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With Posada Navideña and Census-themed Lotería, LUPE uses culture, tradition to promote Census participation of Valley colonia residents - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Featured: New toys donated for deserving children in the 15th Congressional District, which is led by Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, were displayed on Monday evening, December 2, 2019, at the Embassy Suites in McAllen, as part of the third annual Christmas Bash & Toy Drive hosted by the U.S. representative and his wife, Lorena Sáenz González. From left in this image, in addition to the González family, are his staff members: José Borjon; Albert Martínez; Stephanie Toscano; Karen Hinojosa; SJ Zavala; Tito Alaniz; Congressman Vicente González; Lorena Sáenz González; Andrei Defino; Lucy Phenix; Patrick Roberts; and Daniel Martínez. 



With Posada Navideña and Census-themed Lotería, LUPE uses culture, tradition to promote Census participation of Valley colonia residents


• Colonias are some of the nation’s hardest to count neighborhoods;
• LUPE (La Unión del Pueblo Entero) uses the power of culture to reach and engage colonia residents;
• Christmas Posada and Census-themed Mexican bingo are examples; and
• LUPE’s Censo Lotería was just featured in the New York Times

Colonias are some of the hardest to count neighborhoods in hard-to-count majority Hispanic counties along the border. But border organization La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) is employing cultural strategies to ensure their inclusion in the 2020 Census.

Colonias are rural subdivisions that fall behind city neighborhoods in their services, housing quality, and infrastructure. They are some of the hardest to count neighborhoods and they are located in some of the hardest to count counties in the United States.

This year, LUPE’s posada navideña, taking place Saturday, December 21, 2019, will focus on the importance of participation in the 2020 Census.

Las posadas navideñas are the nine days of annual Christmas celebrations that culminate with a big celebration on Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve, in Mexico.

The nine days symbolize each of the months that Mary was pregnant, and that’s also why Christmas Eve is more celebrated in Mexico than Christmas Day like in many other countries.


A Mexican Cultural Tradition

At Christmas time, LUPE families gather for the organization’s annual posadas, where leaders of the organization show their appreciation for its members’ participation during the year. A posada is an important Mexican Christmas tradition that features the reenactment of the Bible story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for a place of refuge.

Joseph and Mary participated in the Census, according to the Bible’s Christmas narrative. Joseph brought the very pregnant Mary to Bethlehem – where Jesus was to be born – in order to participate in the Census.

The Christmas story and its posada reenactments also serve as powerful reminders that all people deserve inclusion and belonging. Whether LUPE is aiding families seeking asylum at the border or encouraging immigrant families of the colonias to participate in the 2020 Census, group leaders say everyone has a role to play in making the United States a more welcoming, compassionate place.

Culture is Power

The group’s annual posada is one way that LUPE uses the power of culture to increase participation. Through cultural activities, community members are educated on how to participate in complex political and policy ideas.

Another example is Censo Lote, where LUPE alters the Mexican lotería game to focus on the importance of the Census. With colorful card images and accompanying educational descriptions, community members learn about the stakes of an accurate Census count while enjoying a lively game of Mexican bingo.

LUPE is a nonprofit organization that helps the community organize for and win a better quality of life. LUPE was founded in 1989 by farmworker and civil rights leaders Cesar E. Chavez and Dolores Huerta. We are a membership-based organization and our strength is found in the participation of our over eight thousand members. LUPE is a member organization of the RGV Equal Voice Network.

Learn more about LUPE online at


Lidia Franzelly García said the holidays are usually a time for her to reflect and create goals for the next year. This year, though, she decided to challenge herself by entering the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s 2019 President’s Holiday Card Contest.

García, a junior computer science major, designed the winning card and earned a $1,000 UTRGV scholarship.

“Winning this helped me add another accomplishment to my life. It makes me feel extremely proud of myself and reminds me that, with enough persistence and work, you can achieve most things in life,” the Brownsville native said. “I was very pleased to know that I contributed to our UTRGV community this holiday season.”

In a computer illustration titled “Happy Howdy Days: Vaqueros being Book & Boot Smart,” García’s design was motivated by symbolism, with each element in her piece carefully chosen to convey a deeper meaning.

For example, the card features a single Christmas tree decorated with 10 apples to represent abundance and knowledge. At the foot of the tree stands a pair of Vaquero boots, to inspire moving forward in a journey by “booting up through tough times and going forward to strive for academic success.”

“The most special element was the book under the tree because, for me, all the books I’ve read have transformed me in some way or another,” she said. “I like to read spiritual and self-help books because I feel like we should all try to help ourselves a bit.”

She also wanted to communicate how important discipline is throughout the year, including during the holidays. 

“My holidays consist of being surrounded by incredible people who inspire me to become the best version of myself. I take this time of the year to reflect on who I am, how I can improve, what I did wrong or right, and what I learned from it to implement such resolutions for next year,” García said.

Her design was chosen from more than 60 entries, and the card will be distributed to UTRGV faculty and staff, donors, friends of the university and elected officials across the state and country.

The two UTRGV students who placed second and third in the card contest were awarded a $500 UTRGV scholarship each.

José Lozano, a senior studio art major from Brownsville, took second place for his photograph of a sunset over tall palm trees. He said he wanted to show the beauty in nature that both the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses offer. He added a touch of holiday nostalgia by editing in Santa’s sleigh.

Victoria Bender, a Mathematics and Science Academy senior from Rancho Viejo, received a third-place for her painting inspired by her mother’s flower shop, which is filled with pink and red poinsettia during the holidays.

All three students were recognized for their achievements at two of the President’s Holiday Receptions, which were held on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, at the Ballroom Complex on the Edinburg Campus and on Thursday, December 5, 2019, at the PlainsCapital Bank El Gran Salón on the Brownsville Campus.


Three months ago, 51-year-old Kay Frost waited in line for a life-saving lung transplant. 

Just six days after being placed on the waiting list, she had a new lung and a new lease on life. Now she’s looking forward to waiting in lines at local malls to do her holiday shopping. 

“No line is too long for me because I’ve been given the greatest gift of all – the gift of life,” she said.

But if it hadn’t been for the short waiting period to receive a lung transplant at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Frost said she may not have been around to spend Christmas with her family this year.

The Health Science Center’s lung transplant program has the shortest waiting period for lung transplant surgery in the nation. The average national waiting period for a lung transplant is two years. At the Health Science Center the average waiting period is 44 days, but many transplants, such as Frost’s, are performed sooner than that.

A study conducted by Luis Ángel, MD, Director, and Stephanie Levine, MD, co-director of the lung transplant program at the Health Science Center, determined that lungs from “marginal donors” could be used effectively in transplant surgery.

(Marginal donors are individuals who are over the age of 55, who have a history of mild to moderate smoking or pulmonary disease, or who, at the initial evaluation, did not have ideal oxygen levels, clear chest X-rays or a normal bronchoscopy)

Ángel worked with Joe Nespral, director of clinical services at the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA), to implement a new lung management protocol. The new protocol significantly improved the performance of marginal lungs.

“With the new lung management protocol in place, the number of TOSA-procured lungs transplanted has jumped from 16 in 2000 (the year before the study began) to 43 in 2003,” Nespral said. “That’s an increase of 169 percent in three years. Last year, lungs accounted for 12 percent of the TOSA organs transplanted.”

Nespral said the successful lung program is good news not only for San Antonio patients but also for lung patients across the nation. Of the 43 TOSA lungs transplanted last year, 31 went to local patients and 12 to out-of-town patients. Nespral said the new protocol has made TOSA’s lung procurement rate one of the highest in the nation.

“Of all the major organs, probably the most difficult to recover and the transplant is the lung,” Nespral said. “Because of the shortage of donors and transplantable organs in the United States, organ procurement programs are constantly looking for ways to make more organs available for transplantation. By liberalizing the criteria for lung donors, and by working with the Health Science Center’s transplant team to improve and maintain every donor, we are saving more lives without putting patients at risk.”

Frost said she was so thankful for her new lung that she gave it a name – “Dora”.

This year she plans to surprise her daughter, Jennifer, and 1-year-old grandson, Blaine, by decorating her Christmas tree in a “Dora the Explorer” theme. Dora the Explorer is an animated character from Nickelodeon Junior TV.

“My new lung, Dora, is going to help take me on some new adventures in life, and thanks to the Health Science Center I’m happy I’ll be able to share them with my family,” Frost said.


Priscilla Ramírez, Will Sansom, and David A. Díaz contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (

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