Report of the President to the Women’s Division Board of Directors
Growing up in South Texas begins one of the first chapters of my life. My three brothers, two sisters and I were raised in the small town of Edcouch. Edcouch is one of several small towns that make up what is known as the lower Rio Grande Valley, although it really is a delta. After my brothers, sisters and I married, we eventually all settled somewhere in the valley, but not far from Edcouch. The proximity of Edcouch to the Rio Grande is within 20 miles from where each of us live. The Rio Grande—or Big River—is the natural division or border between Texas and the country of Mexico. Every Texas city that lines the border has a “sister city” right across the Rio Grande. Many of these Mexican cities, large or small, have always been visited by Texans and many others. The Mexican city we most often visited as children was the city of Reynosa.
All places in Mexico are usually depicted as fun cities. Reynosa was the fun city many visited not only as children but as adults. They went to visit, vacation, eat, shop or just to see the sights. To cross into Mexico from Texas, identification as United States citizens used to be our birth certificate. Now, all that is accepted is either a driver’s license or our passport since both have the bearer’s picture.
Cotton is a big cash crop in many parts of Texas, including the border area where we live. In the 1950s the United States allowed Mexican men to apply to come into the United States for the specific reason of picking the abundance of cotton grown throughout the border counties in South Texas. The mechanical cotton pickers were not yet produced.
Many valley men who worked in agriculture were notified that the position of bracero manager was needed for every farm owner that was listed. One of the farm owners hired my father. The main responsibility of the bracero manager was to get as many trailers of picked cotton to the cotton gin as soon as possible to be baled every day. After the bracero program was terminated, many Mexican boys and men started crossing the Rio Grande illegally into Texas. They would work at anything. They wanted to be paid in American dollars. The dollars were able to buy much more than the Mexican peso once they returned home to Mexico. Americans were more than willing to pay lower wages to those who came from Mexico for all the long hours of work they did because American workers demanded higher pay.
It is now 2011. Many things have changed. We have seen and taken part in world wars and several other conflicts. Our fathers, husbands, brothers, sisters and friends were or are still involved in these wars or conflicts.
The battles continue. The world has gotten smaller. The Border Patrol and ICE (U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement), immigration and customs personnel, have been on high alert on the border of the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico. This is the area where my brothers, sisters and I live. The drug cartels in several Mexican cities and the surrounding hills have killed many of its citizens to either steal their SUVs or just to prove that they are in control. Although many still travel into Mexico, our family no longer visits Reynosa or any other border city. Last year a man was shot and killed on Falcon Lake while riding a water scooter because he rode too close to the Mexican side of the lake.
This past February, two ICE agents were returning from Mexico and were ambushed by men dressed in Mexican army uniforms but were actually members of the drug cartel. One of the men, a Brownsville, Texas, citizen, was killed, and the other was critically wounded. Much speculation as to why they were attacked was reported on the news, but there still remains no explanation.
Now there are new battles we need to combat. We are constantly bombarded through our variety of media of international, national and local new battles that confront us. Some of these battles are domestic violence, human trafficking assassinations, prostitution, drugs and the drug lords. And yet still so many more to list. I was greatly surprised a few days ago while watching the local news by a report that a van entering Texas through the Brownsville International Bridge was detained that was bringing four girls, ages 11 through 14, as part of human trafficking to a prostitution ring in Brownsville. The girls were from Honduras, a Central American country.
Yes, many persons still travel to Mexico from various parts of the world and some from the United States. The question here is not if we should travel to Mexico or not. The question is, “How are we as United Methodist Women members going to seek out and reach out to those who suffer because of domestic violence, drug addiction, or human trafficking—all these battles that confront us?” Let us be proactive, courageous and determined in seeking out and reaching those who suffer. Go out in peace. Amen.