HARLINGEN, TX (Border Report) — A group of binational leaders from Texas and Mexico are promoting a “new look” for arts and culture on the frontier to fight back against political rhetoric that portrays the southwest frontier in a negative light.
It’s called the “Cultural Corridor Initiative” and on Saturday the group will head south of the Rio Grande to the border city of Reynosa, Mexico to bridge the cultural gap in what they call the Texas/Tamaulipas Cultural Corridor.
“We’re trying to start a new story,” Diane Milliken Garza, Commissioner of the Texas Arts Commission, told Border Report. She is from Brownsville, Texas and is leading this grassroots initiative.
Saturday’s event is for a select group of invitees to enjoy “old Mexico”. She says they want to go back to a time when crossing a river south or north was a dining event, and families lived on both sides of the border and met regularly in one city after another.
“The idea of the Cultural Corridor initiative is to revive the art and culture of the southern border. We have been marked by the fear factor due to various political events. And we have lost most of our cultural tourism,” Garza said.
It is similar, but smaller in scale, to the Binational River project, which is being implemented in the border cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. But that includes millions of dollars worth of infrastructure and miles of frontier trails. Garza says this Rio Grande Valley initiative starts with culture and arts and could expand from there if successful.
Saturday’s tour will begin at the Old Hidalgo Pumping Station in Hidalgo, Texas, where they will board a charter bus and caravan a mile south on the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge in Reynosa.
She says that they will be received by the mayor of Reinosa, Carlos Peña Ortiz. According to the invitation, they will be “treated with visual arts, performing arts, food and entertainment” throughout the evening.
However, the event is closed to the public as both sides work to build cultural ties to set the stage for future events that both bi-ethnic communities can participate in, she said.
“Life on the southern frontier is great and we are trying to bring it back,” Garza said. “This is literally a party that is being made to start, restart the conversation about cultural tourism towards our southern border.”
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez told Border Report that he plans to attend. Garza says the auxiliary bishop also plans to travel with the US consul general from Matamoros, Mexico, a twin border town about 50 miles to the east. She says other artists and leaders from Austin and other parts of Texas were also invited.
Garza says Mexican security forces will ensure the safety of northern travelers in Reynos, a city where warring drug cartel factions have led to widespread violence and the decline of Texans who travel south there.
“Those of us who live here have traditionally lived in the “one river, one country” zone. The northern border cities of Erico and the southern border cities of Texas with a river in between but not blocking,” Garza said. “Many issues have clouded how we are perceived by the rest of the state and country. …so we want to go there and remember what it’s like.”