Mounce: Hola, Holywood! Todo Listo! Ready for You!

That’s Ciudad Mier calling. I visited that tiny (4,000) town in northern Mexico, near the US border, only ayer—yesterday. It beckons Hollywood, “ready for its close-up,” for a new Western, half-Mexican, half-North American. My friends and I felt like we were stepping into the 19th century. The town seems almost deserted. But it is clean, well-kept and charming.

Mier (formerly “Paso del Cántaro”) was named for Servando Teresa de Mier and founded by José Escandon in 1753. It did host over 6,000 inhabitants, but was nearly abandoned in 2010 when severe wars between the Zetas and their rivals, the Gulf Cartel, broke out. Many police were killed or kidnapped, until President Calderón sent 600 troops. Most of the citizens moved to Miguel Alemán or to friends and family across the border, in or near Roma, Texas, about seven miles away. Those ties remain, as do so many of their names, related to citizens here in south Texas: Garza, Ramírez, García, Gutiérrez, Barrera, Peña, Canales, Hinojosa, and more.

We drove into Mexico, across the Falcon Dam, west of Roma, with no US personnel—bridge or INS, in sight. Only a few soldiers were on the other end, in Mexico, uninterested in us, a clear “AVANCE” signal at the entrance; no “permiso” or fare requested. The submerged town of old Guerrero, hovering on the far bank of Lake Falcon added to the surreal feelings we experienced. Those were heightened, as we drove past the lake, past the lone Correcamino, past cotton and corn, cactus and spiney brush,into the sleepy village. Our friend and driver recalled the area, as his parents had taken him in 1953 to see the opening of the dam. Speeches by President Eisenhower and President Ruíz Cortínes were featured, amid promises by the Mexican president of “mutual respect.” All realized the importance, for flood control and irrigation, of this crucial, joint action by the US and Mexico.

So, Mier has done its part in helping both countries to develop. Now, it is trying to help itself. That is made difficult without a thriving population. Why no people in the streets? Few would speculate; we did, however, assuming a haunting from previous violence. “We were called a ‘pueblo mágico,’ but now are a ‘pueblo de fantasmas,’“ according to one former resident who asked not to be named. (Julian Aguilar, Texas Tribune, 15 Dec 2010). The month of cartel violence was devastating, its effects still found, the three battalions long gone. The town played a role in US/Mexican history long before that; Fidel Castro passed through, utilizing superb smuggling resources of the area in the ‘50s, to help supply his revolutionary venture back into Cuba. Before that, the famous “Black Bean” episode was played out in Mier. Many “fantasmas” still lurk in the shadows. 

Our admiration for the strong-willed folks of Mier grew at each moment of our trip. All were friendly; personnel at the Registro Civil were friendly. We went for documents, so that our friend and driver could have his father’s birth certificate stamped as necessary, for becoming a Mexican resident. Outside the government building, immediately next to the church, Nuestra Señora de Concepción Puríssima, we strolled the lovely plaza, its well cared for grounds being swept vigorously by diligent women. But, again, no children playing, no other people.

It should be emphasized that the people we did meet were friendly. They assured us that government and citizens are working hard to restore their town to normalcy. Mexican American neighbors in Roma, as in the past, help out; Roma’s schools perform well, although their tasks have multiplied with the advent of hundreds of new students. Standing majestically over all, the mighty Falcon Lake (80,000 acres of water, when full), the Falcon dam and the promise of recreation and electrical power for residents of both countries.  

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by UT-Rio Grande Valley Professor Emeritus Dr. Gary Joe Mounce. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Dr. Mounce can be reached by email via:

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