There are many effects and consequences that arise from the many factors that affect border communities along the Mexico/U.S. international boundaries. One of those factors is the narco wars taking place all along the border. And one of the effects of this one factor is the migration, not only of the highly publicized illegal entrants, but of the silent and largely ignored legal immigrants who are finding the U.S. side of the border a better place to live and raise families.
In the Rio Grande Valley, there are many people who have arrived looking for safety and peace. Many of these individuals coming from the frontera are entreprenuers, business owners, artists and writers. I have had the priviledge to meet some of these people. Just a few years ago, if you wanted to get some authentic "Reynosa" tacos you had to cross the border into Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Nowadays, you'd be playing with your safety if you casually cross for the simplicity and joy of tacos after partying at the clubs. It just isn't like it used to be. That is a shame. But, luckily, some of those taquerias have now crossed the river to establish themselves here on U.S. soil. And now those Mexican street delicacies are available to us without the peril of being caught in the crossfire of sicarios, soldiers, police, etc. Likewise, now there are more and more Mexican bakeries selling their delicious, unique pan dulce. What is more surprising is heading out to my parent's house, which is only a few miles away, and seeing a tortilleria along the way. Not just any tortilleria, but an authentic Mexican tortilleria with the very genuine flavor, aroma, texture, and process of production. I say this because this process involves the use of an industrial-grade tortilla conveyer machine that makes a very distinct screeching sound that conditions your mouth to water on site as you wait for those fluffy, steamy, corn tortillas to fall off the conveyer belt, stacked up and wrapped for you in newspaper-like wrapping paper. Just watching this process is a unique cultural experience in itself.
By far the most influential and impactful unintended effect of the economic, social, and political problems in Mexico are the wave of intellectual, artistic, and literary minds making their way into our communities. There are actors and theatre companies directed by individuals with degrees from universities in Mexico City, such as Lucia Macias. Her collaboration with the Pharr Community Theatre Company has brought to life plays like "Frontera Sin Fin," by Carlos Morton. This is a Spanish language play "...about undocumented immigration, the struggle with identity, love, and survival," as described on their Frontera Sin Fin Facebook page.
There are writers such as Raquel Lopez, who is also an event organizer. Her events usually go beyond the typical "poetry reading" format. In these events, there are musicians singing, painters exhibiting their art pieces, poets reciting often off the top of their head (declamando, in Spanish), short story writers, dance troupes, dramatic performances and philosophers. The event is so complex that it usually spans over two hours and is more of a cultural event than a simple reading. At first you think that anything that goes beyond an hour is a drag. But having been to these events myself, I was surprised to find out that two hours is a blink of an eye when you are witnessing entertainers give their all without timidity or reservations. These Mexicans take their art seriously. No kidding. Raquel's events usually go under the banner of Enero Rojo Lunar, a cryptic denomination that only she understands but is ready and eager to explain to interested individuals. I'll leave it up to the reader to investigate that by clicking the link to her Enero Rojo Lunar Club Literario Facebook page.
Within my immediate circle of influence is a rising star in the literary world across the Americas. Her name is Rossy Evelyn Lima. She is a member of the non-profit group, the Coalition of New Chican@ Artists (CONCA) of which I also am a member. She has one poetry book published by Otras Voces Publishing titled "Ecos de Barro" and another one in the works to be published soon by a different publisher. Rossy is a native of Veracruz, Mexico who has lived in the U.S. for the past decade. Her poetry is visually stimulating and emotionally powerful. Her use of language is smooth and seemingly effortless. It is no wonder that her work is widely acclaimed. Rossy describes herself as having felt out of place for a long time in the U.S. until she discovered Chicanism@. Through CONCA she is now able to feel like she not only belongs, but is a part of a movement geared for positive change for minorities of all backgrounds. For more about Rossy, visit her website by the same name.
These are only a sample of the influences that I see in my immediate surroundings. They are the people with whom I most have contact and collaborate with, as well. The influence of the Mexican wave of culture, art, and culinary tradition is only beginning to be felt. The full effect of its impact is still something that remains to be seen, but that promises to enrich border life beyond the current limits.
Gabriel H. Sanchez is an author, poet, actor, editor, and publisher from the Rio Grande Valley.
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