HIDALGO, RGV – For the first time ever, the cities of Hidalgo and Reynosa are to sign a formal sister city agreement.

The document will be signed by mayors José Elías Leal of Reynosa and Martin Cepeda of Reynosa in the middle of the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge on the morning of March 3, as a kickoff to the City of Hidalgo’s BorderFest celebrations.

Martin Cepeda
Martin Cepeda

The traditional abrazo between the mayors of Hidalgo and Reynosa will take place in the middle of the international bridge at 9:45 a.m. on March 3, followed immediately afterwards by the sister city signing ceremony. Mayors Elías Leal and Cepeda will then walk with their families and other dignitaries to the downtown plaza in Reynosa for food, music and dancing.

“We have never done this before, sign a sister city agreement with our friends and neighbors in Reynosa. It has never been documented. Before it was just word of mouth,” Mayor Cepeda told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Asked why it is important, Cepeda said: “We think it is important to formalize our relationship. We have a lot in common, we have our bridge that unites us. We have industrial ties, we have commercial ties, we have family, we have culture. Whatever is working on their side, even though it is a bigger city, it has to be good for our side. Whatever works on our side, is also good for Reynosa.”

Cepeda made his comments at the end of a news conference held to announce the lineup for this year’s BorderFest. This year Hidalgo celebrates the 40th anniversary of the festival, which is held on the grounds of the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo. In the past the event has drawn over 85,000 people from across South Texas, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León.

Prisciliano ‘J.R.’ Treviño
Prisciliano ‘J.R.’ Treviño

Confusion was caused last month when the non-profit BorderFest Association, which had been running the festival, said it would be staging BorderFest in McAllen. A state district judge stopped this from happening by approving a temporary restraining order brought by the City of Hidalgo. And so, for now at least, BorderFest remains in Hidalgo.

“This year we are celebrating our 40th year. Hopefully next year we will be celebrating our 41st. It is a very popular festival that was born in Hidalgo and needs to stay in Hidalgo,” Cepeda said.

Prisciliano ‘J.R.’ Treviño is executive director of Hidalgo Economic Development Corporation. Treviño told the Rio Grande Guardian that Hidalgo cannot afford to lose BorderFest.

“The festival is a huge economic boon for our city. Visitors use our convenience stores, they stay in our hotels, they eat at the few restaurants we have, they shop at Walmart. BorderFest is very advantageous to Hidalgo. The great thing this year is that we will show good revenues coming in. The money will not be going to somebody else, it is not going to the chamber or some association. It is coming back to the taxpayers of Hidalgo.”

A new feature for this year’s festival, Treviño said, is a shuttle service that will take Mexican visitors who walk across the international bridge to the State Farm Arena grounds.

Maintaining BorderFest will help boost Hidalgo’s prestige and add to the economic development projects the EDC is working on, Treviño said. “We are working on some retail projects around the Walmart area, also, potentially, a medical emergency room. We have a couple of apartment units, 140 units, coming. These kinds of things are a big boon for a city of our size.”

Like Cepeda, Treviño said city leaders are working very hard to make this year’s BorderFest a great success because they know there will be more scrutiny, more spotlight on their operations. They believe they have shown goodwill by lowering ticket prices and agreeing to donate $1 from every ticket sold to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

“There was a lot of misinformation in the media that if McAllen did not stage the event there would be no BorderFest. We have been planning this festival since October of last year. McAllen should have backed off,” Treviño told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Fortunately, we won the TRO (temporary restraining order) and we will fight them (the BorderFest Association) again in September when the case comes up again. I am very confident we will win because this has been a Hidalgo festival from the beginning. We have pumped in a lot of money into it every year. Our residents have volunteered their time for free. They have a great emotional investment in this. This is their festival.”

Shalimar Madrigal
Shalimar Madrigal

Shalimar Madrigal, marketing consultant for BorderFest, said this year’s musical lineup will include reggaetón icon Wisin, Luis Coronel, Ana Gabriel, Voz de Mando, Poder del Norte, Siggno, Pee Wee, Yahir, Ramon Ayala, and Traileros del Norte. Coronel has been appointed this year’s BorderFest Ambassador of Goodwill.

Madrigal said the Mayor and Ambassador’s dinner honoring the RGV Walk of Fame inductees will be held Thursday, March 3, starting at 7 p.m. Each Valley city nominates two people a year for induction into the Walk of Fame.

Madrigal said the main carnival and parade will be held Friday, March 4, starting at 6:30 p.m. The parade always draws lots of students from Hidalgo and Valley View schools and from various schools in Reynosa. CBS 4 News will broadcast the parade live, Madrigal said.

“We have worked very hard to bring this event to the Rio Grande Valley. It is three days of fun family entertainment. It is under new management, we have lowered our prices, we have made it possible for families to come together and have a good time,” Madrigal said.

For more information on BorderFest click here.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story was provided by Periodico USA. It shows mayors Martin Cepeda of Hidalgo and José Elías Leal of Reynosa at the 2014 Abrazo event on the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.