McALLEN, RGV – State Senator Juan Hinojosa has paid his tribute to his namesake, U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa.

Congressman Hinojosa has served as representative for Texas’ 15th congressional district for 19 years. He announced Friday he would not seek re-election and would see out the rest of his term, which ends in December 2016.

“Congressman Hinojosa has done a great job. We will miss him. He was a key leader in Congress and his priority was always education. The impact he has had on education is huge, not only here in the Rio Grande Valley and his congressional district but throughout the whole state and the whole nation,” Sen. Hinojosa told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Congressman Hinojosa’s commitment, his focus, his passion for education has made a big difference for our young people here in South Texas. He has sacrificed a lot. I always tell people that being up in Washington, D.C., you are away from your family a lot, you do a lot of traveling but he made the commitment and he delivered. I wish him well and thank him for the great job he did for us here in South Texas.”

Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia expanded on Senator Hinojosa’s comments about the sacrifices Congressman Hinojosa made.

“You have to appreciate what it took for him to make the decision to run for Congress and represent our area. There is something about our system that people do not understand. Our system makes it virtually impossible for an individual who is not independently wealthy to run for a congressional office and be a representative of the people,” Garcia told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“When he decided to file to run for Congress in 1996, Rubén was a very successful businessman, a part owner of a very successful company, very well-recognized for his business acumen. The most productive part of a person’s life is in their 50s.  He went ahead and he made a choice to forgo the economic side of his life, the business side, and proceed to file to become a congressman. And he did it with such energy, dedication, commitment and passion that he was able to accomplish quite a bit in economic development for our area, in education for our area and our country. He really helped the Hispanic community. I am very proud to be able to call him a friend and for him to have been our congressman for our South Texas area.”

At Friday’s announcement, held at Nuevo Santander Gallery in McAllen, many supporters said Hinojosa’s legacy would be felt for many years to come, particularly by minority students benefitting from increased funding for minority serving institutions. Asked what his legacy would be, Hinojosa told reporters: “Let history write that. I know I have had a major focus on pre-kindergarten, K thru 12, community colleges, and universities, from bachelor’s, master’s to doctorate degrees, in such a way that has never been done before. A woman told me in Washington, you were the right man at the right time at the right place to make the difference in increasing the federal investment in education like we have never seen before. Particularly, she said, for women and minorities. The federal government had always taken care of the high middle class and the rich but now I have turned that around and I have said the opportunity for our country to grow is in women and minorities because of the demographics of our country.”

Asked what he thought of all the accolades from his supporters and friends, Hinojosa said: “They made me cry. I thank them for being my supporters and for encouraging me when I was down and maybe frustrated. That is why I was able to survive not for ten years but for 20 years. There is more to be done. I will finish out my next year, through December of 2016 if possible and I will continue working but at a slower pace. I have traveled over two million miles already during this 20-year period. Hopefully I can enjoy my golden years. Enjoy my family, enjoy my grandchildren. I want to continue to work and build and as I transfer the torch to someone new at the end of the election in 2016, I will help them with the transition.”

Asked if he could have imagined achieving what he has, Hinojosa said: “I am a dreamer. I am an optimist. I wanted to get things done that had never been done before, that naysayers said could not be done. I have done, I would say, about 90 percent of them. I never thought I could not get it done. I was able to persuade, convince and create coalitions of partners – that is why the Tri-Caucus is so important today.”

The Tri-Caucus consists of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Asian American Caucus. Hinojosa is a former chair of the CHC.

“I have always had high bars that I wanted to jump over and lead people to do the same. I am fortunate that I had a mother who had 11 children, 40 grandchildren and 58 great grandchildren. She lived to 95 like my grandmother and she taught us that through working hard, getting a good education and helping others that we would improve the quality of life and that is what I have done,” Hinojosa said.

Supporters at Friday’s announcement said Hinojosa was leaving office at the top of his game. Asked by reporters if retiring from Congress had been a difficult decision to make, Hinojosa said: “It is something that is difficult to decide. When I would go to the schools and listen to the children at Sharyland Elementary School or Mercedes Elementary School (schools named after the Congressman) and we would do reading sessions and I would hear their questions, it invigorated me more. But, there comes a time. It is very important to do it at the right time.”

At the announcement, Hinojosa pointed out that while he would not be seeking re-election but he was not retiring from work. Asked to explain, Hinojosa told reporters: “I have only had two jobs. I had three decades as one of the leaders of H&H Foods, which, when I started only had 30 employees, and in 1997, when I left, had 300 employees. Ten years later the financial crisis stepped in and they went out of business because of that deep crisis. I love business but I love education. I am going to do everything I can to continue building on that. But, I will do it on my terms. I am proud to say I stand straight, tall and I want to continue to work in areas that will be in business, on corporate boards, in higher education. All of that will translate into a better quality of life for the South Texas region where I was born and raised.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story was taken outside Nuevo Santander Gallery on Friday, November 13. It shows Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, his  wife Marty, and  daughters Karen and  Kaitlyn.