EDINBURG, RGV – Whether he is giving his State of the City address or, as he was on Friday, co-hosting a groundbreaking ceremony for a new transit terminal, Richard Garcia is happy to discuss the increased diversity of his city.
The Edinburg mayor believes his city is welcoming of the stranger and tolerant of others. He says these traits will pay dividends for generations to come.
“I can’t tell you how often people remark ‘the Valley is a world of its own.’ We are. But, more and more that is not a dismissive statement but rather one that causes leaders from around the country to pause and take not,” Garcia said, in his State of the City address.
“I believe that we set the example for diversity in the great state of Texas and this entire nation. Diversity that will inevitably be the norm and the future of both. Right here, right now. Lest not we forget that all eyes are on us, most important our youth who will follow our lead.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Edinburg is 85 percent Hispanic. So, it is not as diverse as, say, New York City or Houston. But, Garcia said, his city’s ethnic diversity is growing and its population accommodating of newcomers.
“Recently, I went to the wedding of a beautiful family. An Indian family, doctors. There were about 200 doctors in attendance. They came from all over the United States,” Garcia told the Rio Grande Guardian, in an interview at the transit terminal groundbreaking. He gave a shout out to Dr. Monzer Yazji, a major investor in Edinburg.
“We had these families, just amazing, beautiful families, with traditional costumes and dances, three and four generations of medical doctors. Amazing people. They are just like us. They hug their kids, they embrace, they hug, they laugh, they sing, they dance. They fit in. It is wonderful.”
Asked why he included his remarks about diversity in his recent State of the City address, Garcia said: “It is distressing for me to see some of things said nationwide in connection with that.”
Garcia cited a recent a dinner he had been invited to.
“It was at the home of a Syrian doctor. He is one of our local residents. A great taxpayer, a great citizen, with wonderful family. There were 20 other doctors there at dinner and I heard their story. They are in our Valley because of the treatment they get here. Some of the doctors have been to Harvard and Yale, some settled in Canada for a bit, others in the northeast. Hearing from friends, the way things are in this area, once they visit they relocate the family here.”
Garcia praised Edinburg residents and the Valley generally for welcoming new talent. It is a comment this reporter has heard McAllen Mayor Jim Darling mention also.
“There were Indian doctors, Lebanese doctors, and other Middle Eastern folks at the dinner,” Garcia said. “We are a diverse community, we treat people the way they should be treated. And, we all strive for the same thing. This is what the United States should be emulating at this time, instead of being so divisive.”
The theme of Garcia’s State of the City address was “Flying High.” Videos played at the event showed a bird’s eye view of Edinburg and the tremendous growth it is experiencing. Asked why he chose this theme, Garcia said:
“We are doing better than we have ever done. Flying High means, we are growing big, completely transforming the city from what it was to a destination city. There is so much growth we had to get up really high to see everything.”
Asked if he ever imagined such growth when he was growing up, Edinburg native Garcia said:
“Never in my wildest dreams. When I was a kid, growing up, it was a big deal to take a trip to McAllen, Texas, to go to the only big box around, which was Sears. I remember being a kid in high school and going to the drive-in theater, which was way out in the country in McAllen, on the corner of what is now Nolana and 10th Street. You had to drive out through the orchards and the fields to get there. Now, the dividing lines between the cities are fading and we are becoming one area that can become very important to the state and to the nation.”
Asked about Edinburg’s population growth, Garcia said he doubts the U.S. Census Bureau has got a handle on the real number.
“We are hearing that our population is anywhere between 87,000 and 89,000. I have no doubt that we are at 100,000. The university’s predictions to us are that within five years, McAllen’s and Edinburg’s population should be pretty much equal. There is so much room to grow north. Mayor Darling said it in his State of the City – that the university’s projections are that 90 percent of the new growth is going to be north of 107. So, McAllen will be growing in that direction. We will too. The difference is, we have so much more space for the growth.”
Garcia ended his interview by saying he is and would rather be more lucky than good.