(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that dancers from India also participated.)
McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Just hours before President Donald Trump was to deliver Tuesday’s State of the Union address stressing the nation’s “Great American Comeback,” the mayor of this Texas border town delivered a state of the city speech that stressed the city’s cultural diversity and blending economics with Mexico and peoples from elsewhere in the world.
Wearing a traditional Mexican dance costume used in “la danza de los viejitos (dance of the old people), McAllen Mayor Jim Darling danced onto the stage at the McAllen Convention Center, his face hidden behind a mask as he was play-fighting with a wooden cane with the other dancers. But when he took his mask off, he spoke seriously about how important the two nation’s cultures are to this border region, the financial stability that depends on bi-national trade, and the families that live on both sides of the Rio Grande.
“It’s important for all of us despite our race, religion or nationality to respect one another,” Darling told a crowd of 1,200 people, which included two state senators, several state representatives, mayors from several South Texas cities, and the mayor of Reynosa, Mexico. “McAllen has a strong bond with Mexico. What happens in Mexico happens to us together.”
Before Darling made his entrance, dancers in traditional ensembles from India, the Philippines, Mexico, Scotland and Native American tribal nations performed, entering from the back before making their way through the crowd.
“Today, as we celebrate the various cultures within McAllen, we also celebrate the culture of McAllen,” Darling said. “These diverse cultures come together in McAllen to give us our own McAllen culture. McAllen culture is not just based on ethnicity, however. It is based on faith, ingenuity, service, volunteerism and entrepreneurism.”
Darling bragged that McAllen is one of the safest cities in the country (rated in 2019 by the Wall Street Journal as the 4th safest city). That’s up from being rated the 7th-safest city in America in 2018. There were only 28 automobile thefts the entire year, he added.
“Our city is strong, vibrant and ready to move forward into the next decade of the roaring 20s,” Darling said of McAllen, which is known as the City of Palms for its tropical climate and strunning palm trees that help to bring tourists and senior citizen Winter Texans.
Darling attributed economic growth of the region to business ventures with Mexico and the opening of factories and industries, or maquiladoras, on both sides of the Rio Grande.
Unemployment is at an “all-time low” of 3.9%, he said. In the month of December, 1,300 jobs alone were created.
The region has stressed cross-border commerce, and is working to improve international bridge crossings and expand access at the McAllen–Hidalgo–Reynosa International Bridge. He said construction will begin later this year on commercial trucking lanes at the Anzalduas International Bridge, which also connects McAllen with Reynosa.
McAllen this past year also was rated by WalletHub as one of the fastest growing cities in America, he touted. And it was rated by SmartAsset.com as one of the best places for Halloween trick-or-treating.
Challenges for the region this year include galvanizing residents to participate in the upcoming Census, which for the first time will allow residents to do electronically. But Darling said that is particularly difficult when “30 percent of the population does not have online access. We have to work harder as a region to be counted.”
We’re rich in culture and we don’t realize it. I like to say that we’re color-blind. We love everybody.”McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez
“What a great, great city we have here!” said retired Army Col. Frank Plummer, who introduced the mayor on Tuesday.
“One of the beauties of being born and raised in this part of the world, in this part of Texas, happens to be being part of an international community. We’re rich in culture and we don’t realize it. I like to say that we’re color-blind. We love everybody,” McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said after the event.
Said Conrado Alvarado, board of trustee secretary for McAllen Independent School District, after the event: “It was great to see all the cultures that are here … It was just beautiful to see how we co-exist in this beautiful city.”
“This is a celebration of the blessings we have to live in this community. We’re blessed,” said Judith Saldivar.
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