McALLEN, RGV – It was Periodico USA Editor José Luis B. Garza’s connections to Tampico that led to McAllen and Tampico resurrecting its Sister City relationship.
The Sister City agreement was signed back in 1991 when Othal Brand was mayor of McAllen. Brand took a delegation of McAllen leaders to Tampico at the time but there has been little civic interaction since.
Garza studied to be an attorney in Tampico in the 1970s. He lived there for 12 years and it was in the Tamaulipas coastal town that he first entered the world of journalism. This past September Garza returned to the city for Mayor Gustavo Torres Salinas’ State of the City address. When he got back to McAllen discussions began on resurrecting connections. Garza is chairman of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s international committee.
“We have so many sister city agreements but how many people know about them? McAllen alone is connected with San Luis Potosi, Tampico, Ciudad Victoria, Monterrey, Acapulco and others. It is hard to keep the connections going because in Mexico the mayors can change every couple of years. When I got back from Tampico we started to have conversations and started making some calls and here we are. It is time to reconnect,” Garza told the Rio Grande Guardian.
Garza introduced McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and Mayor Torres Salinas at a news conference held at the McAllen Country Club last Friday. They were accompanied by their wives, Sandra Darling y Silvia Alcaraz de Torres. Before the news conference began McAllen and Tampico leaders met privately to explore ways in which the two cities can reconnect. They discussed tourism, transportation, logistics, energy, economic development and education.
In addition to Darling and Torres Salinas, those in the discussions included McAllen City Commissioner John Ingram, McAllen Economic Development President Keith Patridge, McAllen Chamber of Commerce President Steve Ahlenius, Tampico Economic Development and Tourism Director José Luis Ornelas, Tampico Communications Director Omar Garcia, and Tampico Council Member C. Adriana Moses Kawachi.
In his remarks to the media, Torres Salinas said he was president of the Tampico Chamber of Commerce when Mayor Brand and his McAllen delegation paid a visit to Tampico 24 years ago. Torres Salinas said it was time to reassert those connections. He spoke about his wish to see direct flights between Tampico and McAllen, pointing out that there are many Tampico business owners living in McAllen and surrounding cities. Currently, Tampiqueñas can fly directly to Houston. Torres Salinas said his administration is currently modernizing Tampico’s downtown by adding more shops, restaurants and hotels and improving connections to the Laguna Carpintero.
“I am sure that with the topics I have spoken of with the mayor, we will be able to strengthen our cities in economic development, education, tourism and, above all, energy reform,” Torres-Salinas said, noting that the Tampico area is rich in oil and gas reserves.
In his remarks at the news conference, Mayor Darling said sister city agreements are “more than just symbolic relationships, more than just making a trip.” Darling said McAllen has “extremely important ties” with Mexico. “When we go to Austin we always say, what happens in Mexico happens to us. We firmly believe that. We watch the value of the peso more than we do the dollar because it affects the city of McAllen with its trade and sales tax. It is vitally important to us, what happens in Mexico.”
Darling said he will be taking a delegation of McAllen leaders to Tampico in the coming months in order to create a stronger relationship between the two cities. “Tampico is a major port in the Gulf of Mexico. It is important. Some of our businesses here are owned by investors from Tampico, such as Palenque Grill. We have friends, relationships, business, and all of those relate to how important Tampico and the State of Tamaulipas is to the City of McAllen. We believe by strengthening these relationships we will have a more enriched life, not just from a business standpoint but also from a personal standpoint.”
Later the Tampico delegation visited the McAllen Fire Department and Anzalduas International Bridge, which is co-owned by the City of McAllen.
Socorro Jorge, vice consul for the Mexican Consulate’s Office in McAllen told the Rio Grande Guardian: “Very pleased to be here and to see the two cities improve their relationships. This borderland is part of two countries. We can boost prosperity and friendship here by working together. We are encouraging these types of relationships because we are growing on both sides of the border. There are great opportunities in education, culture, tourism, economic and commercial promotion if we work together, both sides of the border.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story was taken by reporter Diana Partida of Periodico USA. The images in the slideshow were taken by Steve Taylor of the Rio Grande Guardian.