonzalez said. “When I first was told about this event it only took me five seconds to say I’ll be there because you are part of our community. You are part of America. You are part of what makes America great.”

The festivities took place at Fireman’s Park in McAllen and were organized by the India Association of the Rio Grande Valley. This group was started by four or five pioneer families a little over 30 years ago. Today, IARGV has close to 900 families among its membership.

Before Congressman Gonzalez gave his remarks, IARGV leaders recognized some of the pioneer families that helped found the group. These included Dr. Gopal Krishnan, Dr. John Abraham, Husmukh Patel, and Dr. Prakash Palimar.

Gonzalez was presented with the autobiography of the Indian nationalist and spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi. And Gonzalez and his wife Lorena were each presented with an Indian shaal, or shawl as it is known in English.

“I want you to know that this area has been successful because of you and because of the diversity we have here,” Gonzalez said to warm applause. “I especially have to thank the pioneers who started this community years ago and went through a difficult time to set the pathways for others to come. For the young people here, you have a great example in the older people that have set the path for you and created opportunities.”

Gonzalez said the Indian community in South Texas is playing a major role in strengthening the region’s economy. And he touched on the recent shooting of 22 border residents by an alleged white nationalist in a Walmart store in El Paso.

“The amazing economy that we get to enjoy in this region is because of you, not in spite of you and because of our diversity. It is beautiful to celebrate it here and across the country,” he said.

“We recently had a very sad event, as we all know, in El Paso, that was created by the divisions and the scars that we still deal with in this country. I never want to make a situation political but we should try to be inclusive and not divisive. And every word that comes out of our mouth has consequences because young people are listening and future generations are listening.”

Gonzalez continued: “I have met with our president eight different times and I have never had harsher words than after dealing with the last incident we dealt with in El Paso. El Paso could have been us.”

The congressman said he hated to bring up a sad incident during a celebration but believed it was necessary.

“I hate to bring a sad conversation up in the middle of a glorious moment, your Independence Day and this festivity that we have. I think we should celebrate our diversity and thank God we live in this loving community,” Gonzalez said.

“You are always welcome here. We thank you for all you do. You have a lot of talent in your community. You have great doctors and business people, people who create jobs and pay taxes and do so much for our country and our university.”

Gonzalez added: “I know we have a few professors here. I just want to thank you and welcome you and I hope your community continues to grow and thrive in South Texas. Thank you very much. I love being here and, hopefully, this is the first of many more visits.”