No “White Christmas.” I have never seen snow. “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” is just a pretty song about some place I can only imagine that I may hope to see, kind of like Heaven.

I understand that we had some snowfall years ago, but I was visiting family in San Antonio and I never saw it. We generally do not insulate exposed water pipes in the Winter. A cold snap, i.e. a “Norther”, for longer than a week, with temperatures below 32 degrees F. is a major disruption for us. Winter Texans accustomed to living through snowy Winter conditions, walk around in thin, long-sleeved shirts, while South Texas natives wear jackets, scarves and gloves.

In terms of communication, some of us are bilingual English/Spanish. Many of my Non-Hispanic friends grew up speaking Spanish. Some still understand Spanish, even if they do not speak it. Also, some of my Hispanic friends do not even speak Spanish. Among my friends, we use English, if we are in a group, for example, at a bar. We are respectful of those that do speak Spanish.

I miss going across the Border to shop and visit restaurants in Matamoros, Progreso, or Reynosa. I’ve curtailed traveling across since the “Troubles.” Maybe I’m just “Un vato miedoso”—a “Nervous Nelly.” Folks have reported to me that it’s okay across the Border. So, I guess if I go, I’ll travel with a group. I always enjoyed Progeso, so that’s where I’ll go.

Mario Muñoz

In Harlingen, and the whole Rio Grande Valley, we probably have the highest number of restaurants, per capita, in the State of Texas. From where I sit now, I am a short 20 to 25-minute walk from about 15 restaurants serving a variety of cuisines such as: Oriental, Mexican, Tex-Mex, and American. This includes restaurant chains and independents.

A walking trail traverses the length of a waterway called The Arroyo Colorado. Consult a map to locate Harlingen, Texas. We were named after a Coastal City in Holland, also named Harlingen. The earlier name of the area, before it was incorporated in the early 20th Century, was “Six-Shooter Junction” because most of the population consisted of Texas Rangers, Border Patrolmen and criminals.

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

The Plain Chachalaca breeds in tropical and subtropical environments from mezquital thickets in the Rio Grande Valley to northernmost Costa Rica.

The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival is coming up on Nov. 6. It runs to Nov. 10. Birders from all over the United States and the World converge in Harlingen for the Festival.

If you look at a map of the United States you will see that the Rio Grande Valley is a sort of “funnel” into Central and South America. What this means is that birds from all over the United States and Canada travel through the Rio Grande Valley as they migrate South. I have spoken to Birders that show me their “Life Lists” of birds they had never seen before they came to the Birding Festival.

Since was a kid, I’ve been listening to the sound of the “Chachalaca,” a bird that most people in the United States have never heard. In South Texas parlance we frequently refer to a noisy person as a “Chachalaca.” If you heard it you would understand why it is a sort of natural noisemaker. South Texas is the Northernmost range of the Chacalaca. 

We’ll see you at the Birding Festival.  

Editor’s Note: Rio Grande Guardian presenter Mario Muñoz was asked by someone on Quora what it is like to live in Harlingen. The above column is based upon his response.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above column shows Jackson Street in downtown Harlingen. Photo credit: Tour Texas.