Ghosts of the Past

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

The Rio Grande Valley (Texas), like most areas in the country, is made up of small towns and communities. And each has a story and a history. Many smaller communities have a history that refuses to evolve or change over time to accommodate the progress and diversity that has overtaken them over the last half century or so. The Rio Grande Valley has some of those small towns and communities in its midst, along with ghosts of the past that refuse to die or fade away. I live in one of them.


By Al Garcia

The Rio Grande Valley (Texas), like most areas in the country, is made up of small towns and communities.  And each has a story and a history.  Many smaller communities have a history that refuses to evolve or change over time to accommodate the progress and diversity that has overtaken them over the last half century or so.  The Rio Grande Valley has some of those small towns and communities in its midst, along with ghosts of the past that refuse to die or fade away.  I live in one of them. 

The story of one particular Valley community started out as a dream.  And through the vision, ideas and ingenuity of individuals seeking to not only improve their own social and economic status and eminence in the long and well-established Valley community, a group of movers and shakers joined together to make their dream come true – the establishment of a unique and separate country club community within their rapidly growing town, that would define not only redefine them, but would be a centerpiece and showplace for the Valley elite to meet and socialize.  In essence a gathering place for the pioneers they perceived themselves to be.  America may have had its Mayflower descendants, but the Rio Grande Valley had its own self-anointed aristocracy and gentry. 

And so, begins the story of one Lower Valley community.  A story of great expectations and opportunities.  A story that eventually took on a life of its own.  What had begun as an investment in a dream by a few enterprising and imaginative individuals, soon turned into a thriving and flourishing venture that surpassed the initial investors’ wildest fantasies.  The outline of the heart and soul of what would become a new prospering “city,” unbeknownst to them, was taking shape. 

The 1960s was, at the very time this new venture began to emerge as a reality, not the best of times, nor the worst of times for many Valley residents.  It was at a turbulent and culturally unstable time in our country’s history that the Valley and this particular area found itself in.  A time of the Vietnam War, discontent in America’s streets, and here in the Valley, a Hispanic community trying to find its voice and its place.  But in this and many other parts of the Valley, life went on, oblivious to the changing times and attitudes that would eventually overwhelm the status quo and a time that would begin a new chapter in our Valley’s history. 

A Founding Father of that new “progressive” community at the time, whose words and recollection of its history could be found on its city website as of just a few years ago, recalls, “. . .  when the country club and the development around it were first built, it was kind of like the old Wild West when the white man going in a caravan was attacked by Indians.  Initially the development was perceived by many to be a modern day circle the wagons that resulted in kind of [a] de facto segregation.” 

Not a very flattering start to a community’s story or history.  The “Indians” this Founding Father was referring to in his historical observation was the surrounding Hispanic communities and Mexican-American population that made up the Rio Grande Valley and this area in particular, during that time.  A “caravan” of “the white man” attacked by the Indians speaks to the “us” versus “them” mentality of the time, and a true characterization of Valley life as late as the 1960s. 

Unlike our country that was conceived and founded as a statement of the ideas and ideals of men and women seeking refuge from intolerance and oppression, yearning to think and worship without restraint, this new community was founded by men and women simply seeking to isolate themselves inside a cultural time-warp, with well-manicured lawns and 18-hole golf course, where ethnicity and cultural diversity could be left and kept outside its gates and its sight.  This was, unfortunately, how and why the community came to be, a community built on supremist ideas, and questionable ideals.

It may not be a pleasing or a complimentary picture of the geneses of this Valley community’s roots, but it nonetheless, was the foundation of the wonderful community many Mexican-Americans now call home.  Like the great divide that once defined our nation – color, ethnicity, wealth and social standing, which to some extent, still exists to some degree today, this Valley community in the late 1950s and through the 60s was a microcosm of White America here in the Valley.  Back then, it was the epitome of the “have” and “have not” American society.  It was the Valley’s litmus test for community tolerance, acceptance or approval of the flourishing “outsiders” and “invaders” – the ever present and growing Hispanic population that was in the processing of finding its voice during that time.  The surrounding community leaders and influential citizens looked to this new town and its leaders for guidance on establishing their own policies, regulations and even strategies on dealing with two distinct cultural groups trying to co-exist in the Rio Grande Valley – the “Anglos” and the “Hispanics.” 

I found that one of the original Founding Fathers did have the graciousness to state in his personal recollection of the founding of this community, that while growing up and living in this area of the Valley, he had had “many Hispanic friends,” and found them to be “well educated,” and today finds them to be “among our most intelligent citizens.”  He predicted, back then, that within a generation, “discrimination” in his new Valley utopia and other parts of the Valley would not “factor” into a community’s make-up.  Unfortunately, it took a bit longer than he predicted or foresaw.  The light of decency, tolerance and acceptance however is filtering through today, and the result can be seen in the demographics of the environs of our Valley communities, especially this one particular one.  Many of us are now the generation that was foreseen by the Founding Father who wrote those words, some 50 years ago. 

The great divide is narrowing, and as a result this Valley community, like others through the Valley, continue to grow and thrive with the diversity of people attracted to this oasis in the Valley that continues to evolve and prosper because of its inclusiveness, tolerance and acceptance, and without the need to discriminate, segregate or isolate.

There are too many ghosts of the past that still haunt us and impact our daily lives.  Too many Valley residents still cling to the past, as if waiting for the “good old days” to return.  This attitude and frame of mind can be perceived and even felt around the Valley.  One has only to look at their own community with open eyes to see the vestiges of what used to be and still remains. 

The Mexican-American voice in the Valley has grown louder and stronger over the years.  Yet, many still walk one step behind their “betters,” and one step behind the times.  It is the result of the well-rooted culture that once controlled and ruled the Valley, and that still lingers in the hearts and minds of some Valley residents, who like many Americans today, refuse to move forward with the times, the truth, and with reality. 

The ghosts of the past are real.  You can feel them, and unfortunately, sometimes here in the Valley, you can even see them.

Submitted: June 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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