MCALLEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley Partnership should have a Mexican component to its three-day Valley Legislative Tour that takes place Jan. 24-27, 2019.

That is the recommendation of state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra. The McAllen legislator made the suggestion following what was described as an “historic” meeting with a counterpart of his in the Tamaulipas legislature, diputado Luis Cantu.

“One of the things I love about the (Valley Legislative) tour is we bring representatives from other parts of the state that have never been here and they are absolutely amazed by the progress and the vibrant community we have here. They get it, once they come and visit. So, we encourage as many of them as possible to come and visit,” Guerra said.

Asked if the three-day trip should include a meeting with Mexican officials, Guerra said: “My office will be working on that, along with the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.”

Sergio Contreras, president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, welcomed Guerra’s suggestion. “We are already working on that,” he said.

The Valley Partnership’s Legislative Tour occurs a few weeks after the start of every legislative session, which takes place every other year. Legislators from around the state fly down to the Valley from Austin on a Thursday and return Sunday lunchtime. The upcoming trip will focus on Hidalgo and Starr counties. 

Guerra said the tour can help educate visiting legislators on the importance of international trade between Texas and Tamaulipas. According to Mexico’s Ministry of the Economy, Trade and NAFTA Office in Washington, D.C., trade between Texas and Mexico surpassed $187 billion in 2017. Mexico is Texas’ largest trading partner, with exports surpassing $97.3 billion and imports surpassing $89 million. “The importance of our trading relationship cannot be overstated,” Guerra told the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM.

The meeting between Guerra and Cantu took place at the Radisson Airport Motel in McAllen and was organized by entrepreneur and local government aide Pepe Cabeza de Vaca.

“This is an historic meeting. To the best of my knowledge, we have never had a state representative from Texas and a state representative from Tamaulipas meet like this,” Cabeza de Vaca said. 

Cabeza de Vaca, who works for Hidalgo County Commissioner David Fuentes, is a relative of Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca, a member of the Partido Acción Nacional. The PAN is the majority party in the Tamaulipas Legislature. Cantu, who represents part of Reynosa in the Tamaulipas Legislature, is a PAN member and chairman of the economic development committee and a member of the international bridges committee in the lower House.

Asked why he set up the meeting, Cabeza de Vaca told the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM: “What is good for northern Mexico is good for South Texas and vice versa. Me having family relationships on both sides fo the border, being an entrepreneur, working for the local government, and having lived in Mexico and attended college in Monterrey, it makes you think regionally. When we work together it is better. When we unite our forces with Tamaulipas, and Nuevo Leon and then Coahuila, only good things can happen. I am blessed to know a lot of key people on both sides.” 

Guerra thanked Cabeza de Vaca for setting up the meeting with Cantu. He presented his counterpart with a flag that has flown over the Texas Capitol. In return, Cantu presented Guerra with a pin for his lapel.

“It is important Texas and Mexico work together,” Guerra said. “There are farmers and ranchers here that have farms and ranches in Mexico. There are businesses in Mexico that have operations in the United States and Texas. It is important for the economic benefit of both countries that we continue to work cooperatively and not have barriers. Being in the Texas Legislature, I understand how important Mexico is to the Texas economy.”

Guerra said that when the Legislature starts in January he will file a resolution in honor of Texas-Tamaulipas relations. He also said he will “return the honor” by visiting Cantu in Tamaulipas.

Guerra said legislators from the Rio Grande Valley understand the importance of Texas-Tamaulipas relations. “We work to make sure the other representatives understand the importance of this cooperation,” he said.

Guerra added that he has a cousin in Saltillo who serves in the Nuevo León state legislature. He said he would be inviting him to visit the state Capitol in Austin next session.

In his remarks, made solely in Spanish, Cantu congratulated Guerra on his re-election success in November.  

“I wish you all the success of the world,” Cantu said. “I want you to know you have a friend and especially an ally in the Congress of Tamaulipas and that the government of Tamaulipas is open for business, with governor Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca having more than two years already of his administration.”

Cantu said he views South Texas and Tamaulipas as one region. “At the end of the day it is a region, we are a family, there are families here and there are families there.”

Cantu predicted a more interwoven economy.

“I do not have the slightest doubt that it is a generation that will be able to remove the term border in order to be the same region and able to return the development and confidence to Tamaulipas and I know with you to the Valley of Texas. I am grateful to all of you and to you, Bobby,” he said.

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM, Cabeza de Vaca said Cantu is a “rising star” in Tamaulipas politics. He said the legislator’s membership of the economic development and international bridges committees is important for the whole region.

Cabeza de Vaca was asked if less people in the Rio Grande Valley understand the importance and relevance of international trade with Mexico because, due to violence, fewer choose to visit border cities like Reynosa.

“We used to cross to have a good time. It was a different place back then,” Cabeza de Vaca acknowledged. “The Tamaulipas government is working very hard to control the violence. The way I understand it, you have cartels that other governments allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do. It is sad because now they are in control. The PAN is trying to solve things and the other parties are trying to ensure they fail. I understand they (other political parties) go ahead and send little groups of gang members to do assaults, and robberies and shootouts to destabilize the system, that does not help.”

Cabeza de Vaca predicted that with four more years in office, Gov. Cabeza de Vaca will be making more visits to the Valley. And he noted that the governor opened an international trade office in Weslaco.

“I think he has been here quite a lot. He has visited the international bridges. Tamaulipas is a big state, he has to visit Mexico City to bring funds to his state. He is one of the most politically active elected officials Tamaulipas has ever had. When mayor of Reynosa he was very visible, bringing many maquilas. Of course we would like to see more of him but we would like to see Governor Abbott as well. He has only been in office two years, there is four more to go. We will see more of him.”