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BROWNSVILLE, RGV – A memorandum of understanding will be signed next Tuesday between the United States and Mexico in Brownsville involving data sharing, says Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez.

The signing will take place at the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the West Rail project, the first international rail bridge to be built between the U.S. and Mexico in over 100 years.

Martinez spoke briefly to reporters about the U.S.-Mexico MOU at the conclusion of a sister city signing ceremony between Brownsville and Matamoros last Tuesday.

“You are going to hear about a memorandum of understanding between two countries, beside two cities next week where we will be doing some data sharing. It is not for me to disclose all of the particulars or details but I think it is going to be a model for the rest of the world and the rest of the nations around the world as to how two countries can get together,” Martinez told reporters.

“I think the platform was built by the fact that Leticia and I were able to start something good. It starts with two cities, it starts with two states and it starts with two countries. And then, hopefully, it starts with two worlds, the western and the eastern world.”

Martinez was referring to Leticia Salazar, the mayor of Matamoros. Salazar was there to sign the Brownsville-Matamoros MOU with Martinez.

Asked to elaborate on the U.S.-Mexico MOU, Martinez said: “It will happen next Tuesday, at the West Rail ribbon-cutting ceremony. There will be a signing. It is going to be a very exciting day. I do not think people understand the significance of what this means. It is sort of like a love letter. It means I trust you. If you can get trust between two countries that is a great beginning.”

It might amaze many to learn that Brownsville and Matamoros, who are so inextricably linked, have never signed a sister city agreement before. Martinez said the MOU focuses on closer collaboration between the two cities in the areas of education, business and culture. One aspect of it will see Mexican nationals being able to enjoy the benefits of the Brownsville Public Library system, Martinez said.

“It is nice to refresh one’s vows, just like you do with a marriage,” Martinez said, describing the MOU as the epitome of collaborative effort. “Once you start collaborating with your city, your state, your government, once you go extra territorial and go into Matamoros and a different country it even shows more our commitment to that particular effort.”

Martinez acknowledged he had not visited Matamoros very often in his first four years as mayor. He said he plans to put that right in September with an official visit at the invitation of Mayor Salazar. “I have not had the opportunity to do a lot of visiting in Matamoros for various reasons, mainly because we have been laying the infrastructure for the last four years for all these industries that are coming in that are actually a reality – SpaceX, Tenaska, the cross-county power line that was put up by the Sharyland electrical group. We have done a lot of things and we have a lot more to do. I am very, very, proud of us having done the infrastructure to really build on the next four years.”

Martinez’s full speech at the sister city ceremony is posted at the end of this story. In her remarks, Mayor Salazar said she hopes the fact that Matamoros and Brownsville are affirming their close relationship in writing will lead to greater investment in the region by their respective governments. “It is the placement of candles, not the wind, which determines the path to success. Today, we reaffirm the commitment and respect our municipalities have,” Salazar said. “I believe in the progress of our borderlands. This sends a clear message that Matamoros and Brownsville are ready for progress. It is an announcement to state and federal governments that we are ready and willing to receive large investment.”

Here is Martinez’s speech in full:

It is a great day. Thank you all for attending this special ceremony today as both Brownsville and Matamoros sign a sister city agreement. Thank you also to Mayor Letty, as I call her Lety, for her part today in making history for our two cities. As the mayor of Brownsville, I am Tony Martinez and Mayor Leticia Salazar Vasquez will sign a sister city agreement to ensure that greater communication and greater collaboration will take place in several areas, namely, education, business and culture.

In areas of education, we look forward to strengthening our partnerships between our schools and faculty to further develop priorities that will benefit all of our students. We will carry on the mission of a program called My Brother’s Keeper and called to action by President Obama to address persist opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. Hand in hand we will work together to ensure that the young people with origins in Brownsville and Matamoros can reach their full potential. Our locally tailored action plan will encompass a cradle-to-college and career strategy that begins with attaining school readiness and ends with a successful entry into our workforce. In addition, we are working with Rodolfo, our Mexican Consulate, to issue Brownsville Public Library System cards to Mexican nationals in an effort to promote literacy among our city sister youth. As President Obama said, my neighbor’s child is my child. And in sister cities we will internalize that sentiment and look after each other’s children as if our own.

In areas of business, we will strive to improve our trade and commerce through greater collaboration, mutual planning and increased city communications. The West Rail Bridge project is a true testament of these efforts. Exactly one week from today two nations will come together to inaugurate the first international rail bridge in over 100 years. My removing the rail system from the residential and downtown areas of Brownsville and Matamoros the West Rail Bridge project will do the following:

  • it will eliminate 14 street rail crossings in Brownsville and six major crossings in Matamoros
  • it will eliminate rail and rail switching operations in downtown Matamoros
  • it will reduce rail freight line time from Brownsville UP (Union Pacific) Railroad switching yard to Monterey, Mexico, by two and a half hours
  • it will eliminate time restrictions for trains to cross the international bridge during morning and evening peaks in Matamoros due to heavy traffic conditions
  • it will improve safety and reduction of congestion and traffic rail delays
  • it will improve emergency access to west Brownsville, improve environmental conditions, noise and air quality and create a new vehicle transportation corridor for our two sister cities.

Since its establishment in 2005, Kansas City Southern de Mexico has been the West Rail project’s driving force, facilitating the import and export of goods and creating commerce and trade on the southern portion of the U.S.-Mexican border. Henry Ford once said, coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together success. Fifteen years ago our nations came together. We kept together and we worked together and through this West Rail project we have achieved great success.

The maquila industry too has played a key role in the economic development of our region. Following the NAFTA enactment in 1994 the industry realized a massive expansion on the U.S.-Mexican border, creating jobs through production, logistics, movement of goods and forwarding and custom brokering for our two city sisters. Today, according to the trade association for maquilas in Mexico, 66 percent of jobs in the state of Tamaulipas are linked directly or indirectly to maquilas and the manufacturing sector.

And last but not the least, culturally we are strong. This year we celebrated our 78th Charro Days anniversary with the same dedication to binational friendship and respect that was first captivated 78 years ago. From our very first celebration, Brownsville residents and visitors dressed in the traditional costumes of Mexico and honored the Mexican cowboys, the churros, the heroes of the borderlands. In those early years, horse-drawn, handmade floats toured downtown Brownsville both with marching bands from Mexico, soldiers from the old Fort Brown and children from area schools dressed as charros and chinas. We look forward to continuing our binational celebration and meeting our sister city Matamoros in our yearly hands across the bridge ceremony of friendship to officially kickoff our grand celebration.

As both cities improve and help each other to advance and expand greater opportunities will arise. The goal of our cities is to grow and accommodate all of the people with activities, careers, and a place that will be safe so that together we can build strong families and continue our bonds of cultural unity that have been forged through our common history. While we are divided by a common geographical border, we must remember that a border is merely a physical boundary to be laid upon maps. A river will not prevent bilateral transcendence of customs, food and tradition.

Again, I thank all of you for being part of today’s historic venture. This sister city agreement will build a foundation for our cities to evolve and be connected for generations to come.