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Edinburg announces construction of $50 million arena that will anchor major new development along U.S. Expressway 281

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Edinburg leaders, along with state legislators and top officials with The University of Texas System, were on hand in Harlingen at the UT Regional Academic Health Center on Wednesday, November 20, to participate in the symbolic distribution of almost $200 million for higher education in the Valley, including $124 million that will be used for the first major phase of a UT medical school in Edinburg. “These funds represent the fuel that will begin to power the economic engine that will drive South Texas into the future,” said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured center. “This will unquestionably be the first of many distributions from the Permanent University Fund (PUF) which South Texas has long sought, more so deserved, and is finally receiving, thanks to decades of work by selfless leaders who dared to dream what has become a reality.” Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr. and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Provost for the University of Texas-Pan American who also serves as a member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) Board of Directors, also participated in the public event. “This is just the beginning. The taps have been opened,” said Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., who attended the mid-afternoon gathering. “This is such great progress for us. We know this is going to happen. And now, we start touching and feeling something solid and concrete. You know that we’re there, or getting there to that point of completion. We’re excited.” Rodríguez shared the sentiments. “It’s incredible. This is an opportunity to bring new students to the Rio Grande Valley, specifically to Edinburg, to ensure that they get an excellent education here,” he said. “In addition, we know that students that get medical degrees in a certain region, and do their medical residencies in a certain region, close to three-quarters of them remain in that region. So that means more doctors for the Rio Grande Valley.” Featured, from left: Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, a member of the UT System Board of Regents; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, President, The University of Texas-Pan American; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and Rep. Robert “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen. See story later in this posting.

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Eliminating “Pan American” from the name of the new university/medical school system being developed for the Rio Grande Valley is not required by state law, and would devalue the diplomas of upwards of 70,000 alumni, says former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen. The veteran lawmaker, featured here on Thursday, October 24, at the Student Union Building at The University of Texas-Pan American, has shared his reasons in a letter, dated November 29, addressed to Paul L. Foster, Chairman of the UT System Board of Regents. That landmark legislation – which includes the Valley’s other state senators and state representatives as joint authors or cosponsors – requires the University of Texas System to establish a new university and medical school that will combine the talent, assets and resources of UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville and the UT Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville. But first, the new university needs a name, and Senate Bill 24 places the responsibility of selecting the name on the nine-member UT System Board of Regents, which includes Ernest Aliseda of McAllen. SB 24, authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and sponsored by Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, was approved earlier this year by the Texas Legislature. “Sadly, there is a broad misconception that SB 24 prohibits keeping the name The University of Texas-Pan American or Pan American,” Gutiérrez noted. “Many alumni have revealed to me that they have not spoken out because they have been led to believe that abolishing that name ‘is a done deal.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.” See story later in this posting.

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More than 20 news media outlets from across the state ran stories about The University of Texas System Board of Regents’ unanimous decision on Thursday, November 14, to send $196 million from the Permanent University Fund to South Texas. Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., the Chancellor of the UT System, has helped champion the creation of a UT medical school in the Valley in part by being readily accessible to news reporters. In this image, taken at the UT-Pan American Student Union Building on Thursday, October 24, Cigarroa was interviewed by Laura García, who writes for the Valley Town Crier, the Edinburg Review, and http://www.YourValleyVoice.com, and Daniela Díaz, who writes for the Monitor in McAllen. The PUF appropriations will construct new facilities in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, including a $70 million Science Building at UT-Pan American and a $54 million UT medical school classroom building in Edinburg, as part of the UT System initiative to establish a new university and medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. The regents’ vote was historic because it marks the first time PUF money will go to South Texas.

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On the heels of successful programs to increase funding for research at UT’s emerging research institutions, The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously voted Thursday, November 14, to begin a similar program for UT System’s four comprehensive universities. The regents authorized $1 million from the Permanent University Fund to begin the UT System Research Incentive Program for the Comprehensive Universities, or UTrip-CU. The UT System’s comprehensive universities include UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American, UT-Permian Basin and UT-Tyler. The UTrip-CU money will be used to augment philanthropic gifts that support research at these four institutions. Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, featured third from left in this image taken at UT-Pan American on Thursday, October 24, is one of the nine regents serving on the UT governing board. Featured, from left: Rudy Ramirez, Executive Director, Edinburg Housing Authority; Debbie Crane Aliseda, President, McAllen School Board; Ernest Aliseda, Member, UT System Board of Regents; Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia; Hidalgo County Precint 2 Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios; and Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., Chancellor, The University of Texas System. See story later in this posting.

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A new state law to ensure punishment for online predators who use Internet communications to “groom” children for sexual assault will be among the legislative priorities for Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured with one of his children, Terry Andrés Canales II. “As a parent, I want to make sure that law enforcement has every tool necessary to catch and prosecute online predators,” he said. “Next session (in 2015), I will work with my fellow lawmakers to pass legislation that will not fall victim to a legal argument that the law violates the First Amendment right of free speech, as we have recently seen. I feel it is of the utmost importance that the Texas Legislature passes a viable and enforceable law to punish online predators in order to protect our children.” The proliferation of child predators using the Internet to target young victims has become a national crisis, according to the Office of the Texas Attorney General. A study shows one in seven children will be solicited for sex online in the next year. See story later in this posting.

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Longtime public servant and community activist Elvia Ríos, 64, earlier this fall officially filed for Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Place 2 in Hidalgo County for the March 2014 Democratic Party primary election. Lupe Silva (Aboud) is her campaign treasurer. Ríos, who was born and raised in McAllen, said if elected, she plans to be a proactive judge who works with educators, community groups, and law enforcement to address situations that lead to the cases heard in court. “My strong sense of fairness and integrity will guide both my campaign and judicial decisions,” Ríos said. “I welcome the community’s input and plan to take advantage of every opportunity to go out and meet the citizens of Precinct 2, Place 2. The time is right for me to give back to my community.” Ríos said she views the Justice of the Peace court as “the people’s court.” The Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Place 2 covers McAllen, Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, and the City of Hidalgo. JPs perform the functions of a magistrate and conduct inquests. A justice of the peace presides over truancy cases, traffic violations, hears civil suits under $10,000, issues arrest warrants, and performs marriages. See story later in this posting.

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The leadership of the 2013-2014 Board of Directors for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce was recently announced as part of that organization’s work on behalf of the community. The new board members were formally welcomes during the group’s annual Installation Banquet, held at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center on Thursday, October 24. Dina Araguz, seated, center, who is the immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors, and Robert McGurk, standing, right, is the new Chair of the Edinburg Chamber’s governing board, are featured in this image. “I am very excited about our new Board of Directors,” said McGurk, who is Vice President of Elsa State Bank and Trust Co. in Edinburg. “We have a great group of individuals who are passionate about the Chamber and the City of Edinburg. We will continue to move forward and strengthen our bond with the community, our partners and the members we serve.” Featured, seated, from left: Jennifer Garza, Chief Executive Officer, Edinburg Regional Medical Center; Dina Araguz, Branch Manager, International Bank of Commerce in Edinburg; and Lucy Canales, Partner, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP. Standing, from left: Jacob De León, Funeral Director, Memorial Funeral Home; Martin V. Baylor, Vice President for Business Affairs, The University of Texas-Pan American; and Edinburg Municipal Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios, Chair-Elect of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Senior Partner, Law Office of García, Quintanilla & Palacios in McAllen; and Robert McGurk.McGurk has previously served as a Loaned Executive for United Way of South Texas, the Texas Association of Sports Officials, City of Edinburg Architecture Review Board, Edinburg Kiwanis Board (President), and Weslaco Kiwanis Board (President). He currently serves as the Chairman of the City of Edinburg Planning and Zoning Commission.

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More than 170 community members and other local leaders attended the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce’s annual Installation Banquet at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center, held on Thursday, October 24, which included the appointment of the chamber’s Board of Directors for 2013-2014. Several of the top leaders for the governing board included, from left: Elva Jackson Garza, a former member of the Board of Directors for Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and Vice President and Marketing Manager, Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Maggie Kent, Individual Member; and Marissa Castañeda, Chief Operations Officer, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Standing, from left: J.J. Flores, Chorizo De San Manuel, Inc.; Greg Martin: Martin Farm & Ranch Supply Inc., Hiren Govind, Best Western Plus-Edinburg Inn and Suites; and Marty Martin, DR – Broker, Rio Valley Realty.

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The Board of Directors of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce recently attended a strategic planning session, focusing on updating the group’s program of work, updating their image, and improving their member benefits. They discussed the chamber’s mission statement and founding principles, which focus on helping the small business owner.  Since then, the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has obtained both small and large members from throughout the Valley as well as corporate partners, both local and national.  In refreshing their image, a new chamber logo was approved. More information on the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and membership is available by calling 928-0060.  The offices are located at 3313 N. McColl Road in McAllen. Featured with the new logo are, front row, from left, RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce leaders Jenise Díaz, Vice Chair of Public Relations; Adelita Muñoz, Vice Chair of Women’s Issues; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC President and CEO; Ronnie Bernal, Chair Elect; Marti Miller, Secretary; and Yoli Gonzalez, Vice Chair of Events.  Back row, from left: Hari Namboodiri, Advisory Board; Travis French, Vice Chair of Small Business & Economic Development; Brent Smith, Treasurer; Pete Morales, Vice Chair of International Affairs and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Vice Chair of Education.

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Leadership Edinburg (LE) Class XXV recently completed a series of seminars designed to help its members gain knowledge in areas that have a direct impact on their community. One of their goals involves raising money to complete projects relating to the improvement of the historic Southern Pacific Depot, which serves as the home for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Featured in this image, taken at the Central Station of the Edinburg Fire Department, are, kneeling, from left: Ramiro Rodríguez, Edinburg Fire Department; Serafín Castro, Magic Valley Electric Cooperative; Karen K. Pittman, International Bank of Commerce; and Frank Arévalo, Elsa State Bank & Trust Co. in Edinburg. Standing, from left: Agustín Lozano, Jr., Bert Ogden Dealer Group; Brittany N. Sawyer, Card Service Providers; Nicolás A. Lerma, Card Service Providers; and Jonathan J. Voje. The University of Texas-Pan American; Stephanie Ozuna, The University of Texas Pan- American; Barbara C. Reynolds, Echo Hotel & Conference Center; Mario García, South Texas Independent School District-BETA; Rogelio E. Chanes, Teach for America-Rio Grande Valley Office; and Mario Lizcano, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. See story later in this posting.

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The City of Edinburg and The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation on Friday, November 1, announced plans for the construction of an events arena to be built just off Interstate 69 Central (U.S. Expressway 281). The announcement, which included Edinburg City Councilmember Richard Molina, featured left, and Edinburg City Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr. was made during a press conference held at Edinburg City Hall. Mayor Richard H. García noted that not only will this project enhance the economy by millions of dollars but it will also improve the quality of life for Edinburg residents and visitors. “People want to visit and live in cities where they can get educated, where they can work and where they can play. We’ve created more than 3,500 jobs in the last three years, we have the University of Texas-Pan American about to become an even larger UT system campus complete with a medical school. Now, we will also have a place for entertainment.” City leaders say the arena will not only host professional basketball games and other sporting events but will also serve as a location for concerts, graduations and meetings. A name for the arena has not been determined, but the Edinburg mayor says that in itself will create investment opportunities for companies. The 115,799 square-foot arena will be built on 40 acres of land located on the east side of I-69C on Alberta Road. It will feature 8,500 seats and 2,400 parking spaces. The entire property includes nine additional pad sites for the development of a future hotel, restaurants and more parking spaces. Construction cost for the arena is estimated at $50 million with a boost to the local economy of $96 million during the construction phase and $45 million annually once operational. It is expected to create approximately 150 new jobs. See lead story in this posting.

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South Texas College trustees remain deadlocked on how to fill board vacancy

The American Legion Alfredo "Freddy" González Post #408 will host the annual “Veterans Day Parade, Medal of Honor Recipients” on Saturday, November 6.  The parade will begin at 10:00am at Cats Stadium then exit on Cano. Set-up time for entries is from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and is free to those who wish to participate (rules and regulations apply). All area residents are encouraged to support U.S. veterans by either attending or participating in this wonderful memorial parade honoring those who have served, and in many cases, made the highest sacrifice.  More information on the event, including registering, is available by contacting Commander Gus García at 956/457-9681, 1st Vice Commander Manuel Cantú, Jr. at 956/867-5367, or by contacting the American Legion Post 408 between 4 p.m and 10 p.m. at 956/383-1182. Featured, from left: Manuel Cantú, Jr.; Gus García; and American Legion Post 408 Finance Officer Arnoldo Morin.

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The Hidalgo County Commissioners’  Court on Tuesday, October 19, passed a resolution  in conjunction with the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and the Cancer Center at Renaissance to raise awareness about breast cancer risks and preventative screening tests. Wearing pink ribbons, the court members said they support programs and activities, scientific research and education, and healthy living habits that promote all aspects of public health, including the reduction of breast cancer among women. “We are hopeful that our action today will remind mothers, sisters and daughters to periodically get screened,” said Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez, seen here with his staff members and representatives from Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Featured, first row, from left: Richard Sánchez, Chief Administrator, County Judge’s Office; Gloria Rodríguez, Administrative Assistant, County Judge’s Office; Sandra De León, Administrative Aide, County Judge’s Office (holding proclamation); Erika Reyna, Economic Development Planner, County Judge’s Office; and Terri García, Administrative Aide, County Judge’s Office. Back row, from left: Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez; Elisa Perez, Community Events Coordinator, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Anabel Arellano, Cancer Center Director, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Chris Treviño, Assistant Chief Administrator, County Judge’s Office; and Michael Leo, Executive Assistant, County Judge’s Office. See story later in this posting.

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The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Positive Only Women (P.O.W.)  on Wednesday, October 20, held a successful fundraiser and mixer to help raise awareness of the risks, prevention, and health care related to breast cancer. The event, dubbed Hats Off to Breast Cancer Awareness, was hosted by The Patio, located at 116 South 17th Street in McAllen. Participants donated $10 each, with those proceeds donated to a local organization which helps patients with breast cancer. Those participants who wore a hat also were given the chance to win a door prize during the social mixer, which featured fun, food and refreshments for a good cause. Featured, seated, from left: Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO; Melisa Tejada and Illiana Cabrera with the RGVHCC; Barbara Guerra with The Patio; Giselle Dominique Mascarenhas with P.O.W.; and Becky Guerra with The Patio. Standing, from left: Pedro Ayala, Celina González, Aaron Cabrera, Pepe Cabeza de Vaca, and Stephanie Ramírez with the RGVHCC; and Mariana Aguayo with P.O.W. 

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Attorney General Greg Abbott, featured in his wheelchair, front row, left, joined the Hidalgo County Republican Party at their first annual Skeet Shoot on Saturday, October 23, in Donna. Twenty teams of five shooters, sponsored by various local businesses, battled the high South Texas winds to vie for first place, said Hidalgo County Republican Party Chairman Javier Villalobos, featured standing, right. Abbott joined the shooters and their guests for a lunch break. The winning team was Wild Mesquite, while placing second was the Newkirk & Newkirk team. Abbott is being challenged in the November 2 statewide election by  Barbara Ann Radnofski, the Democratic Party nominee for Texas Attorney General.

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As part of their public service, members of the Leadership Edinburg Class XX recently made a donation to the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Depot Restoration project.  The Depot Restoration Committee, headed by Elva Jackson Garza, creates fundraising efforts to assist in restoring damage while maintaining the historic integrity of the Depot, which houses the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

Featured, from left: Roy Peña; Lisa Rosales; Angie Luna; Flo Prater; Abraham Pompa; Imelda Rodríguez; Mark Aguirre; Marty Martin; and Elva Jackson Garza. "We are so grateful to everyone who has believed in the historic integrity of our building. We appreciate all of the volunteers who serve on the Depot Restoration Committee and of course everyone who has donated money to keep our building sustainable and looking beautiful throughout the years," said Garza. "We are thankful to Leadership Edinburg Class XX for their amazing fundraising efforts and outstanding leadership. "Their generosity has certainly come full circle in helping restore one of Edinburg’s treasures." More information on the Depot or to make a financial contribution to its restoration is available by calling 956/383-4974. See story later in this posting.

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Coordinators from the 22 high schools participating in the University of Texas-Pan American’s GEAR UP project heard local leaders on Monday, October 18, about their efforts in helping Hispanic students achieve. Representatives from those 22 campuses participated in the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ National Education Summit and Call to Action meeting that morning as it was being streamed live from Washington, D.C. on campus monitors. UTPA hosted the viewing party and a lunch where they heard from Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, talk about the efforts he and other lawmakers made to pass Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 along with other laws that benefit students. Featured, from left: Dr. Martha Cantú, director of UTPA’s GEAR UP project; Congressman Hinojosa; Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa, the university’s associate vice president and dean of admissions and enrollment services; and Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for the Division of Enrollment and Student Services. Eddie Zamora is the Republican Party nominee who is challenging Hinojosa in the November 2 general election. See story on Hinojosa’s congressional update later in this posting.

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Dr. Cynthia Orozco, author of the 2009 book titled, No Mexicans, Women or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, is acknowledged and thanked by Víctor Gómez, Mexican American Studies Program Instructor at South Texas College, for her presentation on Thursday, October 14 at the Pecan campus in McAllen, based on her landmark book, which focuses on the history and impact of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Orozco, a professor at Eastern New Mexico University at Ruidoso, spoke on issues such as racial segregation against people of Mexican descent, exclusion of Mexican citizens and women from LULAC, and the recasting of that organization – which has been perceived as anti-Mexican and anti-working class – to one that was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the U.S. after World War I. “The typical American doesn’t know about this particular era of discrimination and segregation,” Orozco said. “We need to not just think black and white; we have to add brown to that color scheme. There are various civil rights movements that took place and one of those is ours. There’s a long history of struggle for people of Mexican descent.” See story later in this posting.

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Doug Martin, a community and business leader who is owner and president of Martin Farm and Ranch Supply, on Saturday, October 16, was honored as Man of the Year 2010 by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce during the local group’s Annual Installation Banquet held at the Monte Cristo Golf Club. Martin has been married for 31 years to Mary Alice Sánchez, and they have three children: Alyssa, Gregory and Charisse. Also during the ceremony, Maggie Kent received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, while Edward Kuprel, Edinburg’s City Forester, was recognized as the City of Edinburg Employee of the Year. Fire Marshal Richard Drewry was selected as Edinburg Firefighter of the Year. See story later in this posting.

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María Noemí  "Mimi" Cárdenas, featured third from left, on Saturday, October 16, was honored as Woman of the Year 2010 by Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at the local group’s Annual Installation Banquet held at the Monte Cristo Golf Club. Among her many professional and community achievements was her work with the Texas Employment Commission, where she helped hundreds find jobs and hundreds more with unemployment claims during the hard economic times of the 1980s. Joining her for her big night, from left: Cynthia Bocanegra, who was honored as outgoing chairwoman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Mrs. Cárdenas’ son, Don; María Noemí "Mimi" Cárdenas; her daughter, Margaret Lucille "Myssie" Cárdenas-Barajas; and Johnny Rodríguez, incoming chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. See story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo County Commissioners Court approves key feasibility study for commuter rail system envisioned by Sen. Hinojosa, Rep. Martínez

Magdalena Díaz Tellez, deputy consul at the Mexican Consulate in McAllen, and Hidalgo County Judge  René A. Ramírez on Wednesday, September 15, presided over the unveiling of a plaque in the downtown square in Edinburg that helped mark Mexico’s 200th anniversary of its declaration of independence from Spain. On September 16, 1810, Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared Mexican independence, which helped ignite what would become a war that did not end until 1821. Hidalgo County bears the namesake of the Catholic priest, who was captured and executed by Spanish forces. A bust of the hero priest is located in the downtown square, which is owned by the county to help handle parking demands for visitors doing business at the nearby county courthouse.

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Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes (featured first on right), on Wednesday, September 15,  presented Arturo Sarukhan, the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, with a congressional resolution commemorating the important dates in Mexican history in honor of Mexico’s Bicentennial. “As a Mexican-American, I am very proud of my heritage and culture” said Hinojosa. “My parents never forgot where they came from and taught all 11 of their children to cherish our history and our ties to Mexico." Hinojosa made the presentation on behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He joined Congresswoman Lucile Roybal-Allard, D-California, in making the formal introduction of the resolution to Congress. “We have and always will be associated with our neighbor to the south and although we are facing new challenges along our border, we must never forget how much our two countries need each other to flourish,” said Hinojosa.

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Namaste Valley Magazine will be hosting a seminar on domestic violence and self-defense for women on Tuesday, September 28, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce offices, located at 3313 N. McColl Road in McAllen. Tony Torres of Torres Martial Arts will also demonstrate two self-defense techniques that all women should know. "’The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and the cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people,’" said Martin Luther King, Jr. Domestic violence robs you of your hopes and your identity," noted Lana de Leon of Namaste Valley Magazine. “We encourage ladies to attend and take a step at being safer.” An Avon Reese Witherspoon bracelet will be given away as a door prize. The bracelet helped raise $4 million nationally in 2009 to  help  reducing domestic violence. Additional door prizes will be given away from Avon in honor of Avon’s Speak Out Against Domestic Violence campaign. Call to register at the RGV Hispanic Chamber at 928-0060 because seating is limited. Featured, from left:  Lana De León, Tony Torres and Stephanie Ramírez, who is an intern with the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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The Texas Secretary of State on Wednesday, September 8, approved a request by the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to change its name to the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "We intend to offer our services in all four counties and represent the area as a region in Washington, DC and Austin” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGV Hispanic Chamber Pres/CEO. "We want to be able to state that we represent the largest group of Hispanic and small business owners in the country." The business organization was initially chartered in 1997 as the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but in February 2001, its leaders changed the group’s name to the McAllen Hispanic Chamber.  With the growth of the business community in deep South Texas, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber will continue focusing on key constituencies and issues, including small business, economic development, women, cultural events, health, and international and local governmental affairs. Officials with the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce featured here are, seated, from left: Roxanna Godínez, Vice Chair of Membership and Adelita Muñoz, Vice Chair of Education. Standing, from left, are:  Ronnie Bernal, Vice Chair of Small Business and Economic Development; Celina González, Events Committee; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO; Hari Namboodiri, Advisory Board; and Brent Smith, treasurer.

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The University of Texas-Pan American at Starr County has a permanent building to call its own. On Wednesday, September 8, UTPA officials were joined by local and state dignitaries, as well as representatives from its new neighbor, South Texas College (STC), in dedicating the 17,391-square-foot facility located on Farm-to-Market Road 3167 in Rio Grande City. "Having a local university is sometimes taken for granted in communities because they’ve been there for generations, but they bring opportunities, they bring growth and they bring prosperity to the local communities," said Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City. "This facility, working closely with STC, will do the same for our area. This facility will enhance the ability of UTPA to touch the lives for more students right here in the Valley." Featured, during the ribbon cutting, from left: Dr. Ana María Rodríguez, UTPA Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Rose Benavidez, South Texas College Board of Trustees member; Eloy Vera, Starr County Judge; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA President; Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City; Rubén Sáenz, administrator of the South Texas College Starr County campus; and Dr. Alma Pérez, director of The University of Texas-Pan American at Starr County. See story later in this posting.

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A $1 million gift from VAMOS (Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities & Scholarships) that will be matched dollar-for-dollar by The University of Texas -Pan American Foundation is a boon to the university in its efforts to help more and more students succeed, said UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen. Sonia Falcón, VAMOS president, and several members of the board convened on the UTPA campus on Monday, August 30 to present a $1 million check to Nelsen, who accepted on behalf of the UTPA Foundation Board of Trustees.The $2 million from VAMOS and the UTPA Foundation will fund the VAMOS/UTPA Endowed Scholarship program exclusively for Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr county students who enter the university as freshmen. The scholarships are then renewable for up to four years as long as the VAMOS/UTPA Scholars meet the eligibility criteria. Featured, seated, from left: Alonzo Cantú, chairman emeritus of VAMOS and vice chair of the UTPA Foundation board, Sonia Falcón, VAMOS president, and Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president. Standing, from left: Johnny Oliva, VAMOS vice president; Rodrigo Reyna, VAMOS treasurer; Maritza Rodríguez, executive director of VAMOS; Olga López, VAMOS board member; and Paul R. Rodríguez, VAMOS board member.

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