I Am Latino

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Contributor’s Corner Staff Kristen Longoria Kristen Longoria is a writer, high-energy yogi, and certified instructor of “hot” and “flow” yoga. She is also an artist, an entrepreneur, loves to sing.

CEO/Founder C-Ray Stanziola COO/Publisher Cedric D. Fisher

Henry Miller Henry Miller is the current owner of Big & Little Miller Publishing, an experienced editor, writer, photographer, and contributing writer for I Am Latino magazine.

Associate Publisher Celina Vanessa Gonzales Editorial Coordinator Kristen Longoria Copy Editor Alayne Merenstein

Debbie Backal Debora Deutsch is originally from Mexico City. She is currently a pre-school teacher, mother of four, grandmother, and tennis player. She holds a teaching degree from National University in Mexico, a certificate in Jewish Education from Gratz College in Philadelphia, and has taught English as a Second Language. Debora and her husband Ricardo Backal are creators of “The Museum Goes to School.”


Alayne Merenstein Alayne Merenstein is a freelance copywriter and editor who particularly enjoys writing about culture, business, self-empowerment, food, and health. Prior to devoting herself full-time to writing for other businesses, she was a magazine owner and publisher.

Mitch DeArte DeArte is an award-winning Rio Grande Valley painter, and an occasional contributor to I Am Latino Magazine.


4 Belinda Jordan Jordan was the first doctor in the Rio Grande Valley to be certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine. Prevention is her focus. Jordan helps her patients lose weight and improve their quality of health.

Editorial Consultant Ricardo Backal Human Resources Dorcas Holden Texas Correspondent/ Social Media Director John Griffing Account Executive Dennis Gomez Special Events Consultant Yeini Balderas Graphic Artist Sandra Schwartzman www.sswdesign.com Illustrator Matthew Czuprynski Photographers Frank Martinez Miguel Flores Contributing Writers Belinda Jordan, MD Carlos Ortiz, Jr. Concepción Gonzales Debora Deutsch Henry Miller Matthew Mulphus Misha Davida Mitch DeArte Renea Adele Perez

Publisher’s Note Welcome to the inaugural “collectors copy” of I Am Latino magazine - Rio Grande Valley Edition.

Photo by www.grantfoto.com

Although we’ve been around since 2013, our current expansion plan lead us directly to our market. For those who don’t already know much about us, I Am Latino is a nationally branded media company formulated with localized content to reach our citizens, locally and nationally. Our flagship medium is I Am Latino magazine. However, we’re more than just a magazine. Stay tuned, we’re in the process of launching I Am Latino TV -- similar to Netflix, equipped with a mobile app. We’ll also roll out a series of local empowerment events that bring our constituents together.

So stay tuned as we roll out good positive content you can all be inspired by. Perhaps you’ll learn of some things you didn’t know? We’ve all heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” This is our baby, and we’re counting on you to help us raise it. Let us hear from you at info@iamlatinomagazine.com on how we can of better service to this community. Follow us on Facebook, Instragram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Stay encouraged,

Celina Vanessa

Celina Vanessa Gonzales Associate Publisher Image: Freepik.com



Arguably all you hear from those news sources is negative, sensational content that usually highlights cartels and border wall situations. In an assembled focus group where our staff considered which market to expand to next based on the criteria of: publicity need, available content and critical mass; the consensus among our team chose the Rio Grande Valley. They felt, since we’re a recognized brand (with localized media), and we control the narrative of our content and are positioned as the good news source for the Latino contribution in America, we could counter some of the negative press with positive story telling about the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and to America as a whole. We’re also not just a media company. We’re often resourced by advocacy groups who need qualitative data on all things Latino. We’re a one stop shop of information and data.


So why the Rio Grande Valley? We pride ourselves in being a “good news” media company generating positive, energizing, informative, educational and entertaining content for our multiple media platforms. All that sing the praises of the Latino contribution and value to American society. Our mission is to unite all Latino cultures, because unity represents power. For better or worse, the Rio Grande Valley is now on the minds of most informed people in America -- those who watch/follow national news broadcasts.

Zak Cantu is a trending reporter, radio show producer, and host for The Valley’s Morning News show Views of the 946 on KURV Radio.

By Staff Writer

IAL: Were you born and raised here in the Valley?

Cantu: I went to Edinburg High School, one of the fine Valley high schools we have here. I attended UTRGV for a little bit – it was called University of Texas Pan American at the time. During the years that I worked at a bank, I would listen to talk radio. I was trying to get informed, try to get all this information down.

Cantu: So here’s how it happened. It just so happened that the program director at KURV became the chair of the Hidalgo County GOP. At the time, I was still moonlighting at KCYP, doing the Indie stuff, getting bands together, trying to show entrepreneurs how to market their band. Because a lot of bands didn’t know how to make it big and a lot of them didn’t want to be told how to make it big. I was trying to get this band thing off the ground. But since I lost my job, I said, “You know what, I’m going to give myself a show.” I had talked to the owner about it. He said, “Okay, cool. Let’s do it. Let’s do a lunchtime thing and let’s see how it pans out.” Well, as soon as I was running out of money from my severance, I needed to find a real job right away. And it just so happened the owner of the station was looking for somebody for KURV because someone had just left and there was an opening.

The last three years that I worked at the bank I was also moonlighting at a low-power nonprofit, Indie radio station, KCYP 97.7. I started out trying to do a little bit of the stuff that I had heard on talk radio … you know … just trying it out. I put the idea of having my own show on hold for quite some time. Then I said to myself, well, there’s a lot of great local talent and artists around the Valley. We should try getting them all together to promote them. And that’s what we did for a good two and a half years. It was around that time that things were changing at the bank. They let a lot of people go. I was one of them. I remember them saying, “Well, we don’t need your services anymore, but here’s a severance check.” Fine, great, let’s go. Bye.

The planets aligned and there it was, seemingly the perfect guy for the job, seemingly the guy who knew about promotion, who promoted all these little bands, being entrepreneurial. The guy who had been part of the Republican Party Liberty Caucus, pushing libertarianism, and the guy who was in the trenches with this guy Carlos Ortiz with Occupy Wall Street and McAllen Tea Party ... Just doing all these things around the Valley racks up a lot of experience. That’s valuable to a station like KURV. Right now I’m on the sixth month of a new Saturday show. We’re calling it Views of the 956. It’s like “Views from the Six” but we put a little bit of a spin on it. Should I clarify that for this audience?

IAL: It sounds like they did you a favor.

IAL: Yeah, why don’t you, if you don’t mind?

Cantu: So, for six months I was without a job. I had also been involved with several political groups around the Valley. I was in and out of these groups, learning who the cool people were in the local Hidalgo County GOP at the time. It was 2008, 2009.

Cantu: The rapper Aubrey Drake had an album called “Views from the 6.” I said, “Well, why don’t we have a show called Views of the 956?

IAL: So you transitioned that into broadcast journalism and radio show?

Cantu: So, I’m like the Swiss Army Knife of KURV...And I love every single second. I love it.

Cantu: I was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma at Tinker Air Force Base and I moved to the Rio Grande Valley when I was about two or three years old. I’ve been in the Valley ever since. I’m 31 years old so I might as well have been born here.


IAL: Yes, you may as well have. Tell me more about your background.




IAL: Okay, there you go. Now I got it, Zak.


This incredible story documents how a husband and father chased away the demons that plagued his life growing up, found Christ, and helped gain his entire family’s devoted acceptance into Christianity. Adding to his list of achievements, Stanziola is also a talented musician, actor, and leader of the international I Am Latino movement.



Born with a serious illness, an illegal immigrant, and undocumented for 21 years, Stanziola was determined to enter mainstream American society. He did so, overcoming virtually insurmountable odds to ascend to unimaginable heights of success.

book review

C-Ray Stanziola’s Life of an Immigrant is the I Am Latino magazine Founder’s first entry onto the book scene. It’s the story of Stanziola’s journey to America … an autobiography about how a man born of humble means migrated to the US during the overthrow of the Noriega regime and rose to the challenges.

By Celina Vanessa Gonzales Who is Ruben O. Villarreal? Many of us know him as the former Mayor of Rio Grande City or have seen him on the panel of the Discovery Channel’s “Border Live”. But there’s much more to our Valley born-and-raised Renaissance man. Outside of being recognized for his distinguished mustache and cowboy hats, Villarreal is also known for his experience in border affairs, as a border culture expert, and as a Social Media Content Creator.

ues seeing clients, attends scheduled meetings, and typically ends the day’s work with image preparation. If you follow him on Instagram (@bordermayor) you’ll get a good grasp of what his days are like. I started out by asking my favorite ice-breaker question: What was the


We had the honor of interviewing Villarreal at his home office in Mission, Texas. My eyes could hardly stay focused in one place as I beheld memorable photos of this man’s life hanging on the walls, along with an array of world art. I had entered what I would call “where the magic is created” room.



A Day in the Life A day in the life of Villarreal starts with checking the accounts of clients on several social media platforms… mainly Instagram, as he drinks his morning tea. Both, Villarreal and his wife Giselle founded Bold Media/ Bold INSTA-tute. They help educate their clients about branding and guide them into finding branding opportunities for their products and services. They use social media as the vehicle to accomplish this. The results are aimed at increasing brand visibility and interaction, and getting viewers talking about and sharing that information to the virtually limitless audiences in the digital world. Villarreal doesn’t watch television – not even to catch up on local, national, or world news. His go-to source for information is Twitter, which gives him a broad sampling of media outlets, endless related links, and public discourse to choose from. He contin-

matters a lot to the country but is in fact the opposite of truth. The RGV is extremely adaptive and very dynamic, says Villarreal … just like other places in America: patriotic and hard working. We’re dealing with issues like immigration first-hand, dealing with international affairs first-hand, dealing with international business first-hand. This makes the Rio Grande Valley special … just as our whole country is special, he explains. There’s a strong need for people to get rid of convenient definitions of who they’re told we are or who they think we are, says Villarreal. He believes one of the best ways to see impressions of the RGV change is to engage new media sources that come here in new ways, so they can see what the RGV is all about.

very first concert you attended? This took Villarreal back to when he attended dance-halls, where a more homegrown style concert was in vogue: Country Roland, whose music could be described as a fusion of country, Tejano, and other Mexican elements – a unique version of Country, for sure. On a larger scale and one less conventional than most of us see at concerts today, he spoke about landing a front row seat at the Villarreal Convention Center to see George Strait, King of Country, an unforgettable experience for him. The Pulse of RGV Moving on to talk about the RGV, I asked Villarreal how he felt about the way the country and the world view the region. He said he believes there’s an enigmatic understanding of the RGV. According to Villarreal, the RGV is painted as lacking in the rule of law, unsafe, unstable … a perspective that

If we can get journalists to come here and experience our communities for more than two or three days, they’ll see and write different stories, stories that ring true of what this region is all about, says Villarreal. He says we need to encourage reporters to do their research, come to the RGV, get the true picture. That ability to gain knowledge is in our own hands, he adds. “Question what you read about the Rio Grande Valley. Look around you, talk. Use the resources that are at your fingertips to get real answers.” The Places You’ll Go The books we read and remember say a lot about a person. I asked Villarreal what he has on his nightstand. Aside from the extensive reading he did while in civic office, Villarreal admitted to not being much of a reader for personal enjoyment. Then he erupted with a childish giggle, revealing that the books that impacted him as a

young boy and that still resonate with him to this very day are those of Dr. Seuss. Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, Horton Hears a Who!, And The Cat in the Hat are some of the titles he said “transported” him. Villarreal said he appreciates the simplicity and truth in the lessons offered in these children’s books.

ment or education circles, situate yourself in the very front. Sit in the chairs in the front row, because when speakers are speaking before lots of people, the ones sitting in the front row are always remembered. I always remember the people in the front.

As an individual who is sought out locally and world-wide, I was curious what might be his message to the Latino community about being a Latino in America in 2019. Villarreal said he hopes that his words are never forgotten and that will ring further than 2019. “Don’t be timid! You’re as good, capable, strong, fast, smart, outgoing, innovative, and as creative as anyone out there. Don’t let the color of your skin or your last name or your first name dictate how you are going to conquer the world. Don’t make excuses. If you want to do something, go after it.” The goals that you choose for yourself should be chosen to surpass even what you believe to be within yourself, said Villarreal. He went on to say that if you find a way to do something, set your goals higher than you think is possible. “Take whatever God gave you and get in the race. Run hard, fast, and as smart as you possibly can. Work with the framework of the rules that are given to you. Anything worth trying, anything good, anything memorable, anything where the odds are stacked against you will always have value.” Coming from a community of 9,000 people, Villarreal didn’t expect to find success within himself. The stigma of having brown skin, being too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny, too Hispanic doesn’t limit him.

This article represents the edited version of a 45-minute interview. The complete inter-

view is available for viewing on the I Am Latino You Tube Channel.


Villarreal shares one last message: “Whenever you’re in a large room of influential, whether they are from govern-

“Take whatever God gave you and get in the race.”



Year of the

Latino By Kristen Longoria

This is the year of the Latino. Drive past the Falfurrias check-point, come down 281, and eventually, you’ll see palm trees on the side of the road. You can make your way to the southernmost part of Texas via 77, through Rio Grande City as well, but any way you get here – as many have found – it’s not easy to leave. Ten, even five years ago, the Valley was an entirely different experience. The explosion of buildings, commerce, and culture showcases unparalleled progress.


This recent growth is the tip of the iceberg. Here’s the thing about Latino culture as a whole: it has permeated just about every facet of human life. This is the year of the Latino, and the best part is, we’re just getting started.



have yet to emerge. All eyes move along with people on the dance floor. We often capture spectacular and idiosyncratic moments to share or view on a screen, expanding the presence of Latinos and culture on the digital front. The bailes, quinces, pachangas, and other celebrations light up by the spark we bring.

Pioneers on Stage and Screen From the small screens shared instantly to the big screen, our presence is visible on levels that were previously uncharted territory for most minorities, specifically Hispanics. Juan Gabriel, arguably one of the most well-known Mexican musicians and artists, made his silver-screen debut in 1975. Once again, change was upon us.

“We need to move; this is as much a part of our human experience as the process by which air enters and exits”

Latinos Dance We have always danced, feeling, in the most physical sense, the vibrations from music moving... how the beat of our hearts and our sweat trickles down into the creases of smiles. We need to move; this is as much a part of our human experience as the process by which air enters and exits, pushed and pulled; each moment... breath by breath.

Latinos have contributed to beautiful, fun, and timeless dance styles: Bachata, Salsa, Tango, Argentine Tango, Merengue, Tejano, Cumbia, Folklorico … along with others too numerous to mention. We dance while sweeping or cleaning, broom in hand or we dance on stage. La Lavadora is an iconic and notable contribution by Selena Quintanilla. Other stylistic expressions through rhythm and movement

In the years that followed, Diego Luna and Lin-Manuel Miranda became household names, examples of film talent and pioneers on stage and screen, from Broadway to the Academy Awards. Alejandro González Iñárritu received the prestigious Best Director award twice, along with other recognitions and victories such as the Oscars and other distinctive awards.

Just Getting Started From 2010 to 2018, the Hispanic population grew from 308,745,538 to 327,167, 434; a 6 percent increase, according to US Census statistics. Along with the population explosion are advances in industry and education, cuisine, business, commerce … topics that we won’t thoroughly

discuss in this article, for the sake of brevity. What’s more important is to illustrate how Latinos are a force in this country and we’re just getting started. We are businessmen and businesswomen, artists, musicians, blue-collar and white-collar workers, familia and vecinos, comadres, compadres, religious and spiritual leaders of congregations and spiritual practices, heads of state, organizations, and households. We are also the unexpressed potential. We have exciting plans and new ideas that are coming to fruition. The time is now to look at the Latino community. A lot is going on, particularly in South Texas (full disclosure: I was born and raised in the RGV). Consider this a heads-up. You might want to check us out. Source: 1 “U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: United States.” Census Bureau QuickFacts. Accessed July 27, 2019. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/ RHI725218#qf-headnote-b.

We’re just getting started.



The best part?


This is the year of the Latino.

The story of inherited culture, “De tal palo salta la astilla, entre mas abajo mas amarilla.”


I remember hearing this “refrán” (proverb) many times as I was growing up, but its meaning was lost to me until many years later. I never imaged that someday I would probe into my ancestors’ lives and find a horde of treasure waiting for me, or that once doing this I would realize the full meaning of this proverb. I recall the many times when, as children, my brothers and sisters or I (there were nine of us), would do something that would cause our parents to comment with this proverb. The translation – as best as I can translate it – means that “from a tree comes the sliver; from deeper within the tree, the more true to its color.” It means that we were doing something characteristic of our own behavior. It was many years later, in the late 70s, that I, upon my mother’s request, started doing some research into Spanish land grants. Land had been granted to my mother’s ancestors and it had been blatantly taken by white settlers or squatters during the Mexican War. At first I was reluctant but eventually, I was convinced that the research might be interesting. Once I got started, I was hooked!



Before too long I was traveling through Texas, hitting courthouses and any institutions that might have information concerning the Spanish land grants. While gathering information on my ancestors I began to compile information to form a family tree. This was the biggest payoff of my research. I was finding out so much history about those early years when my ancestors came to Escandón, a Mexican colony, to settle in Northern Mexico and the South Texas region. I learned about their achievements, hardships, failures, and wrongdoings. They were a courageous group of people. Many lost their lives in battles fought with Native Americans of the region, while others became ill and died.

Still, some remained, facing insurmountable obstacles, and succeeded in working their land, which had been granted to them by the King of Spain. I learned that one of my ancestors had been a priest and had inherited Padre Island and that his ancestor Pedro Ball had been commissioned by the King of Spain as the fourth printer to the New Spain (Mexico) in the year of the Lord 1569, while many others served in the military and gained honors as military men. One of my ancestors was accused of smuggling and helping to overthrow the Spanish government and, as a result, served time and died in prison in Altamira San Carlos, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Some of the names that I researched and to which I obtained information are Balli, De la Garza, Cantu, Cavazos, Hinojosa, Longoria, Falcon, Suarez, Trevino … There were many more. I was successful in researching five of my mother’s ancestral lines, four being on the maternal side and one on the paternal, the earliest dating back to 1500 and the four others dating back to the mid-1500s. After 20 years of research and accumulation of documentation concerning both the land grants and genealogy, I have a clear knowledge of who my ancestors were, where they came from, what they did, and who I am. But mainly, I am content knowing that their achievements, hardships, and failures were recorded in history forever. These are the greatest treasures I could have uncovered. My parents’ refrán makes sense to me now. What they did not realize was that they were, in effect, pinpointing the characteristics and traits of their old, forgotten ancestors, as well as their own. We are but a sliver of that tree. “De tal palo salta la astilla, entre mas abajo mas amarilla.”

Concepción Gonzales born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. One of nine children born to Jose C. Gonzales and Herlinda Longoria Gonzales, Concepción’s hobbies are painting, genealogy, cross-stitch, knitting, and crochet.





Magali Delarosa is not a cliché; far from that. So when she is told that she “looks a little too Mexican,” or “We want Latina but can you go blonde or maybe say you’re French?” The answer is an unequivocal: “Au revoir” or, shall we say, “adios.” Delarosa is a Mexican-American singer, dancer, clothing designer, author, artist … and above all, a mom. (We probably left some things off; There’s only so much space).


The multi-talented and always busy Latina is touring and promoting her latest album, Mis Sueños. Delarosa is especially excited about the path she’s on right now, one where others are knocking on her door instead of the other way around. But for her career to reach full throttle, those door-knocking days on her part were essential.



“I’m just in it this year. I’m where I want to be and living my dream,” she says. “I was going to the studio independently and working on albums, did a couple videos, and worked the social media market, but the performances weren’t coming in like I had hoped,” Delarosa admits. Delarosa worked hard and she worked passionately. Spend a couple hours with her and you will sense the urgency, the commitment and “go-go-go” mentality emanating from her soul. She says she believes that working at all those little things that sometimes seem insignificant and nothing more than filling time are what opened doors for her.

That mentality is what earned Delarosa a place in the Tejano Music Awards, where she was nominated for Best New Artist. “That’s when I met my current manager who got me signed up for a record deal.” Delarosa has lived by the motto: on to the next thing. Time is everything, she asserts. “I’m not going to waste my time.” Fascinated with music since she was a young child, Delarosa fondly remembers screaming and running around the back yard with her sister, Dominique, whenever her dad would pick up his guitar and start playing the still popular intro to “La Bamba.” Her dad, Charles Delarosa, was also a musician and so was her uncle. “We would just go crazy, my sister and I,” she recalls. “My dad was in a Tejano band called Grupo Fuego. My uncle played in the Bell air band. I used to hang around them a lot. “So I was always around music growing up.” “My dream then was to be like Selena … to have my own band, sing songs, dress like her, wear her designs, and interact with people. “Finally, I feel that this year that’s definitely happening,” she confessed. “We’ve been out promoting our shows and touring all over Texas.” You might think Delarosa’s story is predictable, that it was easy-going from then on, but it wasn’t. [Every child grows up. They change. The more different they appear to others – especially during the teen years – the more they become a target by their peers. Those growth years can reshape who a person becomes.] Delarosa’s extroverted personality turned inward, a result of the bullying she faced during middle school and early high school years. “I was doing well with the whole singing


MAGALI DELAROSA and dancing career path in elementary school and then my parents moved from the San Juan district to Pharr. I lost all my friends and had problems with the other little girls. I was singled out because I was a singer and dancer,” she said. Her eyes and her words tell the story as clearly as her voice. “When I went to middle school I didn’t perform as much. I wanted friends and didn’t want to be bullied anymore.” Hiding one’s talents in exchange for having friends can profoundly shape the trajectory of a person’s life, but that changed after she was introduced to PSJA North Theater Director Gilbert Zepeda. Zepeda approached her after his son told him about his classmate who could “really, really sing.”


“We are doing ‘The Little Mermaid;’ Will you audition?” Zepeda asked her. “I never did that kind of work before. I didn’t realize that because it was a movie, I would have to act. I blew the acting part, admits Delarosa.”








Coming out of Her Shell But Zepeda knew Delarosa was someone special, a young girl oozing with talent and a potential for stardom who was holding herself back only because she wanted to fit in. Those days of trying to be someone she wasn’t, suppressing her abilities, were finally over. Being different was “in” and being unique was even better. She was finally accepted. “I landed a small part in the show, but Zepeda started giving me bigger parts. By my senior year, I had all the lead roles. So I have a lot to be grateful for. Zepeda brought me out of the darkness and into the spotlight. For so many years, I was afraid and fought for acceptance. I wanted friends. I was scared to accept who I was. He brought that out of that.” When Delarosa was asked to come to Los Angeles, the city where stars are born, and was told she should color her hair blonde or make herself look French – essentially

be “less Mexican” – she didn’t hesitate in saying “no.” She was not going to be another cookie-cutter singer, another dime-a-dozen talent. She was Magali Delarosa. It didn’t matter what anyone thought of her. “It still doesn’t. They wanted me to change, to be someone other than who I was. I got over that struggle after growing up. I walked away from that project because I wasn’t willing to do that again, be someone I wasn’t.” “I now feel like it’s easy to walk away. I simply say, ‘Sorry this isn’t going to work out’ and off I go to the next thing. Tomorrow, I may not have a record deal but that’s OK. I rarely doubt myself anymore. I think that’s very important in this business. You can’t blindly say, ‘Yes, I will to do this or I will do that.’ You have to be selective, to want it. And when


When Delilah was born, a lot of those close to her held their breath, waiting and wondering if Delarosa would return to work or if motherhood would change all that. But nothing could keep her from her career. “After I held her (Delilah) in my arms, I said to myself that now is good time. I was even more determined to get back

Henry Miller is the current owner of Big & Little Miller Publishing, an experienced editor, writer and photographer, and a contributing writer for I Am Latino magazine.



“I’m ferocious now about my career. I have to be. I don’t want Delilah to ever see me give up or think that it’s OK to give up. I have to keep going, be an inspiration to her. I’m not doing this just for me; I’m doing it for her too.”


Motherhood, Then Return to Work Six years ago, Delarosa gave birth to her daughter Delilah, whose interests (no surprise here) are music, dancing, acting, and dressing up her dolls in outfits made mostly by her mom, who makes most of the performance outfits for herself and the band members. “I want them looking good,” Delarosa adds.

to work after becoming a mom,” she said. “Dad admitted he thought I would call it quits but I never intended to stop.”


you make those personal choices and believe that great things are still going to happen without having to agree to every opportunity that comes your way, it will. The opportunities you do want will come along.”

By I Am Latino Staff Meet Nena, a popular local Tejano singer and karaoke performing artist.

carry a baby long term with that. All the doctors told me, “You’re never going to be a mother; are you sure you want this medication?” And I’m, like, “Yes, you’re never going to have family, you never going to be a mom. You’re never gonna...” I just wanted to be okay. And ...

IAL: N-E-N-A, right?

IAL: And poof!

Arredondo: Yes. Everybody says it like “Nina.”

Arredondo: Things happen.

IAL: Thank you for correcting. Where were you born and raised?

IAL: So she’s your miracle child?

Arredondo: Reynosa. Born and raised in Reynosa. I’ve been living here, in the valley, since I was 16 in Edinburg and Pharr. IAL: Tell me a little bit about your background, your history, your parents. Arredondo: My parents? Well, I’m a daughter of a... We’re a second house of my dad. You know what that means? IAL: Please explain. Arredondo: A second house, that’s what you call it in Mexico, la segunda casa, the second family. We have the last name of him. He recognizes us and everything. He supports us, he buys the house, he was always there, but we were … when there were family reunions and events, we weren’t allowed to go because the other family was going. You know what I mean? IAL: Two wives or just two families? Arredondo: Just one wife


IAL: Okay. Everybody got taken care of.



Arredondo: She’s a miracle baby. IAL: How old were you when you knew you loved singing… before you started performing? Arredondo: It was crazy because I didn’t even like to sing. I didn’t even like to dance. My brother, the middle one, he was the one who said to me, “You have to dance.” He’s a dance instructor. So the person I am right now – the artist I am right now – I can say it is because of him. So professionally. I started singing at 16. Latin music, tropical music. That’s my thing. But my style is Merengue, Salsa, Bachata. IAL: Sure. Yeah. You still enjoy performing? You love it? Arredondo: I don’t see myself out of the music. I think that’s me, not out of the music or entertainment, entertainment life. I don’t know why. Good to be on the spot. IAL: The difference between a passion and a calling is you can leave your passion but you will never leave your calling. Because you could try and leave it, but it will chase you down.

Arredondo: Yes.

Arredondo: I have to go back to the music. I love music. I love to entertain.

IAL: Everybody was happy.

IAL: Your calling will chase you down.

Arredondo: Yeah. He was a man with the pants on … a lot of responsibilities.

Arredondo: Exactly. And my satisfaction is when I go onto the stage, that nobody knows that if I’m hurting or not.

IAL: Parents still alive?

IAL: What do you mean, hurting?

Arredondo: My dad passed away. It’s going to be six years. He died on February 14, Valentine’s Day. My mom’s still alive. Going on, she was a little malita, but she’s okay. She’s 80 years old.

Arredondo: Valentine’s Day. They called us in the morning. My mom calls us in the morning and she told us that my dad passed away at 6:30 a.m. It was hard for us to go and see him because we were the second family. So my mom told us not to because it was not going to be something good, you know? So we respected our mom’s word. She said it was better for us to remember him the way he was when he

Arredondo: I’ve had psoriasis since I was 17. So I’ve been living with that. And I’m on medication for that. It’s hard to

was alive, that he loved us and everything. So I decided to go and work that night. IAL: And this is your job, in spite of whatever’s going on, so you get up and go. Arredondo: Even though I’m crying and I’m heartbroken inside, I have to give a smile because I don’t know what other people are going through. Because I know with one of my words or my jokes or my stupid words, everybody is gonna smile, even though they’re heartbroken, you know? So that’s my satisfaction. IAL: So that’s your light, it’s your gift back to humanity. Arredondo: Let other people know that the show must go on. Even though you’re broken, even though you’re suffering, even during pain. Yeah, there’s something that’s awesome. IAL: Yeah, it’s also probably your therapy. Arredondo: Yes. IAL: When you’re really dealing with something… Arredondo: Exactly. IAL: If you can get to the mic. Arredondo: Oh, hell yeah. My therapy. IAL: That could help get you through? Arredondo: Yes. That’s what makes me strong. And now my daughter. And to see that my mom is more life than she was before. Because she’s seen my dad through her. That’s what makes me stronger. That’s why here. Fighting. Surviving. IAL: Last question. So when your day is done, what legacy do you want to leave? What do you want to be most remembered for? What impact do you want people to say you’ve had on them? Arredondo: Never give up. IAL: To fight. To be a fighter and never quit?

Arredondo: I can’t. I’m a fighter. Yeah. Sometimes, I don’t think about how I do it. But I do it.



IAL: Can’t do it.


Arredondo: Sometimes I think about being a quitter, but that I can’t do.

By Mitch DeArte I am Latina. Being a Latina is an inheritance. What fortune we make out of that inheritance is totally up to the individual. I measure my weather through the reactions I see on people’s faces. When they see my work for the first time, this is a currency to me. My value is not placed on what other people think of me, it’s determined by the impact I have on others, the mark I leave behind. What else can I say about my birthright? Being Latina is being me. I can’t change who I am. I can marry into wealth. I can marry someone from another race. Still, I continue being Latina. That will never change. My mother was so proud to have given birth to me and I honor her by staying true to myself. I harness the power of being me. Embracing myself, I am empowered. When I neglect to do so, I feel robbed of my power. Despite the challenges occurring today, I feel the strength of thousands of Latinas standing up for me and what I believe in. Watching and reading the accomplishments of Chingonas on Instagram is inspiring. I feel an overwhelming sense of “juntas.”



Capirotada of Humanity Being Latina means I’m part of a “capirotada” of humanity. Add to that a border-town upbringing and the dynamics triple. Coming from a US-bordered country, Latinos have long been the step-children of those two neighboring countries. Neither wants to claim us. Mexico doesn’t want us because we are Americans … and Americans don’t want us because we are Mexicans – or were. We get golpes from both sides – verbal and economic golpes – but we resist. Las Latinas no se dejan, y mucho menos, si son Latinas Americanas. Somos una fuerza and people are finally noticing. Somos guerreras. Our voice is our ammunition. La batalla siege is on, and now we are fully armed – educationally and politically.



The Crown Jewel Receiving a college degree carries a lot of weight in my family. Education is the crown jewel in any Hispanic family, a symbol of “Si Se Puede.” My father was an immigrant who swam the Rio Grande River several times. He finally became a US citizen later in life, so you can imagine the pride he feels knowing that his daughter is an educator and an award-winning artist. My parents are the reason I participate in interviews and articles. Artists often don’t like the limelight. Rather, we divorce business from art. To diligently promote oneself goes completely against an artist’s nature, in my opinion. We just want to release what is trapped inside of us; for example, being a witness to the fading of our culture and religion. My paintings are echoes of the women that have come before me. They are evidence of the truth. I want to project them as powerful and eloquent voices with a force that can wake up faith. More often than not, our faith is the first thing we let go and the last thing we hold on to. Our culture is under attack. We have become an inconvenience to many. Religion no longer humbles the average person. Sitting silently is no longer acceptable. Latinas and Latinos are standing up for family and for culture. We have to; Our existence depends on it. DeArte is an award-winning Rio Grande Valley painter and an occasional contributor to I Am Latino magazine.

“My paintings are echoes of the women that have come before me.”






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From Gamehause to God’s House: A Building Transformed Eli Lara’s Story By Carlos Ortiz, Jr.

Our journey began as a home team of three members. That number has grown exponentially to several hundred attendees during the last seven years. Once a week, we gathered in someone’s home to learn more about God’s Word, but the growth was faster than anticipated. Within the first few months, more than 60 people were meeting in a living room. We quickly realized we

Eli Lara, who was leading this home team, called a local church and left a voicemail by faith. It was no surprise that Eli shared his predicament and the pastor responded, “I know this is a God thing” and allowed Eli to use the back Fellowship Hall to host the Bible study group. Three years in and upon receiving several confirmations from others, Eli realized that he needed to stop running from God’s calling to become a pastor. The vision for New Life Family Church thus began and the church was officially incorporated in June 2016. Throughout the years, like the nomadic ancient Israelites, we moved from one location to the next, to find our home. In 2017, we began in earnest to look for a church to house our group. We were excited with every location we saw, but God used a dear friend, Deryl Myska – who was looking for a new restaurant location – to point us to Gamehause. Deryl shared that God revealed to him, “This location is for my servant Eli.” Pastor Eli made a bold move that many would not have dared and with $11,000 in the bank, he jumped on the opportunity. By

faith and confidence that God would provide, New Life Family began to remodel the building. Within a year, God provided all the funds in the form of donations and gifts to cover the project expenses. Throughout the years, New Life Family has witnessed many life transformations, powerful testimonies, and bold declarations by those whose lives have been impacted by an invitation to visit. We are not a church of “perfect” parishioners, but rather of “broken” people. When something is broken, God can take it, redesign it, and make it new and better for His glory. So if you feel broken, then you are the person God is looking for to display His glory, which changes everything. We need God first, but we also need each other. God created us as a body to function together in unity because no one can do it on their own. God gave us His very best, and we want to reciprocate by giving Him our best. We believe in discipleship and envision a new generation of leaders committed to His great commission. Carlos Ortiz Jr is a media consultant, ordained pastor, and contributing writer for I Am Latino.


Throughout the years, New Life Family has witnessed many life transformations, powerful testimonies, and bold declarations by those whose lives have been impacted by an invitation to visit.

needed a bigger place to accommodate our growing study group.



When some of the community members learned that we had plans to open New Life Family Church at the Old Gamehause restaurant, they were against it. Our hope was not just to transform the aesthetics of the building, but to transform the lives of those who walk through the front doors and experience God on another level.

HELPING PEOPLE DEVELOP JOB AND LEADERSHIP SKILLS IAL: Share a little bit about your background. Where were you born and raised?


González: I was born into Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. That’s in Mexico. I was probably a year and a half old when my parents decided to move to the US. They didn’t really know anybody here. They didn’t have family, just some distant cousins. They just decided after I was born, we need to give our daughter a better life. IAL: Did you go to college? González: I did go to college. I started here, what’s now UTRGV but dropped out about a year and a half after because I got a job at a bank and I quickly became a supervisor there. IAL: Did you ever finish college?


Born in 1985, in CD. Victoria Mexico, Yirla Rubí González Nolan became an undocumented immigrant. At just one year of age, her parents, Erasmo and Celia, decided to swim across the Rio Grande River for a better life.



Living a life of poverty in a country with multiple, systematic injustices, Nolan’s parents knew that the US could extend opportunities and freedoms not afforded in their home country. Their plan was to work hard, send their four children to college, and contribute to their new country’s economy by way of their own business. Though her immigration experience was filled with struggles, Nolan has overcome adversity. She has learned to be the hardest working person in the room and knows the importance of giving back to her community “because there is always someone in greater need.” Nolan is the Owner and President of Faro Professional Services, a personal and professional career-building services company where the focus is on candidates for employment and business development. She serves on multiple community boards and has dedicated herself to raise awareness about immigration issues. Nolan currently resides in Mission, Texas with her husband, Pedro, and her fur baby Fitz.

González: I did. I went back a lot later. I think I was 26 years old when I went back and I did graduate. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Race and Social Class. IAL: What’s your title at the Boys & Girls Club? González: I am the Director of Communications and I also work in Resource Development. So I took on two jobs there. I do a lot of the grant writing and fundraising, too. IAL: So, what else do you have going on, while you’re not doing work for the nonprofit? González: I help professionals with their biographies, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, job letters … the stuff you need whenever you’re looking for a job. I barely sleep, so I do that. My main focus has been working with professionals, CEOs, local politicians who need help with job-related services. I also work in leadership development – That’s my main thing right now. That’s where I’m trying to grow the business and it’s growing a lot faster than I thought it would. So I’m just trying to keep up, bring it together, structure everything nicely because it’s moving so fast. IAL: Who do you consider your mentor? González: It’s my parents, because what they went through

is what inspires me to either do something or not do something.

IAL: What’s your greatest fear? González: Failure. That stops me from doing a lot more. IAL: What’s the one thing people don’t know about you but should? González: I think people see me as a very strong personality. I’m very outspoken about certain issues, but I can be pretty sensitive at times. People don’t see that side of me. They see another side. I think it just happens when you grow up. How do they call it, “callous?” You know? So I think a lot of people don’t know my sensitive side because they just see the Yirla that it’s out there speaking at an event or heading some kind of project. Sometimes I need things to get done and I need to do it a certain way.


Nolan is Director of Communications and Resource Development at the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen. The organization is a chapter of a national organization whose mission is to offer safe and stimulating after-school programs, fun alternatives, skill development, and mentoring to help them build a bright future.



The IDEA Grows

Diego Rosas.The


By Henry Miller Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters – the place where mutants from the movie X-Men train – and IDEA Toros Academy have at least one gifted child in common. He’s called “Beast.” My coach gave me that name,” says 14-year-old Diego Rosas, who plays forward for the IDEA Toros team when he’s not in class, of course. “I like it.” In school, one would never guess Rosas has all those “powers.” See him on the soccer field and you’ll quickly understand why this player has been assigned the moniker “Beast.” Rosas plays with unrelenting aggression. IDEA Toros Academy in Edinburg, Texas is part of IDEA Schools, which partners with the RGV Toros professional soccer team. The school maintains the standards of its other campuses but also trains students to enhance their soccer skills. Rosas takes five classes. School ends at 2:30 p.m. and then it’s two hours of practice daily. “They help us reach our full potential in education and soccer,” Rosas says about the school. He wakes up at 5 a.m. to get ready for the 30-minute drive each morning. “I usually just sleep in the car on the way there.” Rosas was invited to the US Soccer U-14 Boys’ Youth National Team National ID Camp in Chula Vista, California


See him on the soccer field and you’ll quickly understand why this player has been assigned the moniker “Beast”



at the Olympic Training Center, where players are trained and placed on teams. In Rosas’ first match, he scored one goal, assisted on another, and his team won 3-1. “It was an awesome experience,” Rosas says proudly. Now, Rosas is waiting for a call from USA Soccer to see if he will be selected for the US Soccer U-15 Boys National Team. After his performance at the U-14 camp, it seems “Beast” is ready to grab for the next level. Henry Miller is the current owner of Big & Little Miller Publishing, an experienced editor, writer, photographer, and contributing writer for I Am Latino magazine.

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A museum is a personally enriching educational resource. If you’re a teacher, a museum is an opportunity to take your students on a learning journey and bring them back to the classroom curious, interested, and engaged. One exhibit can be the trigger that sets off a multitude of creative, interesting ideas for projects and activities. Young minds begin spinning away. Once your students enter the doors, their lives will be changed forever. We teamed up to work in the School District of La Joya to share museum-quality collections in themed trunks and curriculum-based presentations through hands-on activities. We brought art to the classrooms and then we brought students and families to the museums of the Rio Grande Valley.

of Arts and Sciences). These cultural venues are filled with marvels for teachers and their students. They are history made live, adventure opportunities, a trove of antique treasures preserved as if discovered in grandma’s closet.

Families made visits for the first time when the Museum of South Texas History opened their doors to host an exhibition that showcased the activity of our students’ work. The families seemed timid at first. They didn’t know what to expect.

By Ricardo Backal and Debora Deutsch

They discovered they were not only onlookers but joined in the experience with their kids. They were delighted to take part in a different world, broader than they could ever have experienced on parent’s day or a chance visit to the school classroom. The museum was a different, exciting learning environment their children could participate in regularly. RGV is the home of several museums, one just as exciting as the next: Mission Historical Museum, Weslaco Museum, Brownsville Historical Museum, Old City Cemetery Center, IMAS (The International Museum

Museums offer so many resources and opportunities to let your imagination go wild. If you consider yourself a creative, resourceful teacher or simply an inquisitive visitor and haven’t been inside one of the museums in RGV, you will find much more inside this world than you could ever have expected. Make a museum your next weekend destination for your students, yourself, and your family.

Ricardo Backal and Debora are creators of “The Museum Goes to School.” Ricardo Backal is the current director of halfspoon.com, which is dedicated to bringing high-quality exhibits to museums, institutions, and schools. He is also the Editorial Consultant for I Am Latino. Debora Deutsch is originally from Mexico City. She is currently a pre-school teacher, mother of four, grandmother, and tennis player. She holds a teaching degree from National University in Mexico, a certificate in Jewish Education from Gratz College in Philadelphia, and has taught English as a Second Language.


Be Realistic, Get a Trainer, Join a Gym or Class, Eat Healthy By Renea Adele Perez

When you consume fatty foods, drink high-sugar drinks, excessively imbibe alcoholic beverages, smoke, and don’t exercise regularly, you are contributing to an unhealthy lifestyle. With freedom of choice comes the responsibility to choose wisely. When you choose to turn your unhealthy lifestyle into a healthy one, you reduce your chances of getting sick, you reduce visits to the doctor, you have more energy and you feel good. To be successful, “the buck starts here,” with you. The suggestions below may seem simple, but did you know that, according to published research in the Archives of Internal Medicine, only three percent of Americans maintain a healthy lifestyle? The four criteria that define a healthy lifestyle are: • Not smoking • Healthy weight • Eating healthy – a minimum of five vegetables and fruits per day • Exercising 30 minutes, five times per week • So step up, take responsibility for your choices and those of your children. • Leading a healthy lifestyle should be on everyone’s “must-do” list.

convenience foods, you won’t be tempted to eat the bad stuff. Loading up your cart with tons of processed food, prepared foods loaded with artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, products high in sugar and salt, on top of no exercise is a lethal combination. Eat things that grow from the earth and put your body in motion. Be active. Do something every single day to exercise your muscles and raise your heart rate. Keep moving; don’t sit for hours at a time. You may not have cheerleaders or supporters of your new active lifestyle. Accept that and seek the inner strength that is in us all. Write down your goals and intentions. Announce it to the world on social media. Hold yourself accountable. Read health and fitness books and magazines. They can motivate and inspire and give you great ideas.

No more excuses. Make this the season to make over your health and your body. It can be done. Create a plan and act on it! You will be amazed at how this can be a life-changer. Renea Adele Perez is a certified personal trainer and prenatal trainer, the current owner of Bod Squad Training for women, and a contributing writer to I Am Latino magazine.

Those who decide to turn their unhealthy lifestyle into a healthy one reap huge benefits:

Set Realistic Goals We’re in the middle of summer. You’re probably spending more time outdoors. You want to look and feel good in your swimsuit and hiking pants … for that upcoming vacation, boating excursion, barbecue bash, think seriously of all the possible ways you could change your lifestyle. Be realistic. Your goals should not be so out of reach as to discourage you from completing them or even starting. Come up with a plan and act on it. Hire a trainer, join a gym, sign up for an exercise class like Pilates, yoga, or cycling. “Just do it,” as the Nike brand slogan says. Buy whole, organically grown food exclusively… food that’s nutrient-dense, not overly high in calories, and isn’t loaded with added sugar and bad fats. When you decide not to buy these


Increased life expectancy Reduced disease risk and medical costs Improved quality of life



• •

Yoga, ADHD, and being stuck in a tree By Kristen Longoria in place. Looking back, the experience was an important lesson to learn in those formative years.

“I wasn’t built slow.” I have this reminder tattooed on my left wrist, just below the thumb is the word “slow”.


The awareness of focus is what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-Combined Presentation (ADHD-C) lacks entirely. It’s the opposite of the ability to focus to a level of awareness. Generally speaking, the disorder is marked by subtle nuances of chaos. It affects the parts of the brain relied on for sustained, even amounts of attention to a given task. This area of the brain is also responsible for information and data transfer, storage of short-term and long-term memory, and connecting ideas and concepts during the learning process.



Stuck In a Tree Five-year-old Kris (me) was determined to climb. I liked the feeling of my body weight following me. So, I climbed a tree. I placed my foot in between two branches, which seemed like a solid foothold for a second and those branches would not release my foot. I crouched in the tree and knew I’d be up there for quite a while. I looked out from the tree, hand under chin, one arm wrapped around the tree. Friendship, support, or something else kept me bonding with that tree. Then I heard tires crunching on gravel. Those tires came to an abrupt stop in front of Grandma Mary’s fence. A man wearing boots, jeans, a plaid

shirt, a sombrero, and a mustache arrived yelling in Spanish. I hadn’t even thought about whether climbing that tree was a good idea. I hadn’t evaluated my options or created any sort of order or method to make that series of decisions that led to my actions, nor did I understood what those decisions would result in. I just did it. The solution wasn’t straightforward. Grandpa and I needed to figure out how to get me out of that tree. The experience ended and the moment of self-awareness, of what it was like to be alive and conscious began. My brain’s structure and function are different from most people. How components interact as one mechanism is different as well. So I need to slow down because sometimes I feel stuck in a tree again. My Abuelo Tito cut his tree down. He wanted to eliminate any chance that I would get stuck in a tree again. He put all kinds of preventative measures

“Slow down.” I still have no idea what the phrase means. But I have reached a certain familiarity with it. I am well acquainted with each letter, the space between them and the space between the words, the cadence of each letter as it forms each word, the tone and turn of that phrase. I can almost visualize its crystal clarity in my mind’s eye, the inflection, the ring, and the hum of those words in the air. The constant reminder to do something that makes no sense to me whatsoever was driving me nuts. To be honest, it was a jarring moment of perspective change the moment someone mentioned “speed.” The Tool I Didn’t Know I Needed My knees were busted up from years of playing sports, eliminating any desire to test the strength of my hamstrings, tendons, ACL, or knees. But I had so much energy building up. Usually, classes of any kind are extremely frustrating because of the whole speed thing. The pants and sports bra combinations, high ponytails, and everything else told me to make any excuse to avoid this yoga studio and my first yoga class. I dreaded it and reluctantly headed into a heated and intimidating Austin studio, not knowing that when the class was over, the space in the room would be calling me in a way I hadn’t been called before. I found something

Yoga is like a tree being climbed, just as much as the person who is climbing it. The stillness provided by the tree as it is being climbed and the athletic ability of the individual are the two experiences and objectives moved through: oscillation with no judgment, timing, or resistance. Honor and acceptance of who and what you are made up of, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually

Yoga gives me an opportunity to be myself as it makes my comfort zone metaphorically and literally stretch beyond what I thought was my limit. Yoga offers a community and social aspect in addition to the personal and intra-personal one. Taking up space, being present, and maximizing the most of whatever you are resonates with me. It’s union, it’s being as one. It’s constantly getting reacquainted with myself and with different ways of experiencing life. I’m practicing the physical movements that my body in a day-in-and-day-out life doesn’t provide me. The practice of yoga offers a constantly evolving existence. The Clarity of Yoga “Slow down.” These two words that I once felt demonstrated a lack of understanding or willingness to know me now feel like my foot is in the tree in my memory. I remember being stuck in the tree. I take out my yoga mat and show myself that I can move, and I am far from being stuck after all. I show myself that I am taking up time and space for me so I can be as “me” as I can. I honor that presence. Fast or slow, it doesn’t matter. I feel clarity as from a meditative session.

I still speak quickly. I need to add the word “energy” to my arm tattoo. Movement is just part of the package deal. When I told my doctor I was a yoga teacher, he poked fun at me. He asked me playfully if I realized that yoga is “the opposite of me.” But as an instructor, I am me being exactly whoever it is that I am, along with having the quirks of ADHD-C physical differences and genetic components and everything in that whole cluster of side-effects and symptoms that my diagnosis comes with. The teaching that I offer is a practice that highlights balance as a process, a journey as an experience, one’s current self as always the starting line, and the constant improvement as the destination. Life is not something you can wait on. But most importantly, yoga proves that we are built with what we need, all that we need. The best way to live is to explore and experience the “you.”

“Speed up.” Kristen Longoria is a writer, high-energy yogi, and certified instructor of “hot” and “flow” yoga. She is also an artist, an entrepreneur, loves to sing, and has been diagnosed with ADHD-C.


I move through my yoga practice as if I’m climbing a tree. I know how each finger feels touching bark, how each arm stretching up feels the speckled sunlight through leaves, how one foot feels so different from the other – like the one I was trapped in and the one that wasn’t. I know how the air touches the tip of the nose and hovers until it is pulled into my lungs. I climb high and take in more oxygen for fuel. I feel my heart like a muscle flexing. In each asana (yoga pose) there are so many nooks, crannies, stories, and moments to the posture that revisiting any given pose feels unique. My body feels different each time I practice. This is the experience I look for. I want my body to be alive, just like I am when I am thinking.

is what this practice is about. This is a practice that has been transcending time, eroding anything in its course. That has utility and value to me.



that changed a lot of the experiences I was having and this was happening through my own body, spirit, soul, mind, and self. Yoga was a tool that I didn’t know I needed.


THE COLOR OF HER SOUL: Mitch DeArte, an introduction.



Describing an artist is a challenge unlike any other. To capture the essence of a painter - you need paintbrushes and colors that are dragged along the imaginary borders of skilled creation; and the color of their soul is what they select: the hues and shades of their reality. Text or the combination of words, symbols, sound, and grammar feels somewhat one-dimensional if used for said descriptive purpose. This dilemma is more of an issue of language. Imagine a name you could not see, when written; a frequency to high or low to hear when spoken; or a combination of symbols your hand physically could not write. The intangible nuances of a painter: of the skill, technical ability, and

the will to sit in front of a blank space and express until the expression is completed. Mitch DeArte is the embodiment of what the art movement, with respect to Latinos and Hispanics, with her background, professional life, and what is found in her heart and the depths of her mind. I Am Latino (IAL) staff sat down with questions we had selected and knew we’d likely have questions throughout the conversation. We were left with more questions at the end of our interview, but we had gathered the information or answers we had sought out. We were left with intrigue and a peaked interest - as well as the monumental task of trying to showcase a person of such depth.

IAL: Mitch, tell us a little bit about the relationship with your work. DeArte: “What happens is you become part of it, seeing that every day, you end up finished painting yourself. And it becomes like a prayer, like an exercise of mind and spirit.” IAL: How old were you when you knew art and painting was your gift? DeArte: “I was a kid. I was a child. But we were poor. We didn’t have any money so my mother would let me paint the walls in her house and stuff. That’s how I started. But then again, I just started painting and it took a life on its own.” DeArte graduated from the University of Texas Pan-A meric an in 1999 with a degree in Art and another in Fine Arts. She returned to school shortly thereafter with the goal

of graduating as a teacher. She’s taught over 3000 art students throughout the years, and one of her students is now a teacher at the high school, the only high school for the city of Hidalgo. IAL: So, you’re raising the next generation of artists. What do you want them to get from you as they move on to their careers in art if they stay in that lane? DeArte: “That anything is possible. I have a lot of kids that are, but there’s no money to support that talent at home...Studying art is very expensive... the first thing their parents tell them is they can’t afford to do it and no money in that...And that’s the thing with our kids is that there’s no support. That’s why my mom was very important in that aspect. She would let me paint on the walls because there was no money for canvases. So I could do whatever I wanted.”




It’s as if there was no other way for Mitch to continue to exist and her mother knew it. DeArte could not be without a connection to a means of expression, painting, and the development of the means by which she improves, becomes, accepts and learns about herself. What I find fascinating is the boldness, audacity of color and paint choices, and the assertion of creativity even within the parameters of her subjects, the images of La Virgen de Guadalupe, for example, and similar religious figures. It is more than dried paint on a canvas. It is portraiture that features stoicism in each brushstroke- beauty before pain and heartbreak; pigments have within their composition, woven into each strand, radiant and impactful underlying emotions: love, grief, and respect. Losing her mother was an experience marked by tremendous sadness and difficulty for DeArte. Her mother’s memory,

she noted during our interview, is living on in the seeds now sown into a garden that seem to have grown into more hope and a comforting coping mechanism. DeArte raised $20,000 - this is a remarkable improvement and increase in amount from the years past where she was the only contributor. Her best friend has been working with marginalized groups in the state of San Luis PotosĂ­ for thirteen years (a friend of hers for around 20-25), and year after year the funds collected, toys and supplies were distributed with the help of translators as the language is not Spanish, but instead, Nahuatl. Breaking down barriers of language and geography, extending out kindness that comes from within big hearts wanting to share, and adding an introspective and layered personality is a presence in work by or about Mitch

It is my pleasure to present this as a piece that serves as a simple introduction to Mitch DeArte. The responsibility of writing the piece, just one, was an intimidating prospect. Her artwork speaks for itself and has its own story.

Hidalgo’s Artist Mitch DeArte talks about her life, her humanitarian work, teaching, and painting. DeArte is an award-winning Rio Grande Valley painter and an elementary school art teacher. She is also an occasional contributing writer to I Am Latino.


A human being with a life lived well, experiences truly had, and a perspective on purpose that offers a raw, genuine, heartfelt, and unapologetically herself, Mitch is sure to inspire with her progressing own work, take on current events as they present, or share another piece of her story with just a little bit more information that allows us to understand the artist, but appreciate the artwork in a more holistic sense.

DeArte has a story, or background, that really highlights the changes in the Rio Grande Valley, contemporary culture and individualism versus the cultural values we grew up with, and what it means to be Latina, homosexual, a woman, a teacher, an artist. This is but the beginning of a journey to see where Mitch DeArte is destined to go; the Latino Community as a whole moving alongside those advancements and achieving new levels of artistry by her hand. And the best part is that we’re just getting started.



DeArte, as well as future work, in text or paint - will have that essence of this artist as a final piece of art in and of itself.

From Humble Beginnings to Successful Businesswoman and Advocate By Staff Writer Posada is a self-starter who is going places in South Texas. She is a successful entrepreneur who, in 1989, formed Aldani, Inc, turning a small McAllen retail cosmetic store into an umbrella company over the next 30 years. Aldani comprises three Merle Norman Cosmetic Studios; two La Posada Spa locations; Leona, a clothing boutique; and a professional barber shop in McAllen. Posada’s businesses tap into the RGV market, reaching many beauty and fashion-oriented customers with her broad services and products while providing employment to over 30 employees. Posada was recently appointed to a seat on the Board of Directors at IBC Bank in McAllen, says Posada.


“I am humbled and honored to serve on the IBC Bank-McAllen board of directors,” in a Texas Border Business interview. “I have always been drawn to serving the Rio Grande Valley.” A graduate of the Texas State Technical College with a degree in Computer Programming, Posada is the recipient of numerous awards and has been appointed to many community leadership positions.



Just within the last decade, those achievements and appointments have included Small Corporation of the Year by the RGV Hispanic Chamber, Business Woman of the Year of the Texas Association of Mexican American Chamber of Commerce, the McAllen Hispanic Chamber, SBA Area Women in Business Champion, McAllen Chamber’s Top 5 Businesses, Stanford School of Business Entrepreneur Scaling Program, Leadership McAllen Alex Longoria Award, The Monitor’s Readers Choice Award for Favorite Salon and Boutique, and Zonta Club Shining Star in Business. Born in Brownsville, Texas and raised in San Benito, Posada hails from humble, traditional beginnings. She was raised by a stay-at-home mom and an entrepreneurial father. She was the eldest of five children who learned responsibility at a young age, growing up poor. She started work outside of the home at age 15. Both she and her siblings were taught to adopt a strong work ethic and a perfectionist attitude.

She sometimes had to bathe by the banks of a canal and wear hand-me-downs, as her source of greatest strength... To persevere. Posada traces her experiences growing up in a poor family, where she sometimes had to bathe by the banks of a canal and wear hand-me-downs, as her source of greatest strength … to persevere. Posada is the mother of two children, Alexandria and Daniel, who are her staunchest supporters and cheerleaders throughout Posada’s struggles while building her business empire. Working long hours, invested in employee training, conducted in-store events, Posada also participated in community events and non-profit agencies. She expresses her gratitude for her dedicated staff who have contributed to growing the business. She also credits her daughter Alexandria, who joined the company in 2012 after earning a degree in finance, for steering the company into new growth opportunities. As an active mentor and member of many support organizations to help women achieve success in business, Posada believes deeply that those who have succeeded in business have an obligation to help others reach their goals. She also speaks to groups of young women considering a career in business, including Edinburg Young Women’s Summit, a meeting focused on preparing high school students to excel. What Posada feels is her greatest accomplishment is that those women she has helped tell her she was their inspiration for them in starting their own businesses and to persevere.

District Court Judge

She currently volunteers part-time by serving on two committees for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and was also recently selected to participate in the Supreme Court of Texas Children’s Commission 2019 Dual Status Task Force. Judge Renee

In 2018, Judge Renee was awarded the RGV Hispanic Chambers of Commerce Women of Distinction Rising Star Award. Her diligent support for our community’s youth also goes beyond the 449th District Court bench by serving as the attorney advisor to numerous local high school mock trial teams. As a dedicated mother, most of her free time is spent supporting and shuffling her children’s extra-curricular activities. She and her husband, J.R. Betancourt, are the parents of three young daughters, Gloriana, Carissa, and Vitalina.


In 2016, after a decade of practicing law, she was elected as the Judge of the 449th State Judicial District Court of Texas, the youngest District Court Judge in the State of Texas, when elected. Judge Rodriguez-Betancourt (Judge Renee) frequently participates in numerous speaking events. Most recently, she participated as a judicial member on a panel for the 2019 Texas Women Lawyers Annual CLE Conference held in Corpus Christi.

has also recently been elected into the Fellows Membership of the Texas Bar Foundation. Each year only the top one-third of one percent of Texas Attorneys are invited to become Fellows. Her determined efforts on the bench to help improve how to best serve and rehabilitate our youth today was profiled in a “Women We Love” newspaper article in McAllen’s Texas Monitor.



Judge Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt was born in Edinburg, Texas and graduated from Edinburg High School in 1999. In just two and a half years, she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Texas-Pan American before receiving her Law Degree from the University of Texas at the Austin School of Law.

“Whatever It Takes”


Meet Sara Sagredo-Hammond. Mother, wife, Business woman. President of Atlas Electrical, Air Conditioning, & Refrigeration Services, a family business, Hammond even considers her customers family. “To be invited into someone’s personal home is a family-knit business. To be entrusted and given that much love is empowering. There is no greater family and love that we could ask from our customers than their trust. Family. That is what we are in the community. Together we are better.”



Early Years “The business was created in 1982 by Rogelio Sagredo Sr. My mother and father were migrant workers and my father had joined the Air Force while working in the fields. In the Air Force he took up electrical and HVAC training, and when he completed his term, he moved back to his hometown to care for his mother and family. He worked with an electrical company before he began his own company out of need and desire to provide for his family and create a business that could support them.” “Roy Jr. also worked alongside Sr. at a very young age and learned electrical wiring and they both got their master licenses.” Continues Hammond, “Yolanda my mother and myself worked in the office and maintained books and customer relationships. I came into the company full time in 2008 because of the passion I have for my family and to help facilitate more growth for the company. I became President after my mother fell ill and my father semi-retired to help care for her needs. The company is in charge of several local families and the desire to continue its growth and direction spurned the need to keep it growing.” The company services expanded from Laredo, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and up to Austin and today the company enjoys a 3,000 square-foot facility, 28 employees and partnership service locations throughout the Valley. Hammond helped create an in-house financing market which provides a stronger financial position. She also oversees the management of Hummingbird Trailer Park, which is a “winter Texan” park for her family that is over 20 years old and at maximum capacity every year. Additionally, she manages rental Alton X-Plex and other real estate and has invested in other startups such as QLUE, Inc. A mobile application. Community Hammond maintains an active role in the community on behalf of Atlas and serves on several boards: She has previously served as Chair of SCI Women’s Business Center, previous Chair of Organization of Women Exec-

utives, is currently President of Femfessionals RGV, and is a Collective Director – one of seven in the US – for FemCity. Her passion is to help women grow businesses locally. She is a board member of the Greater Houston Better Business Bureau and South Texas. In December 2017 Hammond graduated with a certificate in Scaling Business from Stanford University Graduate of School of Business. In 2016, Hammond was the recipient of the Women In Technology for South Texas College and 2018 chosen as the Mission Chambers Executive of the Year. In December she was awarded the 2015 Global Champion for Women Economic Development Award in Dubai. She was inducted into the SAMEAWS 2015 Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame. She was also featured in the Special Edition of the Amazons Watch Magazine as one of the top 20 global women to watch in 2016. In 2014 she was awarded the Small Business Person of the year award for the Rio Grande Valley and in 2015 RGV Hispanic Women of Distinction – Rising Star Award. Although business and community involvement is important, what brings most happiness to Hammond is her family. She is married to Marty Hammond and together they have three daughters. She has lived here in the Valley her entire life. Career Advice As a business person, what sets Hammond apart from the competition? “A passion that cannot be quenched,” she says. “Passion to learn, passion to grow, passion to teach, and passion to share. We truly believe that creating smarter, educated, and trained technicians will create a


much better industry of service in our area. Passion to improve. We understand that you have to learn every day and you have to stay humble to be of better service to the families in the community. Our company motto is “Whatever It Takes.” In perspective, what does Hammond perceive to be the biggest challenge in her industry? “The area where we live allows for a lot of small companies to pop up and there is no enforcement placed by the State of Texas to be sure that every technician that is on the street is certified and licensed,” explains Hammond. “Because this is not policed, there are many practicing air conditioning, plumbing and electrical work who have no insurance, who have no liability protection for their customers, and who do not pay workers compensation or state and federal taxes. So because they can work out of a van, and have no real office location, they can get away with charging less per hour, and then not backing up any warranty for the customer. It gives the industries a bad reputation. This service work takes due diligence, constant learning, and certifications along with hard manual labor. That needs investment and time and requires education of the customer to fully appreciate a service industry and the fees and hourly prices that go along with that type of work. “ Hammond has several pieces of advice for people starting their own business. First, “do things right from the start and you will not go wrong,” she suggests. “Do not stray from your integrity, and make sure all employees have that same goal. Secondly, “remember that not every job is a job you want and try to remember your company’s worth and the quality of life for those around you, including your customer and your family.” Lastly, “Do it with passion. Wake up and love to do your job, and you will really never have a day of burden, you will be physically tired, and you will be busy, but you will never be drained of life.”

Watch Hammond speak about the core message she would like women to take away from hearing about her terrifying and brutal experience in a TEDEx McAllen Talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=4ReUrGHRd7k



Don Pancho, as Ochoa prefers to be called, never stopped fighting for his dreams after having an enormous success with his first restaurant creation, El Pollo Loco, in 1975. Well known for being the founder of El Pollo Loco in his native Mexico, “Don Pancho” had such great success with his fire-grilled chicken marinated in his authentic family recipe that its flavor quickly became a local favorite.


How It Began Between 1975 and 1979, El Pollo Loco’s popularity spread rapidly as 85 restaurants open in 20 cities throughout the north of Mexico. In 1980, the first El Pollo Loco opened in the US, in Los Angeles, California. In 2010, the restaurant was recognized by the World Franchising Network as a Top Franchise for Hispanics.



Twelve years passed and “against all odds,” according to Don Pancho, Taco Palenque opened in the Border Town of Laredo, Texas in 1987. Don Pancho was in search of an opportunity to bring his love and passion of Mexican cuisine to the US. The first important decision that had to be made was, as Don Pancho put it, “location, location, location.” Don Pancho had become familiar with Laredo in his frequent travels to San Antonio and decided this was to be the home of Taco Palenque. The roots of the original location in Laredo became “deeply embedded into the culture of the people and the food.” Don Pancho brought forth his flavors, focused on serving quality, unique, and authentic recipes with superior service around the clock and rapidly gained popularity in the city. Throughout the construction, Don Pancho and his wife worked on recipes, perfecting the flavors, to the satisfaction of the restaurant’s customers. Which food item took the most love to perfect? The refried beans, boasts the restaurateur. Upon its opening, the menu focused on a small variety of tacos and a handful of plates and soups: enchiladas and menudo, as examples. Don Pancho continued to add new and innovative items

to the menu. As the brand grew, the family began to create new menu items, which ultimately led to the creation of what most may call its most famous taco. Many do not know that the tasty and super-addicting Pirata Taco (a wonderful marriage of refried beans, cheddar cheese, and fajitas wrapped in two warm tortillas) originated in Taco Palenque, admits Don Pancho, who adds that he owes its creation to the Ochoa brothers, Francisco Ochoa Jr. and Carlos “Charles” Ochoa.

Soon after, nachos were added to the list of food options, which eventually evolved into the delicious dish known as “Panchos,” named after the boss himself. This concoction of fried tortilla chips topped with refried beans, nacho cheese, and fajitas is another fan favorite, according to Taco Palenque legend. Nowadays, Taco Palenque is considered a favorite among consumers in South Texas and has emerged as a brand leader after 32 years of hard work and evolution. With 24 locations located in Laredo, McAllen, Mission, Edinburg, Palmhurst, Weslaco, Brownsville, Harlingen, Cotulla, San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Houston, Taco Palenque employs over 1,700 employees. The company’s plans are to continue growth and expansion throughout Texas. This family-oriented and family-operated quick-service cooks up over 11 million corn and flour tortillas and serves over 10 million tacos a year. As for the menu, Don Pancho does not serve anything that he himself does not like, a practice that has proven to be an advantageous one.

The Birth of Palenque Grill The ultimate dream of Don Pancho’s was having a full-service family Mexican restaurant with great Mexican flavors,

Innovation and Family Support In his adult life, Don Pancho’s wife became what he called his “big support system.” He adds, “She has always been a great support in every stumble, always there in my triumphs and failures.” Today, their sons are the cornerstones of all their efforts, the ones who continue the family tradition, keeping Don Pancho’s principles intact, but bringing innovation into the equation. Business Milestones The achievements Don Pancho considers to be milestones during his career: The inauguration of the first “El Pollo Loco” restaurant. “When I opened that business and saw how customers were making it a local favorite, I knew it was the beginning of something bigger,” says Don Pancho. Being the first Mexican Restaurant franchise to cross over into the US and succeed. The first “El Pollo Loco” opened

Community Initiatives

The community initiatives of which Don Pancho most enjoys and is proud is helping children and young adults achieve higher education. He strongly believes that today it is important to have a college degree in order to be prepared for the future because education generates advantages. He often donates to schools and sports teams to help the next generation reach their goals. Aside from this, he gives back to the community by donating year-round to other institutions, such as nursery homes, foundations, and other charities. Hobbies and interests What interests Don Pancho in his personal life is the enjoyment of music such as Bohemia, Trio, and other music of his culture. Singing and appreciating excellent music and singers with family and friends is what brings joy to his romantic spirit. This passion has also allowed him to meet famous songwriters and singers. As a family, the Ochoas enjoy traveling and cruises, having big dinners, and being in great atmospheres. But most importantly, says Don Pancho, they enjoy being all together and sharing memorable moments.


Early Years Don Pancho’s full name is Juan Francisco Ochoa Zazueta. He was born in Bacayop, Choix Sinaloa Mexico and loved most of his childhood in El Fuerte, Sinaloa. He started his first year of middle school in Guasave, Sinaloa, where because of the hardships he decided to prioritize the well-being of his family, forgoing further formal education, and began helping his father. He served in the Mexican military at 18 years of age. The main influence on Don Pancho was his father. Led by his example, Don Pancho always followed his father’s principle that “There’s not a better branch than commerce,” words that brought him to where he is today.

in Los Angeles in 1980. The creation of Taco Palenque in Laredo in 1987. Surrounded by major competitors, they were able to conquer with Taco Palenque’s “unique taste.” He admits, adding it was “definitely one of the hardest goals we have accomplished.”



excellent service, and live music. This is how Palenque Grill was born. In 2005, he and his son Charles Ochoa opened the first Palenque Grill restaurant in Laredo, Texas. There are now five locations, two in Laredo, two in McAllen, and one in San Antonio. Since it’s opening, the Palenque Grill locations have been extremely successful, delivering a unique experience combining high-end Mexican cuisine and exceptional service while enjoying Trio or Mariachi live music.

Diabetes and “ La Dieta”

Health & Fitness

By Belinda V. Jordan, MD



Type 2 Diabetes is a common medical condition among Hispanics and Latinos. Whether we blame genetics or our environment, there is no denying that our diet is as rich as our culture. The link between obesity and diabetes is strong and the fact that Hispanics are 1.2 times more likely to be overweight or obese and 1.7 times more likely to become diabetic is real. But how do we get away from the beans, rice and tortillas that make up so much of our diet? Let’s not even mention the delicious pan dulce and cafecito that has become more of a tradition than a snack. As a child, I remember my abuelita telling us not to eat so much candy or we would become diabetic. Like my grandmother, many people believe that eating too much sugar is what leads to diabetes. However, that is not entirely accurate. Diabetes is a complex disease which is influenced not only by sugars, but also other carbohydrates in the diet. However, diet is not the only factor that leads to the development of diabetes. It’s More Than Just Your Diet In order to understand how diabetes develops, you must first understand how your body processes the sugars and carbohydrates you eat. When you eat carbohydrates such as rice, beans, tortillas, or calabacita, to name a few, the enzymes in the GI tract break them down into sugars. ALL carbs eventually become sugars including “healthy” wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole grain cereals and even fruit. Once the carbohydrates are broken down, the sugars are now able to get absorbed into the bloodstream. This

B ut how do we g et away fro m the beans, rice and torti llas that m ake up so much of o ur diet? will cause your pancreas to produce insulin to counteract the sugar. Over time, a high carbohydrate diet can lead to the pancreas tiring out and being unable to produce enough insulin to meet the demands of our diet or the muscle and liver become “resistant” to the insulin and require more insulin than the pancreas can produce. This leads to higher sugar or glucose levels in the blood and eventually, Diabetes. Other factors may contribute to the development of insulin resistance and diabetes. Excess weight and higher fat mass causes a change in certain hormones, making it easier for your body to store fat rather than burn it and so leads to a higher risk of insulin resistance. Genetics can also play a role in the risk for developing diabetes. Furthermore, certain medications and medical conditions can cause problems in insulin production or insulin resistance. What Can You Do? Once diabetes or insulin resistance develops, diet becomes very important in the progression of the disease. A diet low in carbohydrates

stimulates the pancreas to produce less insulin and improves tissue sensitivity. Exercise can also help by using more of the sugar for energy. When diet and exercise alone cannot control the sugar in the blood, medication can be used to make more insulin or increase tissue sensitivity to insulin. Sometimes additional help is needed. When your pancreases is unable to produce enough insulin, injectable insulin can then be used to lower blood sugars. Regardless of the factors that led to diabetes, diet and exercise are the best treatment for diabetes and insulin resistance. Good diabetic control can also lead to less diabetic related complications, better health outcomes, and improved quality of life. So next time you find yourself at a Mexican lunch buffet, think about those carbohydrates and the impact it will have on your pancreas and liver. Perhaps, choose more of the chicken fajitas and grilled veggies and less of the rice and beans. Maybe limit how many tortillas you place on our plate, or consider taking a walk after lunch to use up some of that carbohydrate “energy.” In the end, we will need to find a balance between our diet and activity levels and the foods that are a permanent part of our heritage in order to decrease our risk of Diabetes. Belinda Jordan, MD is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio. She is a family medicine specialist and also specializes in obesity medicine in Edinburg, Texas.

What Does

“Eating Local” Mean? By Matthew Molpus What happened to the idea that what we grow or know is what we eat? Today, at least in this country, we have evolved into consumers of convenience and luxury – and that includes what we choose to put in our mouths. We shop at supermarkets and expect to buy whatever we want, whenever we want it, year-round, whether it’s in or out of season. Having instant access to food is undeniably convenient and a terrific time saver, but we also can’t deny that we have created a monster. Many of the health and environmental problems we face as a nation stem from growing, transporting, and eating processed and outsourced foods… foods that fail to provide adequate nutrition and some that are actually seriously harmful to our health. Just think how our health could be positively influenced if we could get back to enjoying fresh, delicious, nutrient-dense local foods. That begs the question: What does it mean to eat local?

food you become familiar with those who grow it and their growing practices. Knowing how your food is grown gives you more security about the quality, safety, and freshness of your food. Enjoy the diverse tastes. Learn more about the challenges of food as you establish relationships with local farmers. Feel good knowing you’re doing something great for yourself and at the same time support your local farmers, farmers markets, and the local community. Planting your own food. By planting your own food you are rewarding and educating yourself and your family. You are setting an example to others about how easy, nutritious and great- tasting fresh food is. This will encourage others to do the same. You have more control over the nutritional quality and freshness of what you eat. You’re also more food independent since you’re not having to rely as much on others to provide it for you. And talk about convenience … Food you grow yourself is right there to pick and enjoy from your own garden. Matthew Molpus: Matt is a food and nutrition consultant, the current Territory Manager for Ben E. Keith Foods, and the Founder of Many of the TrueWellness.

health and environmental problems we face as a nation stem from growing, transporting, and eating processed and outsourced foods.



Experiencing flavor vs. good looks. Purchase produce in season for flavor rather than good looks. Besides losing some of its nutrients, out of season produce contains wax, chemicals, and preservatives. It may look good in the produce bin but that’s where the benefits end. Connecting to real food. Making a conscious effort to buy seasonal food allows you to connect with the food on your plate (you know where it comes from) while enjoying delicious food. Benefiting the local economy. Committing to buy locally-produced food benefits local farmers, stimulating the local economy, along with helping the environment and your personal health. Gaining access to locally grown food. Buying from local farmers markets lets you gain access to locally sourced food and rely less on grocery stores that buy their food from all over the country and the world. Cooking with creativity and flexibility. You’ll develop delicious seasonal dishes that will captivate your family and guests and provide adventure in the culinary world. Many of the vegetable and fruit varieties grown locally are not available in grocery stores. Understanding the nutritional value of fresh food. You’re making healthy selections from produce picked at the peak of ripeness, eaten in season, providing a rainbow of colorful and diverse foods higher in nutritional content. Natural compounds like phytonutrients help protect plants in the growing process and the antioxidants in fresh local food help you stay healthy and avoid disease. Saving money. In-season produce is less expensive when it’s more available. Knowing where your food comes from. By buying local

Health & Fitness

Eating local means incorporating seasonal foods into our diet to receive the following benefits:

Linda Vega Speaks out for By John Griffing

Meet Linda Vega, frequently listed as one of the Top 100 Texas immigration attorneys. Vega is frequently featured on Fox News and CNN channels and was also the first Latina to run for a US Senate position in Texas in the 2014 Republican Primary. “In 2014, what I was seeing was Wendy Davis, a congressional candidate, branch out for the Democrats. She labeled the Texas Republican party “anti-Latino,” which wasn’t true,” asserts Vega. “George W. Bush and Rick Perry appointed Latinos to major policy positions because Latinos, by themselves, wouldn’t budge; they wouldn’t go out and vote, use their voice,” Vega asserts.


“Latinos don’t speak up and they didn’t back then. Instead, they harken back to the John F. Kennedy administration, during the ‘Camelot’ era.” During the Kennedy years, promises were made to Latinos and when JFK was shot, according to Vega, Latinos lionized him, effectively conferring sainthood upon him.



“Most of the people who do run for office and who are at the forefront of public political life, have blemishes; they aren’t perfect. That’s the whole point of being human; the idea that whenever we fall, we can self-correct. We better ourselves, we can redeem ourselves. “There’s a cultural aspect to that idea that we’re not perfect. Texas Latinos today are told ‘no’ and they accept it,” said Vega, and she doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. “So in 2014, I thought the GOP was in trouble and I needed to act.” Know Your Value and Participate “Regardless of whether they vote or not, we should encourage US Latinos to appear at the polls to exercise their right, their rightful power, regardless of which way they vote,” Vega

energetically asserted. “We need to applaud those who do. We are just realizing that they matter in this country and in this political climate.” Vega went on to say, “Latinos want to take care of their families, to “go for it,” succeed, be prosperous, do what the Preamble to the US Constitution says we have a right to: “the pursuit of happiness.’” Investing In Latinos and Their Businesses “On my radio show, callers frequently want to discuss issues like immigration. That’s fine; that’s what I do for a living,” Vega reiterated. “But, Latinos also want to be involved in different conversations, including the importance of investment opportunities.”

“Latinos want to take care of their families, to “go for it,” succeed, be prosperous, do what the Preamble to the US Constitution says we have a right to: ‘the pursuit of happiness.’” “Most of my clients who come to the office don’t know how to properly set up their business. For example, they’ve been working a tree service business, air conditioning business, or restaurant business, but they’re not properly set up as a corporation or an LLC,” she explains. “I show them how to structure their business and have money for tomorrow. I show them the advantages of doing that. If they set it up correctly, they’re legally entitled to put money away for their retirement,” Vega explained. “Developers who are Latino sometimes buy a group of apartment complexes so that their workers can have nice places to live. They are helping others and themselves. Engaging in good deeds for people is a way to make good investments for yourself. The Latino investment approach is captured in this

the Latinos Who Don’t simple principle: You can be socially responsible and at the same time, economically savvy.” The Latino Business Community Benefits “We are missing an opportunity to help the Latino community,” says Vega. “Many Latino business people are quietly engaging in finance and don’t think about how they could restructure their business to give other Latinos a leg up and help themselves too. Three years ago, I helped set up someone in business and today they are a millionaire. My client came to thank me recently,” Vega says cheerfully.

Asked how we could make sure Latinos benefit from ever-expanding investment opportunities, Vega responds, “We just need to pay attention to Latinos and explain things, when necessary. Latinos are very caring and they are hard workers. I’m always pleased to see our community succeeding.” John Griffing is a former Associate Editor for The Daily Caller News Foundation, a Texas Correspondent for WND, and the current Texas Correspondent and social media director for I Am Latino.

Many of us who are born and raised here have deep roots that trace back to the explorers that settled on this land. As we proudly call this home, we must acknowledge that it is also home to many pioneers who settled here, starting as early as the 1700s. But that’s not where this story begins. Let’s go back a bit farther and acknowledge the Coahuiltecan Indians who roamed the Rio Grande Valley during the early 16th century when it was quasi-desert rangeland. The Rio Grande Valley is made up of four counties: Hidalgo, Willacy, Cameron, and Starr counties. We are located at the southernmost tip of South Texas, the border between the United States and Mexico. Between all four counties, there are 375 registered historical land

markers. Cameron County has 146, Hidalgo County has 175, Willacy County has 16, and Starr County has 38. Let’s take a journey from East to West. The Balli Family One of the most popular historical markers, as you enter South Padre Island, is Historical Marker #3909. The family of Padre J. Nicholas Balli migrated here from Spain in 1569 and became one of the largest landowners in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In 1800, Ballie applied to King Charles IV of Spain for 11-1/2 “leagues” of land on the island (a league is a unit of measuring distances that is no longer used), and in 1804 started its first settlement, Rancho Santa Cruz. Padre Balli served as collector of finances for all the churches in the Rio Grande Valley and founded the first mission in present Cameron County. Padre Balli’s ministry had a great influence on the lives of early South Texas settlers.



Driving along our highways in the Rio Grande Valley, motorists come across many historical markers. At times, curiosity gets the best of us and we stop, read about the history of the site upon which we stand and take a photo so we can have a personal keepsake.


By Celina Vanessa Gonzales


Our Lady of Visitation As you travel down Military Highway, passing Bluetown and entering Santa Maria, you can see Historical Marker #3887, Our Lady of Visitation Catholic Church. It reads: “Our Lady of Visitation Catholic Church. A rare South Texas snowstorm marked the cornerstone laying ceremonies for this church building, December 29, 1880. The Gothic Revival edifice was constructed of bricks made at nearby El Rancho de Santa Maria, owned by L.J. Hynes, who gave land for the church. Built from plans drawn by Father Peter I. Keralum, OMI, the structure was dedicated June 29, 19882. The wooden steeple was blown off during a 1933 hurricane. Residents of Bluetown, Santa Maria, and neighboring communities worshiped here. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark 1972.”



Relampago Ranch Continuing our travels on Military Highway going toward Progreso is Historical Marker #4239 in a small town named Relampago. Originally part of a Spanish land grant, the Relampago (which means “lightning”) Ranch community lay along the stage and military route from Rio Grande City to Brownsville. In 1852 Thaddeus Rhodes acquired acreage here during his tenure as Hidalgo County Clerk. Later he served as commissioner and judge. He and Jose Maria Mora, who bought adjoining land about 1856, helped bring economic and social stability. Mora and later his son Melchor, a deputy sheriff and Texas Ranger, farmed, ranched, and had the only general store in the area. Descendants still live on the property.

Hidalgo-Reynosa Bridge Arriving now to Hidalgo, Texas Historical Marker #2472, is the Hidalgo-Reynosa Bridge. This area was first settled by the Spanish Colonists in the mid-1700s. At the time of the formation of Hidalgo County in 1852, the village located here, originally named Edinburg, became the new county seat. A ferry service was operating between the village and Reynosa, Mexico. By 1861, the town’s name was changed to Hidalgo and regular ferry service was inaugurated in 1910 by Crisóforo Vela. First using rowboats and, later, raft-like conveyances, the ferry continued in operation until Joe Pate erected a bridge here in 1926. The 1926 suspension bridge was damaged by floods in 1933. Although rebuilt and strengthened, it fell into the river and was destroyed in 1939, after cable anchors on the US side failed to hold. A second suspension bridge was erected the following year and purchased by the City of McAllen in 1960. A four-lane pre-stressed concrete bridge opened to traffic on June 1, 1967. The suspension bridge was removed for salvage in 1971. Construction of an additional four-lane bridge was completed in 1988. For decades, the Hidalgo-Reynosa bridges, operated jointly by McAllen, Hidalgo, and Mexican interests since 1960, have facilitated transportation and fostered international cooperation and friendship between Texas and Mexico.

So if you happen to pass along a historical marker in the Rio Grande Valley, you might want to take a minute to stop, read, and reflect upon a bit of the rich history that has taken place in our unique region. Source: Historical Marker information retrieved from https:// atlas.thc.state.tx.us Celina Vanessa Gonzales is a former executive of Toshiba Business Systems, the owner of Athlete’s Affair (a sports and fitness consultancy), and is currently in charge of business development for I Am Latino - Rio Grande Valley.


Narváez Expedition Our little road trip down the historical marker trail will end at this next stop, Historical Marker #3980, in what might be one of the oldest towns in the US. Established, in the mid-1520s, according to tradition, the founders were a priest and five other Spaniards of the unsuccessful Pánfilo de Narváez Expedition into Mexico in 1520. Narváez was sent to arrest or kill Hernan Cortéz, conqueror of Mexico, who was accused of disloyalty to the king. Cortéz, however, defeated Narváez in battle, imprisoned him, and took most of Narváez’s army for his own. After Narváez was released from prison (1521), he and the remnant of his men set out for Florida. But Father Zamora and five officers gave up further plans to travel with the Narváez Expedition and settled at Peñitas. The refugees were befriended by Indians living in huts

and dugout-type homes in the vicinity. The Spaniards erected stone houses with whitewashed walls. Father Zamora brought the Catholic faith to the Indians, also teaching them weaving and better farming. The Indians taught cookery to their guests. Cabeza de Vaca, an aide in a later Narváez expedition, is famous for having written of his shipwreck and wanderings in Texas from 1528 to 1535. The founders of Peñitas are recalled best by their descendants, some of whom still live in this area.



La Lomita Chapel More to the west we will come across Historical Marker #2997 at the La Lomita Chapel in Mission. Lands for La Lomita (“The Little Hill”) Mission came from the 1767 Spanish grant of Joseph A. Cantu and were donated in 1861. Used as farms and ranches, the lands supported the priests and their charities. The original chapel, built in 1865 at a campsite on Brownsville-Roma Trail, has been rebuilt or restored two or more times. It was relocated at this present site in 1899. The city of Mission Texas (five miles north), was named after this significant landmark. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark: 1964.

Judge Ben Richard Neece

Judge Ben Richard Neece was appointed a judge in 1984. He was a city judge for 32 years and retired in 2016. Currently, he is an attorney and a City Commissioner for District Four in Brownsville

IAL: What is your current line of work? Neece: I’m an attorney. And I have a general practice. I’m a litigator. I practice criminal law, family law, civil rights. And then I also practice business law… clientele as well… commodities transactions, stuff like that… corporate stuff. IAL: Well, I always like asking this question, and it may seem a little odd, but what was the first concert that you attended without your parents? Neece: That would be Steppenwolf in 1969, right over here at our civic center here in Brownsville. I would have been about 14 years old at the time. IAL: Nice. Anything exciting about that concert that you remember the most? Neece: I was totally inspired. I’ve been playing guitar ever since. I started playing just right before that, in 1968. So yes, it was very inspiring, musically. Those were very exciting times, you know … a lot of rock … and I was just in awe seeing him, seeing the group playing.


IAL: That’s great. Looking back, where were you when you first started this journey in law? Where did you think that it would lead you?



Neece: Here. I had never limited myself. At some point, I thought about going into the service, the JAG Corps. But then it didn’t work out. By the time I got out, it was 1981. So the country was kind of changing direction. Ronald Reagan had just been elected. So my plans were then just to come back home and be a part of this community. I have relatives who were prior politicians. I would just basically following in the footsteps. And so I knew I was going to be a lawyer by the time I was in high school. I knew I was going to come back unless I went into some foreign service, or like I said, the military, but that didn’t happen. IAL: Our magazine wants to project a positive impression of how the Valley – how everyone in the country and the world – sees us. How do you feel about the way others view the Rio Grande Valley?

Tells It Straight

Neece: Well, you know, we’re kind of stuck in this political crossfire, is what I see. We know that living here that we’re very safe. I was a judge for 32 years. Every morning I would see people, in and out of jail. That was my job. So I pretty much had my pulse on the city. And I just realized, compared to say, San Antonio or Houston or Dallas or Austin, that it was just not a breaking bad place here as far as crime. Sure, we have our share, but people here don’t perceive it as dangerous here. It’s not dangerous. And we’ve done things to help try to alleviate any fear, here in our local population. IAL: What can we do as a community to change the narrative … change the way that people outside of the Rio Grande Valley view us? Neece: The steps we’re taking today are very positive, very futuristic. So that kind of stuff needs to be presented so that people can see what Brownsville is. It’s a commercial zone. We’re on the border. It’s really what we call an entrepreneur city and a commercial area where goods come in and out. And that’s what we still do with northern Mexico. IAL: Last question: What advice would you give our Latino youth today living in the Rio Grande Valley? Neece: It’s that education is what’s coming; it’s what gets you where you want to be. Education has to be taken seriously. You have to take responsibility, be that first person who arrives to class, sit in the front row, get up early in the morning. You know, getting your head right. So don’t be lazy, do your studies, and get a good education.


Chorizo and avocado breakfast burritos 6 large eggs 4 large flour tortillas 1 tablespoon melted butter 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 2 avocados, cut into slices Mild salsa (optional) Reduced fat sour cream (optional)

INGREDIENTS 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped 8 ounces fresh chorizo sausage, casing removed 1 teaspoon garlic powder Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium nonstick pan, heat olive oil. Sauté onion, red an green bell peppers until tender (about 5-7 minutes). Add chorizo sausage and sauté over medium heat until cooked through (about 5 minutes), breaking up the chorizo into small pieces as it cooks. While chorizo and vegetable mixture are cooking, break eggs into a bowl and whisk well. Once chorizo is cooked, add eggs to the sauté pan and stir softly until eggs are scrambled and set (about 2 minutes).Season mixture with garlic powder, salt, and pepper and take off heat. Place the four flour tortillas part on a sheet tray, brush a little melted butter on each, and sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese evenly. Pop them in the oven quickly, just until cheese melts (about 1-2 minutes). Remove sheet tray form oven. Place each tortilla in a separate plate and spoon chorizo egg mixture into each cheesy tortilla. Top breakfast burrito with a few avocado slices, salsa, and sour cream and serve.

12 Things You Didn’t Know about

The Rio Grande Valley


By Dennis Gomez



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Nobleza Ranchera is a 1975 Mexican film produced by Producciones Fílmicas Agrasanchez and the first film produced in the Rio Grande Valley. This film debuted Juan Gabriel –Gabriel’s first cinematic film and included many more iconic Mexican actors. The immense success of the film opened doors for many more projects in the Rio Grande Valley.

McAllen Nature Center is a 33-acre nature center has family-friendly events for the community free of charge, unless advised by the center. Events include sunset yoga, intro to poi (the art of fire spinning), native plant tour, bird and nature walks, sunset geocaching butterfly walk, night hikes and other fun, kid-friendly activities year-round.

Taco/Movie Tuesday is a unique Rio Grande Valley cultural experience that allows the community and business owners to come together for one day of the week for movies, drinks, and food.Prices are typically discounted at half price on this day.

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La Sal Del Rey in San Manuel is a South Texas salt lake and a wildlife refuge established in 1992.

Mission Texas is the home of the Citrus Fiesta. Enjoy a parade and activities celebrating the citrus industry in the RGV. Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park consists of 760 acres and is home to more than 300 bird species that have been found throughout the trail.

Quinta Mazatlan is a mansion constructed in 1935 that remained private until the City of McAllen purchased the property in 1998. It serves as a sanctuary to many birds species. Fajitas originated in the 1930s and were used as a method of payment for Mexican cowboys. In 1969, commercial sales exploded, encouraging fajita sales at fairs, stores, and festivals. Many more fajita dishes were created, such as fajita tacos, making fajitas a Tex-Mex sensation that allowed Texans and Mexican nationals to unite “culinarily.” Raymondville, Texas serves as the passage city to the Rio Grande Valley. Raymondville is also known as “The city with a smile.” Michael Edward Fossum, an attendee of University of Texas-Pan American, and graduate of McAllen High School in 1976, became an American astronaut who worked with NASA and flew various shuttle missions in space. In honor of Fossum’s work with NASA, the Michael E. Fossum Middle School was named after him.

Dennis Gomez is a Supplemental Benefits Adviser providing free consultations to clients at AMBA Insurance, an Austin, Texas-based company and an Account Executive for I Am Latino.

Consider This Alternative Meet Dr. Belinda V. Jordan, MD, of Elite Primary Care in McAllen. The goal of Elite Primary Care is to make healthcare what it should be – a personal relationship between doctor and patient.

Dr. Jordan says, “You shouldn’t have to wait weeks to see your doctor and you need sufficient time with your doctor to address all your concerns.” Says Jordan, “I limit my patient load so that I have ample time to spend with every patient.” You will never feel rushed or leave with unanswered questions. Your relationship with your doctor should be focused on your health care, not dealing with complex and tedious insurance requirements. Whether you have a high deductible insurance plan or no insurance at all, you will never pay a co-pay or worry about a deductible.” Her office offers insurance plans (subscriptions) ranging from $49 a month to $99 a month. Several other non-conventional benefits include: contacting her by phone, text, or email 24 hours a day; same day/next day appointments, and virtual visits by phone for those who are home-bound and/or handicapped. Upon occasion, Jordan makes house calls or home visits –just like doctors used to do way back when. Her office will even help you find a pharmacy that carries your medications at the lowest prices. Jordan is a family medicine practitioner born and raised in Laredo, Texas. Before transitioning into medicine, she taught elementary school. She graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio in 1999 and then moved to McAllen to complete her internship and residency in Family Medicine. She has treated families in the Rio Grande Valley for over 17 years. Jordan’s specialty now is Obesity Medicine. She was the first doctor in the Rio Grande Valley to be certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine. Prevention is her focus. Jordan helps her patients lose weight and improve their quality of health. You can reach her at Elite Primary Care: 956.320.9899 or www.jordanMD-EPC.com.


Did you know that the Ruby Red Grapefruit was an accidental discovery of the red grapefruit between the 1920s and early 1930s in the RGV?

Don’t Have Health Insurance?



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Wes-Mer Drive-in is a drive-in theater located between Mercedes and Weslaco providing our community to enjoy an affordable experience. Customers get two viewings for the price of one general admission fee.

By John Griffing

Latinos are fundamentally changing the nature of commerce. They represent the largest share of “P2P (peerto-peer),” mobile, and proximity payments worldwide. The rapid expansion of digital, contactless, non-bank-originating payments for goods and services are rapidly transforming the US into a “cashless society,” according to market data obtained from the Federal Reserve, and that’s thanks in large part to Latinos increasingly going cashless.

ogy. Hispanic millennials making above $46,000 a year, are 79 percent aware of this technology, while those with lower household incomes are only 63 percent aware. So, what are the implications of the increasing Latinos preferences for cashless payments? Probably, the highly popularized and aggressively-marketed concept of America as a cashless society is a monetary concept to be closely followed.

The rapid expansion of digital, contactless, non-bank-originating payments for goods and services are rapidly transforming the US into a “cashless society.”

Signs of a Cashless Society Everywhere we look, cash is no longer king and those who prefer cash – due to its anonymity, immediacy, and the security it provides relative to banks – are no longer the norm. Here are some examples: • Airlines refuse to accept cash for cocktails, even when they get sued. • McDonald’s has been adopting cashless kiosks in 14,000 of its U.S. stores and getting rid of cashiers. Want to pay with cash? Tough. Wendy’s installed self-service kiosks at 1,000 of its approximately 6,600 restaurants in 2017. • Visa was giving restaurants $500,000, and small businesses $10,000 if they go cashless, CBS reported a couple of years ago, reigniting age-old discussions of a coming “cashless society.” • The Federal Reserve may some time soon announce the first completely “cashless” RFID-enabled US currency, known simply as “FedCoin.” • US courts have even ruled on the subject, deciding in one major case that businesses could legally refuse cash and that citizens’ legal tender didn’t matter … essentially rejecting the US dollar.

“Mobile payments are disproportionately used by consumers under the age of 45 and by Hispanics,” according to a report from the US Treasury. “Indeed, minorities are also more likely to own a smartphone than non-Hispanic whites, with 44 percent of both non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics owning a smartphone compared with 30 percent of non-Hispanic whites,” the report continued.

Tech junkie

“Hispanic consumers are active users of mobile payments, accounting for approximately 21 percent of all mobile payment users relative to 13 percent of all mobile phone users,” the Treasury said.



In the table below – reproduced from a Pew Forum survey of mobile payments users – we find that Hispanics, including Latinos, are the second-largest group. Similarly, the Hispanic Millennial Project found that Hispanic millennials ages 18 to 34 years are embracing Users Nonusers US Population White (non-Hispanic) 63 66 62 African-American 14 10 12 Hispanic 16 17 17 Other race/ethnicity 7 7 9 Source: Chartbook from The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2016

mobile payments technology. Foreign-born Hispanic millennials are “more interested than their US-born peers in mobile payments technology,” the Project reports. Hispanic consumers in the specified demographic window preferred Apple Wallet by 63 percent, compared to 43 percent of their US counterparts, according to study results. Analysts said this could be because US-born Hispanic millennials may have already tried the technolImage: Freepik.com

Trends in consumer finance notwithstanding, Latinos, still prefer to operate their businesses on a cash basis for investment and tax purposes. Latino businesses currently drive the majority of US economic growth, representing 86 percent of new business income, 40 percent of all US workforce growth, 69 percent of new home sales, rake in total revenue of $700 billion dollars annually, and represent $2.1 trillion dollars in US GDP. Whether it’s social or economic trends or America’s prosperity, Latinos are the reason. John Griffing is a former Associate Editor for The Daily Caller News Foundation, a Texas Correspondent for WND, and the current Texas Correspondent and social media director for I Am Latino.

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