January / February 2023 - RGVision Magazine

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Places of History

Marc and Angela Millis renovate properties to their former glory. p.22


Successful entrepreneur’s newest venture aims to uplift others. p.28


Remembering Manolo, the clinic dog. p.62


Pickleball sport rises in popularity nationwide. p. 70

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2 Corinthians 5:17

Our cover feature is a business couple with a vision and passion for revitalizing unredeemable properties in the Rio Grande Valley.

Taking on mitigated risks and overcoming challenges along the way to fulfill that vision to benefit our community is inspirational. In business, to get the fruit, you may have to go out on a limb.

Featuring stories of the Rio Grande Valley over the past decade, we find one constant variable; this is a resilient community. Recent storms in 2022 have affected many lives, literally and figuratively. In this issue, you will read about local individuals and how their vulnerability has been a cornerstone to their rising success. We thank you for picking up this issue of RGVision, and we hope you stay educated, informed, and inspired. Please let us know if there is a story you would like to share or if you are interested in advertising. Email info@ rgvisionmagazine.com.










PSJA ISD Brownsville ISD South Texas College Celine Perez Matt Lynch Dr. Alfonso Mercado Quinta Mazatlán UTRGV


Rocio Villalobos

Bryan Kirk Selene Guerrero

Elsa Cavazos

Jillian Cameron Joanney Uthe Amanda Sotelo Nathaniel Mata Sonia Chapa Gomez Katherine Moore McAllen


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Copyright by RGVision Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without expressed written permission of the publisher is prohibited.

The opinions and views expressed in the magazine don’t necessarily reflect those of our advertisers or collaborators. RGVision magazine is published bi-monthly and circulates 12,000 copies across the Rio Grande Valley in 450 locations with a direct mail distribution to major hospitals and Superintendents within Region 1. The RGVision office is located at 801 N. Bryan Road, Mission, TX 78572.

James Hord Bárbara Delgado Abe Hernandez Carlos Limas Sam Smith

For editorial comments and suggestions, please send emails to info@rgvisionmagazine.com. For advertising information, please call us at 956.431.0103 or email us at info@rgvisionmagazine.com. A special thank you to all the advertisers who support this publication: You are the power behind the flywheel igniting positive change that keeps the conversation going.


"….The old is gone, and the new is here!"


22 62 28 70





Successful entrepreneur’s newest venture aims to uplift others.


Remembering Manolo, the clinic dog.


Pickleball sport rises in popularity nationwide.


Unemployment Basics pg 26

Location Skateboarding pg 32

Pathway to College pg 16

Educational Success pg 20

Leveling Up! pg 36

Social Relationships pg 38

Close-to-Home Treatment pg 40

Providing Expert Care pg 42

Effects of Caffeine pg 46

Low-Impact Exercise pg 48

PVAS' Lifesaving Mission pg 52

Discover the Thorn Forest pg 56

Beyond Van Gogh pg 66

Texas State Parks Celebrate pg 74 A La Música pg 78

22 28
Marc and Angela Millis renovate properties to their former glory. 70
Happy & Healthy Community pg 10
STC Saving You Money pg 12


Each and every member of our advisory board charges RGVision with growth and commitment within our business development, social engagement, and editorial efforts. Through their feedback and contributions, RGVision will continue to help tell and share the Rio Grande Valley’s stories and extend the invitation to join the conversation. TOM TORKELSON MARK PETERSON VERONICA VELA WHITACRE ANDREA RODRIGUEZ SABRINA WALKER HERNANDEZ SARAH SAGREDOHAMMOND EDDIE LUCIO III MARITZA L. RAMIREZ BILL MARTIN RENE A. FLORES JAVIER DE LEON JUAN A. GARCIA DR. RENE I. LUNA BYRON JAY LEWIS


Brownsville ISD Human Resources Caring for Its Employees

For over 100 years, Brownsville ISD has served the students and community of Brownsville and surrounding areas of the RGV. The district not only prides itself in providing quality education to students, but caring for employees as well. With more than 6,000 employees that serve over 38,000 students, Brownsville ISD is the largest employer of the RGV. The district’s HR department works diligently to recruit and retain teachers and staff.

“We want employees to think of human resources as more than just the people who process applications, but the people who build capacity and care for our employees. We want employees to know we are ready to serve and provide them with information to make their workplace a better place,” said Dr. Anysia Treviño, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction & human resources. “In addition, we provide a plethora of professional development at all levels. We pride ourselves in that.”

Brownsville ISD conducted over 600 professional development sessions from June to November of 2022. Teachers are given the opportunity to participate online or face-to-face when receiving such professional development.

Every teacher is required to accumulate 150 hours of professional development every five years. These professional development sessions range in topics from classroom management, to introducing a new textbook, to a specially-designed workshop to help new teachers know what to expect in their first year(s). Experienced teachers receive professional development on technology, blended learning, differentiating instruction, and more.

New teachers are also offered professional development training on the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS).

“We give them one full day — six hours of professional


development — on what administrators look for and how they’re going to be evaluated,” Dr. Treviño explained.

In the T-TESS professional development training, new teachers learn how they will be evaluated by this system geared toward supporting their professional growth. The training focuses on best practices for delivery of instruction, classroom management, lesson planning, and use of resources.

In addition to formal training, the HR department personally follows up with all of its new teachers.

“Every new teacher gets a visit from an HR specialist just to say, ‘How are you? Do you need anything?’” Dr. Treviño said. “This is not only helpful for the teachers, but it’s enjoyable for HR. It reminds us of why we do what we do and provides us with insight on how we can continue to recruit and retain staff.”

The HR department also provides mentors for new teachers by pairing them with a veteran teacher. Mentors are sent to a training to refresh themselves on what new teachers will need help with. Mentor teachers can help novice teachers. Classroom management, time management, differentiating instruction, handling upset parents, inputting grades, submitting lesson plans, what to expect in a 10-minute walkthrough and how to contact a special education diagnostician are but a few examples of how mentors support their mentees.

New teachers are also recognized in unique ways at Brownsville ISD. Through the rookie of the year award, given in conjunction with the teacher of the year award, new teachers have the opportunity to be showcased, Dr. Treviño explained.

The newest teachers who are not yet district employees — the clinical teachers — are treated to a special luncheon to thank them for their hard work and are encouraged to apply within the district. Brownsville ISD is always looking for the best teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of students.

“We take very good care of our employees when they’re in need or they have a medical condition,” said Carmelita Rodriguez, assistant superintendent of human resources.

Employees can turn to the HR department for help and services in mental health, medical care, family leave, longterm or intermittent leave, introduction of new technology, evaluation of compensation plans, job descriptions, employee handbook changes, and counseling.

“I love working in HR because, at the end of the day, it’s serving the people who are going to serve the students,” said Dr. Treviño, as she explained the ripple effect of happy employees making happy students, which makes happy parents and a happy community.

Ensuring a happy and healthy community is at the heart of what the HR department at Brownsville ISD is all about.

Dr. Anysia Treviño, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction & Human Resources.
Carmelita Rodriguez, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources.
STC Dual Credit Program Saves Local School Districts and Families Millions of Dollars

Since 2000, the Dual Credit Program at South Texas College has saved its partnering school districts and its dual credit students $340 million.

STC’s program is unique, as it waives tuition for its 21 Hidalgo and Starr County partnering school districts so students may begin their college journey while in high school.

“These savings further validate South Texas College’s success in offering dual credit opportunities to the community,” said Rebecca De Leon, STC dean for Dual Credit Programs and School District Partnerships. “School districts, students, and their families are taking advantage of this great program that saves students time and money.

“Affording a college education may be challenging for many families, therefore completing two years of college while in high school is a game changer — especially in our region.”

According to De Leon, STC has nearly 10,000 dual credit students enrolled from local school districts annually.

One of those school districts is the Pharr-San JuanAlamo Independent School District, with seven of its high school campuses participating in STC’s dual credit programs.

In the 2021-2022 academic year, the district had a cost savings of $7.6 million. Over the decade of its partnership with STC, it has had a total savings of more than $73 million — the highest cost savings among STC’s partnering schools.

Former PSJA Superintendent Jorge L. Arredondo, Ph.D., said the relationship they have with STC sets their students up for success.

"Our parents and students value the expectation that we provide our students with a first-class education that includes dual credit courses,” he said. “And as the leading district, we appreciate the partnership and relationship with STC.

“We want to position our students ahead in their trajectory with post-secondary opportunities, and that is why we make an annual investment of close to $2 million for our students and families to lessen economic barriers in achieving post-secondary readiness. When you factor the dual investment made by both PSJA and STC, it really is a big win for our students and families.”

One of those students taking advantage of the partnership between his school district and STC is Paul Gonzalez, a senior at Preparatory for Early College High School in Rio Grande City.

The 18-year-old has taken dual credit courses since his freshman year in the spring of 2020.

“I’ve always had high scholastic goals and I found dual credit courses to be beneficial and fundamental for me and my family,” Gonzalez said. “It has allowed me to finish nearly two years of college, giving me a head start and saving me time and money.

“And for students here in the RGV, that’s a big deal. I’m thankful to STC and my school district for giving us this opportunity.”

Gonzalez recently graduated from STC with an associate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

De Leon said that the mission of the program is to create a college-going culture, like it has for Gonzalez.

“The future of our region is looking much brighter as we continue to provide high school students the opportunity to earn a college credential prior to graduating with their high school diploma,” she said. “Establishing partnerships with school districts, such as PSJA and Rio Grande City Grulla ISD, is key to ensuring that we are able to reach more students.

“STC’s Dual Credit Program is committed to our partners, students, and community to increase educational attainment and minimize barriers.”

For more information on STC’s Dual Credit Program, visit southtexascollege.edu/dual.













$ 73,666,962.50

$ 33,459,310.82 $ 33,349,323.86 $ 20,533,490.47

$ 17,908,817.92 $ 16,390,807.06 $ 12,335,948.61

$ 10,234,608.18 $ 8,994,760.41 $ 8,694,388.47

Since 2000, the Dual Credit Program at South Texas College has saved its partnering school districts and its dual credit students $340 million dollars.

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Closing Educational Funding Gaps in the Valley and Texas

Being a high school senior is one of the most exciting times in a young person’s life. It can also be nerve-wracking and stressful for those who have dreams of attending college or a quality trade school when they graduate.

But improving upon the last generation and achieving individual success has always been part of the American Dream.

Often, this hinges on whether students and their families can afford the financial burden of post-secondary education. Many students rely on scholarships to help; others are encouraged — most often by their school counselors — to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This application can be a tedious and difficult process, particularly for students from the Valley.

“If it weren’t for FAFSA, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college,” said Alex Meade, senior vice president of economic development and public finance at Texas Regional Bank in Harlingen.

Meade, who previously served as the city manager in Pharr and economic development director in Mission, said the idea came about during a meeting with Texas Workforce Commission Commissioner Julian Alvarez.

He then approached representatives from the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Region 1 Education Service Center and Educate Texas, a statewide nonprofit organization, and RGV FOCUS, a subsidiary of Educate Texas, to form the partnership.

“I didn’t realize that no one had ever done this before,” Meade said. “When we started talking with people… we learned that the different regions had challenged themselves with helping to complete these FAFSA applications. No one has ever done this collectively, and there was never a statewide challenge or campaign.”

The challenge, which has long been embraced by the education service centers within the TEA, begins at the high school campus level by encouraging school counselors to be that beacon of light for juniors and seniors by sharing










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the benefits of submitting their FAFSA applications.

The application itself, however, can be complicated. Students who see this form for the first time can become discouraged and decide to not even fill out the application once they encounter questions about their household income.

Some students face language barriers as well, Meade said.

“If you want to go to college and you want to receive financial aid, a scholarship, or some kind of grant — or even a student loan — you have to have the FAFSA application completed,” Meade said. ”But that form can be a cumbersome process. Some kids might say, ‘My parents don’t understand English. I don’t understand what this form says, so I’m just not going to fill it out. I guess I just won’t go to college.’”

In November 2022, Alvarez discussed this partnership on RGVision The Podcast, with CEO Gabe Puente, and how having students fill out their FAFSA applications would help the TWC track student success rates.

“We are going to get students who are going to fill out their FAFSA, then we are going to be able to collect data on which schools actually accepted these students, so now you have data,” Alvarez said.

The data, which will come from the U.S. Department of Education, will also allow the TWC and TEA to see how many of those students who filled out a FAFSA application went to community college, university, or a trade school, and potentially whether those students graduated and continued on to successful careers.

The program launched in the Valley in October and will expand to the remaining 19 educational service centers within the TEA over the next two to five years, according to Meade.

Chris Coxon, managing director of programs for Educate Texas, said the data will help members of the partnership see which campuses are doing better and which need more help to ensure success.

“One of the most interesting parts of this is that, through Alex’s leadership, we’re bringing business and industry to the table…to talk about the importance of getting that postsecondary credential or degree and why it is so important,” he said.

This unique partnership between public and private entities is an important step in the state’s economic future. But it’s just one of many challenges that will help ensure Texas’ economy remains strong.

One such program was unveiled in March 2016 when Governor Greg Abbott announced the formation of the TriAgency Workforce Initiative, which tasked the TWC, TEA, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board with

assessing workforce challenges and economic activity stateside to find approaches that would meet or exceed workforce goals.

“Understanding the needs of job creators is paramount to ensuring that Texas remains the top state for business expansion and relocation,” shared Governor Abbott in a 2016 press release. “By establishing this initiative, the State of Texas now seeks to ensure that the needs of both its growing workforce, as well as new and existing businesses, are met and each are prepared to successfully operate in an ever-changing 21st century economy.”

The Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative was first proposed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in July 2015 and was known then as the 60x30TX Strategic Plan.

The goal of 60x30TX was to have at least 60% of Texans between the ages of 25 and 34 have a college degree or hold a certification in a trade or skill.

Members of the Tri-Agency Initiative held meetings over the span of four years. In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3, which was considered one of the most transformative education bills to be passed at that time.

RGV FOCUS, a collaborative that falls under the umbrella of Educate Texas and Communities Foundation of Texas, teams up with public and private entities to help provide opportunities for students in the Valley to earn their college degrees.

“We want to make sure that students have viable pathways to these opportunities for higher education, and of course, we are also interested in completion,” said Rebecca Lopez, RGV FOCUS director. “We want to make sure students aren’t just getting into [college], they’re getting through as well.”

Lopez said RGV FOCUS learned about this partnership and the FAFSA Challenge in September when Meade spoke to their organization and wanted to take part in the launch of this ambitious plan.

According to data provided by RGV FOCUS, high school seniors who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to immediately enroll in postsecondary education. For students in the lowest socioeconomic quintile, FAFSA completion is associated with a 127% increase in immediate college enrollment.

RGV FOCUS has connected RGV FAFSA Challenge partners with the Texas College Access Network (TxCAN) FAFSA Dashboard. TxCAN is another initiative of Educate Texas that connects and supports college access initiatives across Texas with the goal of increasing access to college and certification programs.

“Our goal is to remove the barrier for students to complete financial aid so that they are one step closer to enrolling in college,” Lopez said.
















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Advocating for Tomorrow’s Future with Robert Carreon

Changing the trajectory of education in the RGV has been Robert Carreon’s mission for the last 20 years. Changes to accessing quality education, ensuring success after graduation, and creating training building blocks for RGV educators has been a great part of Carreon’s work with Teach For America (TFA).

Carreon’s role has evolved since first arriving in the Rio Grande Valley in 2003 and working as a TFA corps member. He fulfilled his two-year teaching commitment with the nonprofit and taught in the La Joya Independent School District. But something about the area piqued his interest, and he recognized that he could do more in a leadership position with TFA to make a difference in the Valley’s education system.

TFA is a nonprofit organization that places teachers

from across the country in schools located in low-income communities. It exists to address inequality in education between students from high-income backgrounds and their lower-income peers. The organization has a longstanding presence in the RGV. Carreon, who has served as a teacher and in various leadership roles, is now vice president of public affairs.

“Our kids and our community have for so long been seen as less-than when it comes to educational outcomes,” Carreon said. “The way we can change that perception is by supporting our kids to be super strong.”

Though his roles within TFA have changed, his mission hasn’t. He continues to advocate to improve public education and education as a whole. And it’s a lot of heavy lifting. Carreon ensures that the RGV has representation


at the State Capitol and has worked to find ways to train teachers to be effective all across the region.

“We are working to ensure that we’re doubling the number of students that are reaching key academic milestones that put them on a path towards economic mobility,” said Carreon, adding that in the last 20 years, the RGV has made great strides, but there is still work to be done. “The reality is that we still have a ways to go to ensure every single student in our community is graduating high school and is ready for that next step — whether it’s a two or four-year higher education program, or directly into work.”

TFA’s core competencies focus on three things: talent acquisition, finding the people who are passionate about teaching; talent matching, working to make sure those people are matched with school systems they can impact; and leadership development.

“We are pouring resources and support into teachers in their first two years,” Carreon said. “Whether they stay in the classroom or move to school administration or start a nonprofit, they will have a positive impact on students.”

Carreon was raised in a border town in New Mexico and felt a connection to the RGV when he first arrived. Though he had never worked in a community that did

not have consistent educational success, and while many raised an eyebrow at the mention of teaching in La Joya, he fell in love with the community as a whole — from the students to the educators who cared deeply about the outcomes for their kids.

“When I first started, people were saying, ‘Oh, that’s a bummer, you’re teaching in the Valley’ or ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ But now, communities across the state are coming to learn what we're doing in public education,” he said.

In that time, Carreon and many educators faced the difficult expectations the No Child Left Behind Act set for students and educators. The law held schools accountable for how students learned and achieved, and penalized schools that didn’t show progress. Still, he persisted along with the rest of the region’s educators who had the will to see students achieve.

“Once we knew where the goal line was, we were able to make investments in growing the leadership capacities in the system,” Carreon said. “We’ve seen our kids rise to the challenge in ways that are inspiring and are setting the bar higher for us as we look into the future.”

Listen to the full interview on our podcast RGVision: Advocating for tomorrow’s future with Robert Carreon.

“We’ve seen our kids rise to the challenge in ways that are inspiring and are setting the bar higher for us as we look into the future.”
Robert Carreon, Vice President of Public Affairs and 2003 Corps Member

Places of History

Marc and Angela Millis Renovate Properties to Their Former Glory

Editor's note: This story was written during the building’s restoration in the fall of 2022. The Beast on Main is now celebrating a renewed look as we enter the new year.

The entryway to a 1930s building located off Main Street was ripped apart. The paint on the banister — paint that was decades old — was stripped away, revealing the original wood. Through the distress of the renovation, the building seemed to sag. The weight of many years of neglect was almost tangible. But there was something stirring in the beams — the bones that held this building together. It was as if the building was taking a deep breath, ready to exhale many more years of life.

Marc and Angela Millis have been renovating old properties in McAllen’s historic district for several years. The couple restores the buildings and leases them to small business owners, allowing them to flourish in the beautifully renovated spaces. They have also worked on several residential projects, including apartments, lofts, and houses.

“We don’t tear down these houses,” said Angela as she carefully tiptoed over boards. “It’s like every person has a story. Underneath the layers we mask ourselves with, there’s a true authentic story to us. Every house has its own authentic story, too. It’s kind of neat.”

Among their notable commercial work includes Southern Roots, a fresh flower market. The beautiful building kept most of its historic integrity, as many of the Millis’ projects do. A newer renovation is Modern Vintage, with beautiful original beadboard and wooden floors. The building is now a vintage boutique, holding even more historic elements within. Both stores are located on Main Street in McAllen.

Every project is given a name, and one in particular — “The Beast” — earned its moniker due to being in such bad

shape. But with hard work and lots of attention to detail, she has become “The Beauty.”

The large two-story building is located at 321 N. Main Street and was, for a long time, a men’s boarding home. The building looked worn as the sun beat down on it. The blighted property has been standing since the 1930s and holds so much history, but over the years, had been neglected and had lost its original charm.

The couple has a team of construction workers and works with structural engineers to ensure the safety of the construction. The inside of the building was gutted. What once was sectioned off into many boarding rooms and a community bathroom is now an open space with an office and a large photography studio upstairs. A large window was added for natural light, and custom-made duct work gives this modern vintage style an industrial flair.

“The historical significance that this building has seen on Main Street of McAllen  — it just wouldn’t feel right to scrape it and build new,” Marc said. “I think it’s important for cities and leadership to understand that preserving buildings and structures that have a historic significance draws people in.

“People are drawn to the energy from way back that you can’t replicate from a new structure.”

The couple has been renovating buildings since 2013. Their first five-year goal was for Marc to leave his corporate job, and that opened up the opportunity for them to work together and do what they enjoy: breathing life back into old properties.

“It’s not about us, it’s about what we’re bringing back to the community and what she (The Beast) is now going to add here,” Angela said. “New stories will be created so that over the next 20 to 50 years, people can continue enjoying these pieces of history.”


The couple hopes to see Main Street become even more walkable, opening opportunities for people to get outside and walk from boutiques to restaurants.

Much of The Beast’s original materials were kept. From the original hardware to original glass taken from old windows and re-used on smaller windows, every bit of the home is salvaged and renewed. The banister was scrubbed down, sanded, and sealed — the veins of the original wood noticeable once again.

The exterior kept its original 90-year-old wood for the most part, and all the windows are now double-paned. Large piles of wood taken from around the home were salvaged and used throughout the building’s exterior and interior.

The team even found a Bible hidden in a wall. They decided to place it back, framing it so it can be seen. Unsure of why it was placed there in the first place, Angela could only speculate that somebody needed it at one point in their life.


“That’s what makes it so special when you find things like that,” she said. “You’re giving life, a pulse back into these homes.”

Hope is given back and the sad energy that was palpable in the home slowly began to lift. And just like people, homes are a work in progress. Whatever “The Beast” was in the past, she is no more and cannot be defined by that. This restored building is now the new space for Nicole Gates Photography Studios, where families, brides, and professionals will come and have their moments in history captured.

“I talk to the buildings and say, ‘We are going to bring you back to your original glory,’ and she (The Beast) has shown up,” Angela said. “It feels like she is smiling again.”

Over the course of this home’s life, it has kept many stories, and now she is ready to create new ones, retelling old ones in the process. She is a part of making Main Street vibrant and inviting.

“We’re bringing life back to downtown McAllen that for a long time has had a negative stigma,” Angela said. “We hope to bring it all together. This historical puzzle we’ve been working at for many years will be something for generations to see and enjoy.”



How to Navigate Your Internal Process for Handling Unemployment Claims

I get frustrated business owners calling me on the daily about how they don’t quite understand how or why their unemployment insurance premiums have shot up dramatically. And I completely understand their distress. In my previous roles, I have also felt that frustration.

In my role as an HR consultant to small businesses that don’t have a dedicated HR expert on their team, I’ve learned a couple of vital things that I share with business owners to help them be prepared for responding to a Notice of Application for Unemployment Benefits.

Let’s go over a few basics.


Unemployment benefits provide temporary, partial income replacement for qualified individuals who are unemployed or partially unemployed (working parttime) through no fault of their own. The benefits help unemployed workers who are looking for new jobs. Applicants must meet requirements concerning their past wages and job separation.

Employers pay unemployment insurance taxes and reimbursements, which support unemployment benefit payments. Employees do not pay unemployment taxes, and employers cannot deduct unemployment taxes from employee paychecks.


To qualify for benefits, your former employees must be either unemployed or working reduced hours — through no fault of their own, such as a layoff, a reduction in hours not related to misconduct, or fired for reasons other than misconduct.


If your former employee chose to end their employment, then the Texas Workforce Commission interprets that as an elective quit. Most people who quit their jobs do not receive unemployment benefits. For example, if they quit their job for personal reasons, such as lack of transportation or to stay at home with their


children, they will not qualify for benefits.

Former employees may be eligible for benefits if they quit for one of the reasons listed below:

• Quit for good cause connected with the work, which means a work-related reason that would make an individual who wants to remain employed leave employment. Examples of quitting for good work-related reasons are well-documented instances of:

• Unsafe working conditions

• Significant changes in hiring agreement

• Not getting paid or difficulty getting the agreed-upon pay

• Quit for a good reason not related to work, under limited circumstances. Examples include leaving work because:

• A personal medical illness or injury prevented them from working

• They are caring for a minor child who has a medical illness

• They are caring for a terminally ill spouse

• They have documented cases of sexual assault, family violence or stalking

• They have entered Commission-Approved Training and the job is not considered suitable under Section 20

• They have moved with their military spouse

I’ve found that having the right human resources set up is CRITICAL to having a thriving business positioned for growth. Integrating simple business habits will make it easy to respond to notices of application, earnings verification requests, and it will even help manage chargebacks.


• Have a progressive discipline policy and stick to it. A progressive discipline policy lets employees know what is expected from them, without ambiguity. It also provides a pathway to end a relationship with a problem employee while maintaining fairness and objectivity. Be

sure you document every step of this process because you may be asked to produce discipline reports that state that continued performance at this level may lead to termination.

• Designate a mailing address. Go on the Employer Benefits Services (EBS) online resource to manage claims online. Submit the designated address to ensure that all Unemployment Insurance mail is sent to the correct address. It’s very common that business owners do not receive correspondence and therefore fail to turn in necessary information. All correspondence has a deadline that must be met and failure to turn in necessary documents may lead to an automatic approval for your former employee.

Building better HR business habits will lead to exponential growth that will have positive ripple effects throughout your business. Better organization habits will also make it simple to respond to any requests from clients, vendors, and business partners.

As the ultimate people person, Celine Perez loves to share why your business needs another type of HR strategy that retains, motivates, and engages your team members. Celine is considered to be the small business owner's ace in the hole for all things HR.  Her specialties include setting up HR departments/processes for growing businesses, creating compensation plans that avoid confusion and fostering connection, and teaching teams how to communicate best in sticky situations. Celine Perez, SPHR, SHRMSCP, is the CEO of My HR Firm LLC. My HR Firm is a Small Business Administration (SBA) certified Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and proud member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

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Linkedin:https://www.linkedin.com/in/celinesperez/ Website: https://myhrfirm.com/




She started her first business at 21 and has developed over a dozen more since.

Yet Perla Tamez Casasnovas said she has never worked a day in her life — or at least that’s how she feels.

In growing up and seeing her immigrant parents work hard and open their businesses, Tamez Casasnovas got to experience what it took to be an entrepreneur. She didn’t just witness it; she took part.

“At 7-years-old, my hobby was going to my mother’s shoe store and helping her take shoes out of the boxes to put them on display,” she said. “Ever since I could remember, my after-school activities were going to my parents' businesses and pitching in with different tasks.

“I was always hungry to learn the new

things that my parents were doing and to have duties within the company.”

By the time she was a teenager, her family had owned several dry cleaners across the Valley. Tamez Casasnovas continued to spend her evenings and weekends working. Through this experience, there is one story she credits as having taught her not only how to be a leader, but how to be a leader with a heart.

Feeling frustrated with the employees at one location, her aunt (who was the general manager) announced that she would fire everyone.

“My mom says to her, ‘OK. But just know that if you fire everybody, then you’re the one that’s going to have to be pressing thousands of garments a day,’” she shared.

Successful Entrepreneur’s Newest Venture Aims to Uplift Others

“My aunt said, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ So then my mom replied, ‘That’s why your job is to take care of the people because, without them, you’re nothing.’

“That has stuck with me for as long as I’ve been an entrepreneur and will for as long as I live. I am nothing without my people; my job is to care for them.”

When the time came for her to decide upon her career, she knew that she wanted to do something in business. She decided to study speech therapy — a job she witnessed closely through the adult daycare business her mother opened.

Having obtained 52 college credit hours in high school, Tamez Casasnovas set the goal to finish college at age 20. She planned to go through the program at UTRGV — the University of Texas-Pan American at the time — but had to pivot when a barrier was presented.

“I went to orientation, and this lady asked me how old I was,” she said. “I told her I’m going to be 19, and she replied, ‘You’re too young to know what you want… I sit on the board and don’t think I would recommend you for the program. You’re too young.’

“So I left and said, “Yeah, right, lady.”

Tamez Casasnovas researched and found a program at Texas A&M University - Kingsville and achieved her goal.

“Once I have something in my mind, I understand that there are hurdles in between, but my job is to jump the hurdles and get to where I want to be — rain or shine,” she said.

During the time since, Tamez Casasnovas, 36, has faced — and overcome — many more challenges. The challenges include losing 80% of Dynamic Rehab Group’s income over a few months, filing a lawsuit against the State of Texas, laying off long-term employees, and going through personal issues with her family.

“One time, I was at the ranch, and I grabbed my last $100 bill after having millions of dollars and a Lamborghini,” she said. “I said that I would never back down. I don’t care if I have to sleep on the floor. My company is not closing because the kids need therapy.

‘I am proud to say that I’m going on 15 years in the healthcare industry and didn’t lose any of my properties. We are the largest therapy providers in Hidalgo County for outpatient facility therapy services.”

Through each hardship, she persisted and came out better on the other side. She said there was nothing she would change.

“All the bad deals I’ve invested in and the bad businesses that I made and that I lost have given me priceless lessons that I could never buy,” she said. “I did go through that to shine brighter.”

Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to figure out what they want, stay focused, and not let fear keep them from taking risks and action.

“You have the power to decide,” she said. “I tell people, ‘Nothing you want is going to be perfect. But if you really want it, the little imperfections will not discourage you.’”

A serial entrepreneur with companies in 11 different industries, Tamez Casasnovas still sets goals to achieve. This year, she launched The Latina Empire, which she describes as “a revolutionary movement for women across the globe.”

“After I went through that troubled business era, I was so tired of myself that I lost myself; I was so wrapped up in my ego,” she said. “I traveled endlessly. I bought endless things. But Perla was lost in her heart.

“Once I exhausted all the possibilities that money can buy, I said, ‘Nobody can fix my heart. I have to go in there and get my spirituality in place. I have to go and heal my heart from everything I’ve been through.’”

Revisiting and reflecting on past events and all that shaped her helped her heal and find peace. Through Latina Empire, she wants to help other women do the same.

“What I know is that women are a force to be reckoned with when we are strong and healed,” she said. “I truly, truly in my heart believe that we are all brothers and sisters. We have our hearts in the same place. We have veins that run through the same area in the body.

“My legacy is to help women heal their hearts, challenge their minds, and fill their pockets. Suppose I can make 10, 50,000, 10 million, 100 million, 1 billion people more vulnerable with their hearts in their hands and cherishing those skills defined from those stories and traumas they lived. In that case, we will have a kinder, warmer, happier, more joyful planet.”

For more information, visit TheLatinaEmpire.com or @ thelatinaempire on all social media platforms.

LOCATION SKATEBOARDING New Skateboarding Shop Opens in Edinburg

After years of being on a board, recording his friends, and living around the skateboarding scene, Rene Casas took a plunge that would benefit skaters across the Valley.

Casas, 27, who has been on a board since he was 11-years-old and has been skating for most of his life, is the owner of Location Skateboarding in Edinburg. The skateboarding gear, tech, and apparel retail store opened over the summer and has been a smashing success with locals.

“It was needed at this point,” Casas said. “We didn’t really have one for years. I felt like it was time to have a local skate shop. It’s cool to source the community with cool skating goods.”

He spent a couple of years in the brainstorming and planning phase. Once the storefront was secured, it was full steam ahead on the path to the grand opening.

The shop kicked off its opening right with free pizza, goodies, and a skate contest.

“We opened up in about a month,” Casas said. “We found a spot at the end of May, got the keys June 6th, and opened up July 1st. The first hour of opening was wild, I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Location broke a drought of almost a decade without a local Upper Valley skating shop. Zumiez has stayed strong at La Plaza Mall. He even worked there, like much of his crew, but a local shop evaded the steady solid skating community.

Skating has become hot again, and this time around, cities are pumping public dollars into the construction of new skate parks. Since 2017, McAllen, Pharr, and most recently, Edinburg have erected new parks to attract local youth and adults alike.

Skateboarders, roller skaters, and scooter riders are feasting on a variety of skateparks like this area has never seen before.

From Rio Grande City to South Padre Island to Elsa to Raymondville, the number and quality of parks continue to rise.

Location’s location plays a role in its appeal. Edinburg is now the home to two sizable skating parks after the SkatePark at Southpark welcomed rollers.

Being able to be an active part of throwing and sponsoring events is a big deal for Casas, who experienced that as a young skater.

He is close friends with local skaters Mikey Whitehouse and Nick Holt, who have continued to set the bar high for RGV skaters with videos on some of the biggest skateboarding outlets.

“It’s definitely an honor to have all my good homies skating with me,” he said. “The whole community is involved. The shop is throwing events and little contests, which keeps the energy flowing.

“I couldn’t be more happy; it’s a great experience so far. I just want to keep going and creating more. It’s a dream come true at this point. I was always a part of the skate scene. I would be at contests and play games of S.K.A.T.E. I saw how the old shop did things, so I’m just doing that with my own kind of twist.”

Whether the contest is at the beach or in front of the shop, Location Skateboarding is here to ride the wave of a scene that is growing once again, thanks to Casa’s passion to skate and serve.



South Texas Health System McAllen announced in November 2022 that the facility has been designated a Level I Trauma Center by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) following verification by the American College of Surgeons (ASC). This type of designation is major news for the Rio Grande Valley, an area with a population of about 1.3 million. STHS McAllen is the second trauma center in the region to receive this designation.

In order for a trauma center to receive this status, it must meet specific criteria set by the ACS. This includes: providing the highest level of surgical care to trauma patients, having a range of specialists and equipment available 24/7, and admitting a minimum of 1,200 trauma patients annually.

Every health system in Texas must submit paperwork to the ASC, and then file it with the DSHS. The license is renewed every three years if the criteria are still met.

“We are just raising the bar for our communities within the Valley,” said Todd Mann, STHS McAllen CEO. “We understand it’s difficult to leave for care. It has been our journey to always make sure that our residents can seek care within the Valley and not be sent to Houston or San Antonio.”

Altogether, the South Texas Health System Trauma & Critical Care Institute is comprised of 10 emergency rooms, including six freestanding emergency rooms, that are all stroke and chest pain accredited in some capacity. STHS also has the only pediatric ER in the area — at STHS Children’s in Edinburg — and the only

South Texas Health System McAllen Designated a Level 1 Trauma Center
by Selene Guerrero | photos provided

cardiac emergency room — at STHS Heart in McAllen.

“There is no other region, other than Houston, that would have this much of a comprehensive emergency care platform,” Mann said.

There are only 21 Level 1 Trauma Centers in Texas. San Antonio, Houston, and Fort Worth each have only one.

“The importance of Level 1 is that we have 24/7 surgical for critical care and are the only hospital in the area with a double-boarded surgeon on call when a patient arrives from an accident,” said STHS McAllen Department of Surgery Chairman Dr. Carlos Palacio. “This also means that there is no reason a patient should leave the Valley for trauma care. Every patient should be able to receive the care they need for their

injuries here in the Valley.”

According to Dr. Palacio, the most frequent types of trauma patients seen at STHS McAllen are those involved in vehicle and motorcycle accidents and autopedestrian accidents.

Patients that present major brain injuries — in which time is especially critical — can be cared for as they arrive because the facility has neurosurgeons, as well as other specialty surgeons including vascular, thoracic, and orthopedic, on call 24/7, and the team at STHS is working on bringing in more subspecialty surgeons.

“The life-saving capabilities we have in the Valley now are immense,” Mann said. “We’re very proud of this accomplishment and continue to press forward on other programs and service lines.”



Psychological Tips for the Holidays

Research has shown that interpersonal relationships are associated with mental health, physical health, and mortality outcomes. The quality and quantity of our social connections, and the rate of involvement within them, has shown to shape our health outcomes throughout life, thus increasing the importance of interpersonal relationships.

Humans are a social species that seek:

• The presence of people whom they can trust

• People who give them a goal in life

• People whom they can plan, interact, and work together with

• People whom they can survive and prosper with

People develop social relationships in the form of family, peers and significant others. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), three out of five Americans classify themselves as lonely.

Loneliness can contribute to:

• Physical dysfunction

• Psychiatric dysfunctions

• Depression

• Aggressive behaviors

• Social anxiety

According to a 2020 National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicines (NASEM) report, social

isolation, and loneliness represent significant, underappreciated public health problems. Not surprisingly, loneliness appears to have increased substantially since the outbreak of the global pandemic. For this reason, family, peers, romantic relationships, and companionship, in general, have a significant effect on an individual's psychological and physiological health.

One of the ways our social relationships affect our health is through the influence we receive from them in the selection of behaviors or habits that affect our health. For example, a group of friends may persuade you to get involved in a local gym to prepare for a fitness competition and directly affect your physical well-being and health.

Some healthy behaviors that could be determined or induced by our social connections are:

• Exercising

• Having a balanced diet

• Receiving frequent medical examinations

On the other hand, some unhealthy behaviors that are subject to be influenced by friends, or family are:

• Substance abuse

• Excessive alcohol consumption

• Negative eating behaviors


Social relationships can support good health by implementing a sense of responsibility or concern over our friends or family through persuading and supporting them to engage in positive habits. As humans, we tend to model the conduct of the people we are surrounded by.

For example, if we consistently interact with friends that frequently play sports, there is a tendency or probability for this activity to be copied or modeled by us. Scientific research suggests a link between our social relationships and the benefit to our mental health.

Social support, for example, creates a perception that one is cared for, loved, and helped — a perception that helps mitigate the impact of stress and, consequently, enhance mental health.

Words of encouragement and support from our social relationships can also improve our mental health state by developing a higher self-esteem and minimizing anxiety symptoms. The emotional support transmitted by social ties will reduce stress levels and, in turn, decrease poor physical health by the reduction of stress and negative behaviors.

Physiological processes, also known as processes, that occur within our body are proven to be positively affected after spending time with friends, family, or romantic partners. Substantial research suggests that strong social

ties are linked to recovery from disease at faster rates and lengthen our life.

Some physiological benefits obtained from our social interactions are reflected on our:

• Immune system

• Cardiovascular functions.

• Lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

• Reduction of stress.

• Metabolic system.

• Mobility limitations

Though Valentine’s Day is coming up, one does not need a romantic relationship to enjoy this holiday. The true motive behind holidays is to enjoy and spend quality time with the people we love and appreciate. Let’s celebrate the true meaning of this holiday by being grateful for the everlasting social relationships that make us feel loved and cared for.

(Co-Authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Gonzalo Vidales, Pablo Ruiz, & Andy Torres)

PH.D., Licensed Psychologist Department of Psychological Science at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley www.utrgv.edu/multicultural-clinical-lab/

Alfonso Mercado


Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen Epilepsy Monitoring Unit Offers Neurological Treatment for Area Residents

For the more than 2.4 million adults and children impacted by epilepsy, traveling long distances for muchneeded treatment can be one of the many ways the disease can negatively impact quality of life.

But through new developments at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, both diagnosed epilepsy patients and the more than 150,000 newly-diagnosed patients each year can now receive life-changing treatment close to home via Cameron County’s first and only Epilepsy Monitoring Unit.

“Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which the nerve cells in the brain are disturbed, causing two or more unprovoked seizures which can vary from unnoticeable changes in mental state to convulsing fits,” said Dr. Karylsa Torres-Gomez, a Valley Baptist Physician Network neurologist who has treated epilepsy patients since 2018. “A seizure occurs when brain cells that control body functions generate abnormal or excessive electrical discharges. Anyone can develop epilepsy, and it affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and ages.”

Dr. Torres-Gomez said that while researchers are still trying to determine the precise causes of epilepsy, some potential links have been identified.

“Some people may be more genetically predisposed to epilepsy,” she explained. “Others might develop the seizure disorder after experiencing a brain injury. In most patients, though, the cause of the epilepsy remains a mystery.”

“What we do know is this – epileptic seizures are caused by disturbances in the brain’s electrical activity, and most patients have already had at least two unprovoked seizures before they are diagnosed. So, we also know that an accurate diagnosis of epilepsy – and what specific type

– is a critical first step.”

Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) officially opened in October 2022 and proudly helps local patients treat their epilepsy symptoms without the hardships associated with frequent travel outside the Rio Grande Valley, said EMU Director Angelica Anaya.

“The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy,” Anaya said. “Our trained medical, nursing, and technical staff not only evaluate seizure disorders, but can also help create individualized and comprehensive treatment plans to reduce or eliminate the seizure activity our patients experience. In other words, treatment at Valley Baptist’s EMU can help patients get back to leading a full and active life.”

The EMU admission process begins when a patient’s physician decides that prolonged video electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring would be useful in evaluating seizures or epilepsy. Such prolonged monitoring of the brain is an essential first step to diagnosing epilepsy and helping neurologists determine a proper course of treatment for each patient at Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s EMU, Dr. Torres-Gomez said.

“Neurologists utilize the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit to admit patients suffering from epilepsy to continuously monitor brain activity using EEG and video for an extended period of time,” she said. “This gives us a better understanding of the seizures by seeing how the brain is functioning and what the patient is physically doing during a seizure event.

“Because this study is performed in a controlled setting,

Matt Lynch | photos provided

we can lower or stop the patient’s seizure medication to increase chances of recording seizures during the study. The EMU is equipped with computer-based monitoring equipment expressly designed for the evaluation of seizure disorders, allowing the EMU team to gather data before a seizure starts, while one is occurring, and during a patient’s recovery.”

Dr. Torres-Gomez said that by utilizing this approach, neurologists can uncover vital clues regarding a patient’s seizures that can help shape individualized treatment.

“Epileptic patients can have more than one type of seizure, and the seizures can range in severity; it may even be difficult to determine when some patients are having a seizure,” she said. “Our staff will monitor the frequency and location of seizure activity in a patient’s brain, as well as the duration of each incident and its effect on the body.”

Unlike many diseases that can permit a patient to travel long distances for treatment, the sudden and often random nature of epileptic seizures can make travel incredibly challenging, Dr. Torres-Gomez said.

Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s EMU provides an invaluable, life-changing service for Valley residents who might otherwise suffer through epilepsy without treatment.

“It is important to have this unit close to a patient’s home, since going to San Antonio or Houston is not possible for

many patients or their families,” she said. “Many times, treatment will require that a patient needs to be with a caregiver during hospitalization, which means having family nearby. If a patient has driving restrictions, having access to Valley Baptist’s EMU is a critical component to not only successful treatment, but also improving their quality of life.”

For more information on Valley Baptist Medical CenterHarlingen’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, visit https://www. valleybaptist.net/services/neurology-and-neurosurgery/ epilepsy-monitoring-unit.


• Two dedicated private rooms

• 24-hour access to a specialty trained physicians

• 24-hour monitoring by a qualified EEG technician

• The ability to quickly identify a patient’s seizure activity, type of seizure, and the location of onset

• Appropriately placed cushioning devices for patients’ protection

• Advanced video recording

• A comfortable environment for patients and visitors



Choose Terry Physical Therapy to Alleviate Your Pain

Each year, half of all American adults will develop a musculoskeletal injury lasting longer than three months, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Musculoskeletal injuries call for expert physical therapy. Additionally, other pain-inducing conditions, such as pregnancy and arthritis, can be successfully treated with physical therapy.

With a mission to enhance the daily lives of patients by providing expert care, Terry Physical Therapy offers quality treatment and education specifically tailored to meet individual patient needs. Terry Physical Therapy was started in 1999 by Dr. Onuwa D. Terry PT, DPT in Mission, where the location remains today. A second location in Peñitas was added in 2018. Both clinics offer a unique family-oriented feel that prioritizes patient health and community wellness.

“Most people think that living in pain is normal,” said Marsha Terry, RN MSN, Terry Physical Therapy office administrator, and wife of Dr. Onuwa D. Terry. “One of the things we advocate for is that you should not be living in pain.”

Marsha explained how Terry Physical Therapy is passionate about not only helping their patients get out of pain, but educating them on how to stay out of pain.

Terry Physical Therapy offers a free shoulder workshop once a month. The workshop is led by a Terry Physical Therapy team member who educates participants on why they have pain and provides guided exercises that can be practiced regularly at home to help eradicate shoulde pain.

Before patients start thinking about practicing any other exercises at home to alleviate pain, it’s important they visit a physical therapy clinic for evaluation.

“Every patient that we have in our clinic is evaluated by one of our doctors of physical therapy,” Marsha said.

With a consultation lasting from 45 minutes to an


hour, the physical therapist is talking to the patient and assessing the underlying issues so that they can develop the proper plan of care.

All patients from ages 4 to 99 have a tailor-made plan of care, which includes:

• Neurological disorders

• Neck pain and headaches

• Arthritis pain relief

• Work injury

• Work conditioning

• Fibromyalgia

• Ergonomics

• Pregnancy pain relief

• Back pain and sciatica relief

• Hip and knee pain relief

• Foot and ankle pain relief

• Pre-surgical rehab

• Post-surgical rehab

• Balance and gait disorders

• Neck pain relief

• Chronic pain relief

• Motor vehicle accident injury

• TMJ dysfunction

• Vestibular rehab

• Bell's Palsy therapy

• Shoulder pain relief

• Elbow, wrist, and hand pain relief

• Sport injuries

The Terry family has a special love for the RGV community, which is why they created The Terry Family Scholarship. UTRGV is soon to offer its first doctor of physical therapy program. With The Terry Family Scholarship, students in the RGV community can go to school locally in the area instead of moving outside of the region to pursue their education. The program is set to open approximately in 2025.

“Our scholarship is initially set to give La Joya School District first dibs on the scholarship, and then moves down to the rest of the RGV community,” said Marsha, elaborating on how La Joya is one of the more underserved areas in the community. “We’re really proud of it. The scholarship is fully funded. As UTRGV starts to take on students for their first graduating class, applicants can apply and have access to the funds they need.”

Terry Physical Therapy stands out amongst the rest when it comes to treatment plans for pain, quality education for patients, and special offers for the RGV community. Connect with Terry Physical Therapy on instagram@terryphysicaltherapy.

For more information on the Terry Family Scholarship, visit TerryPT.com.



Coffee drinkers will say coffee is what makes their day. It can, but too much of anything can also be detrimental to one’s health.

“Coffee is the most frequently consumed caffeine-containing beverage,” said Erika Gonzalez, a nutritionist at Kilo Nutrition. “The caffeine in coffee is a bioactive compound with stimulatory effects on the central nervous system and a positive effect on long-term memory. Although coffee consumption has been historically linked to adverse health effects, new research indicates that coffee consumption may be beneficial.”

The long term memory benefit can help people with trouble focusing or remembering details — which can be especially helpful for older adults who struggle with memory.

Gonzalez emphasized there are both pros and cons of caffeine consumption.

“Epidemiological data supports the view that habitual coffee consumption has several health benefits, including lower risks of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease,” she said.

These two diseases are often linked to

seniors and older adults, which reinforces the idea that it is good for older people to consume caffeine.

“It can offer a favorable effect on liver function, a possible role in weight loss, and a decreased risk of developing certain cancers,” she said.

It is also common for coffee/caffeine to be related to weight loss programs. Gonzalez explained, it has the effect of helping metabolic rate and stimulating the body to increase energy.

“A daily intake of three to four eight ounce cups of brewed coffee, or five servings of caffeinated soft drinks or tea may be considered a moderate amount for most adults and appears to be associated with a neutral to potentially beneficial effect on health,” she said. “Children ages 6 to 12 can consume 45 to 85 mg/day and adolescents 100–175 mg/day. People with dyslipidemia may consider brewed or filtered coffee to avoid cafestol and kahweol.”

Overall, Gonzalez said it is best for caffeine to be consumed moderately, especially as it can sometimes lead to people consuming more lactose or sugar than they should.

The Pros and Cons of Caffeine


Pilates for Improved Balance, Strength, Flexibility

Being in good physical health is essential for reaching your full potential and fulfilling your life’s purpose. It translates to a longer lifespan, more energy, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Following a healthy lifestyle is a daily practice involving three core components: adequate sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and regular exercise.

Though running, jumping jacks, and other physically demanding activities may first come to mind when thinking about exercise, there are many other forms of movement that are less intensive, but still provide a great workout. Examples include walking, swimming, Pilates, and more.

Whatever way you choose to move your body is great. The best exercise for you is the one that you will do. However, there are certain advantages of low-impact over high-intensity exercises, including reduced risk for injury, improved flexibility, and less stress on the body.

Furthermore, low-intensity exercises can be especially beneficial for individuals aged 60 and above. According to the 2015 academic review, “The effects of Pilates exercise training on physical fitness and well-being in the elderly” the practice helps boost the quality of life and independence in the elderly by way of improved strength, balance, and mood states.

Blanquita Rodriguez is a certified Pilates instructor who


hosts free weekly classes through Harlingen Parks and Recreation. Her classes have more than a dozen regular attendees, who range in age from early 20s up to 80s.

“This exercise is for everybody — children, adults, men, women — no matter their skill level,” she said. “Every exercise can be adjusted for beginner, advanced and intermediate so they avoid strain.”

Pilates is a system of repetitive exercises promoting strength, flexibility, and stability. It does not require any special equipment and may be practiced at home on your own with just a towel or yoga mat.

Rodriguez obtained her instructor certification in 2015 and has been leading the public classes for the last two years. In this time, she said she has been proud to witness health transformations.

“I love it because I get to see people get stronger, feel better about themselves and improve their lives,” she said. “And it’s not just working your body, you’re working your mind. Every time you finish class, you have more energy and feel younger.

“When you come here, you forget about everything. You put your mind into focusing on the exercises and get to relieve your stress from work or whatever problem you may have at home.”

Gracie Nuñez has been attending the classes for a year.

As a business owner, she said she prioritizes exercise to help her relax.

“At 56, I now prefer low-impact forms of exercise,” she said. “So, I started coming to this class and have seen changes. My weight may sometimes go up and down, but the most important thing is I feel my body is strong, and I have lost inches.”

In addition to the physical and mental benefits, Nuñez shared she also enjoys the camaraderie, as being in a group setting helps keep her motivated.

During class, Rodriguez said it’s important for her to not only provide instruction and modifications for those newer to Pilates, but to maintain high energy. She credits this to her family background in the restaurant industry.

“When you have a business, it’s very important to greet people, talk to them and come with good energy,” she said. “My father always told me that when people leave the restaurant, you tell them, ‘God bless you,’ so that’s the way I am. I love to uplift and motivate.”

For anyone interested in trying Pilates, Rodriguez encourages them to look for a local class so the instructor can help ensure correct form and offer modifications if needed. She invites everyone to join her class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. inside the Harlingen Cultural Arts Center.



South Texas Health System® McAllen has recently been verified as a Comprehensive Level I Trauma Center by both the American College of Surgeons and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

A Level I Trauma Center is a specialized care facility that handles the most serious of injuries with surgeons available within the facility 24 hours a day. It provides care for each aspect of an injury, including prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

As a key member of the South Texas Health System Trauma & Critical Care Institute, these designations mean South Texas Health System now offers the largest and most comprehensive trauma and critical care in the Rio Grande Valley with 10 emergency rooms across the region.

If you’d like to schedule a trauma-related educational seminar, such as STOP THE BLEED® or Mental Health First Aid, or learn more about our Trauma Survivors Network support group, please call 956-632-4929.

Learn more at southtexashealthsystemmcallen.com

Physicians are independent practitioners who, with limited exceptions, are not employees or agents of South Texas Health System. The System shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians. For language assistance, disability accommodations and the nondiscrimination notice, visit our website. 231287761-1321506 12/22



Small Efforts Lead to Big Impact

There are many ways outside of adopting that you can make a lifesaving difference for local stray dogs and cats. Texas, and the nation as a whole, is experiencing a veterinarian shortage. And in the Rio Grande Valley, this problem is even greater.

Edinburg-based nonprofit Palm Valley Animal Society is one of the largest animal intake facilities in the country, with an average annual intake of 15,000 companion animals. Its goal is to save every animal that can be saved, which is accomplished through providing foster, rescue, and transportation services, along with wellness and educational programs all across Hidalgo County.

According to PVAS Director of Development Alana Larson, the shelter’s intake level is extremely high in relation to the region’s population. She said this is due to many factors, but most notably the critical vet shortage.

“We’re kind of like a veterinary desert,” she said. “We have maybe 30 to 40 veterinarians when we probably need, according to studies, 200 to 300 to help control our animal population.

“We do really well with adoptions and try to get as many out, but it’s just ongoing. We’ll send 100 out, and we get 100 coming back in almost immediately.”

Having your animals neutered and/or spayed is extremely important, but it’s not unusual to wait six months or longer for an appointment. A larger goal that would drive the most impact, Larson said, is to make the RGV an area where veterinarians want to come and practice.

Other reasons she shared that contribute to the stray population include financial burden and the lack of education.

“It’s very important to really understand what it is to have a pet so that at the end of the day, you’re not saying, ‘oh, I can’t do that,’” Larson said. “Having a pet is a longterm commitment. They live for a decade or more; they are a living, breathing animal that you have to care for every day.

“You’re the one they look to for help and for survival.”

Potential pet parents understanding the full responsibility of having an animal — keeping them healthy, fed, exercised, and up to date on vaccines, as well as spaying/neutering — she said, is key for preventing more animal abandonment, and ultimately euthanasia.

“You have to really sit down and consider it,” Larson said. “It is a huge responsibility, but I think the pros outweigh the cons. They’re wonderful companions.”

Through PVAS’ foster programs, those considering welcoming a new member into their household can experience firsthand whether being a pet owner works for their lifestyle. Larson said someone can take an animal for a weekend or designated period of time and figure out whether they are a good fit.

Often, this will lead into adoption and another lifesaving outcome.

And for those who would like to help but cannot for any reason become a full-time pet owner, PVAS also has “Tails


Around Town,” a program allowing volunteers to take a pet for the day.

“Through this, people can take them to the park to walk for a little bit to give them a rest from the shelter for just the day,” she said.

Whatever level of commitment a person may be able to offer helps. Larson explained longer-term fosters (of at least two weeks) help give the animal a better chance for adoption.

“We ask our fosters to document what the animal likes and doesn't like, and that helps us find a match for them,” she said. “We’re able to send the animal out all over the country. We’ve sent them as far as Canada, and we’ll get pictures and letters back showing how the pet is doing great and thriving.”

PVAS has a list of animals available for adoption on its website, pvastx.org, that displays their photos and information about them. This is another way they encourage adopting, rather than “shopping” for a pet.

Apart from strays, Larson said people’s pets also frequently end up at the shelter. The best way pet owners can avoid this is to have their pet microchipped.

PVAS offers monthly clinics for people to take their pet to get microchipped, as well as receive their vaccines, at a low cost.

“Most animals, when they get loose, are within a mile of their home,” she said. “If you see an animal in your neighborhood, ask your neighbors or on social media. And you can go to a fire department, police department, or a local municipality organization to get that dog or cat scanned, so it can return to its owner that much faster.”

The organization also greatly relies on donors. Whether you may be able to donate out of pocket or team up with an organization to host a fundraiser, this support ensures the pets in the shelter are well taken care of and that PVAS can continue its lifesaving programs.

For those drawn to help, Larson recommends people sit and contemplate on how they can best provide value — whether by donating, fostering, adopting, or volunteering.

“Volunteering is super important; we really depend on our volunteers on a daily basis,” she said. “If you're with an organization and want to volunteer together as a group, we can accommodate that. Or if you're a student that needs hours, we can help you with that as well.

“We have over 1,000 animals here at any time, so we are trying to do everything that we possibly can to ensure a lifesaving outcome.”

For more information and to stay up to date on PVAS’ lifesaving work and events, follow its social media pages @pvastx.



Quinta Mazatlán in McAllen has gone through many changes throughout its existence. The Matthews family built the adobe home in the middle of a forest in the 1930s. In the 1960s, the Schultz family enhanced the home and gardens while protecting the forest for wildlife. The next and current “family,” the City of McAllen, expanded the urban sanctuary and brought partners together to support education, ecotourism, and the environment for the health of all.

The archway to the Thorn Forest offers a visual of what the estate grounds looked like previous to 1935. Many guests have passed

through the doorway to the Thorn Forest, that was opened to the public in 2006 by the City of McAllen. Countless families and nature lovers have passed through on their way to explore the Thorn Forest looking for birds and butterflies.

A variety of trees, shrubs, and plants make up the Thorn Forest at Quinta Mazatlán. The assortment of vegetation attracts a variety of birds and butterflies to the estate. The gatekeepers of the estate are none other than the plain chachalacas, which are bountiful. Buff-bellied hummingbirds entertain you with their aerial acrobatics. Green jays chatter to

by Colleen Curran Hook, Manager of Quinta Mazatlán | photos provided Quinta Mazatlán Supports Education, Eco-Tourism, and the Environment
Thorn Forest Trails at Quinta Mazatlan.
In the 1960s, the Schultz Family enhanced the home and gardens around the Thorn Forest.

you from their condo homes in the forest. There are many more birds to see, including our migratory birds that make Quinta Mazatlán their hotel to regenerate their energy before continuing south.

Luckily, some of these migratory birds call the estate their winter haven. Butterflies are also bountiful within the Thorn Forest. Monarchs, large orange sulphur, giant

swallowtail, red-bordered pixie, and many other types of butterflies flutter around the Thorn Forest, searching for flowering plants to get a meal.

Many native trees and shrubs within the Thorn Forest provide shelter and food for the forest animals. Granjeno, fiddlewood, kidneywood, and guayacan provide berries or seeds as a meal. Native plants that provide nectar to the animals are the Turk’s cap, Scarlet sage, and Texas lantana. Prickly pear, tasajillo, and Night-blooming cereus, though they are cactus, provide nectar, food, and shelter for many animals.

Though many trails meander around the estate, they all lead back to the historical mansion of Quinta Mazatlán. Quinta Mazatlán is an urban sanctuary working to enrich community members’ lives by providing information about birds, plants, and environmental stewardship in South Texas.

Visit Quinta Mazatlán this new year and check out its many programs, including the Thursday night speaker series and special seasonal trails and festivals. Quinta Mazatlán is open Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays till dark. Follow Quinta Mazatlán on social media to stay in the loop on what’s happening in the Thorn Forest.

In 2006, the City of McAllen opened the home to the public as a mansion with a mission working to restore one native backyard at a time.
In the 1930s, the Matthews Family built Quinta Mazatlan, an adobe home and swimming pool surrounded by a Thorn Forest.


Remembering Manolo, the Clinic Dog

When Dr. Joel L. Solis, co-owner of Valley Medical Arts Clinic (VMAC), first started bringing his dog, Manolo, to work with him, his main concern was not wanting to be a burden to his staff.

The Shih Tzu-Cocker Spaniel mix had begun to suffer from separation anxiety, and his veterinarian recommended the little dog accompany his owner to work. For the next 10 years, Manolo would ride with Dr. Solis in the car every morning, Monday through Saturday, to join him at the clinic for a full workday.

What started as a way to help alleviate Manolo’s anxiety turned into an unexpected blessing for all who interacted with him. Dr. Solis said everyone loved him — staff,

patients, pharmaceutical reps, and other members of the surrounding community.

Dr. Solis’ fears of inconveniencing his employees were squashed as he observed how quickly Manolo seemed to recognize the clinic was not a place for him to play.

“He would roam the clinic on his own,” he said. “He had three beds in three different places, but he wouldn’t ever bother anyone. He knew his boundaries. Unless someone called him, he would not go up to them. We could turn our heads and we knew he was OK.”

Not only was Manolo low maintenance to have around, he provided comfort and joy to the staff.

“On some of our toughest days, we knew that he would


balance our day without asking for anything in return,” Dr. Solis said. “He was such a gentle dog.”.

Letty Gutierrez, assistant manager of the clinic, dogsat Manolo in her home from time to time when Dr. Solis was out of town.

“We miss him dearly,” she said. “The office is not the same. He brought a different light to the office. He was like therapy for everybody here.”

Receptionist, Connie Escalona, also remembers him fondly.

“All the patients loved him,” she said. “All the patients asked for him when they wouldn’t see him around.”

The patients coming into the clinic had special relationships with Manolo.

“I would walk in the room and they would tell me, ‘there’s really nothing wrong with me, I just wanted to see Manolo,’” said Dr. Solis, adding when it was their health

that brought them into the clinic, they still wanted to visit with the Manolo. “You could see how seeing Manolo would change that patient’s experience that day.”

Dr. Solis shared a story of Manolo running out of the clinic doors in his younger days, getting about half a mile down the road across busy 10th street, and ending up in the Lowe's parking lot.

“I saw five of my staff members running after Manolo, and three of them shouldn’t be running in the first place,” he laughed.

One of whom was the lab director. A patient having his blood drawn noticed her abruptly leaving and asked another employee if everything was OK. He was told that Manolo had just run out of the building.

“He just quickly said, ‘Well, let me go get him,’” said Dr. Solis, explaining the patient was a 50-something-year-old marathon runner. “He’s the one that catches my dog.”


Dr. Solis still marvels over how incredible it was for him to see how much his staff and patients cared for this little dog and expressed his gratitude to the VMAC staff, Perfect Paws Pet Salon, and to Dr. Peacock for welcoming Manolo with open arms, love, and attention.

During the rise of COVID-19, Manolo provided special support to the clinic employees and patients. In a time where people were isolated and discouraged, Dr. Solis said he brought them closer.

“Trying to keep 35 employees happy is not always easy,” Dr. Solis said. “He provided a bond to keep the clinic together.”

He described Manolo as the “great stabilizer” and “unifier” of the clinic staff who brought joy to everybody. Manolo even helped Dr. Solis in his medical practice.

“He made medicine easier for me,” he said, explaining how Manolo helped him to relax and not let the stress of

the job overwhelm him. “Almost like, ‘Hey, I got your back. I'm your best friend.’ And whether he would just come up and lick me or just lay next to me, I always knew I had someone right there.”

The VMAC has served McAllen for 70 years. Dr. Solis said he and his employees work hard to pay tribute to past clinicians. He added Manolo contributed to the legacy of helping people that the clinic began many years ago.

“This little dog was part of the team that has allowed us to continue doing what we love to do, and that's helping people,” he said. “What's a dog supposed to do? What's their job? It's to make their owner happy, right? Well, he did his job to the finest.”

Manolo passed away on Nov. 30th, 2022, but his legacy of comfort and kindness will live on. Manolo will be remembered as the little dog who made a big difference in the lives of those in the clinic.


Like You’ve Never Experienced Before

this is 2022, and the way people experience art is evolving.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a sensory display produced by Paquin Entertainment Group that has sold more than three million tickets worldwide. The traveling exhibition has spent several weeks in McAllen at the McAllen Convention Center.

Created by French-Canadian creative director Mathieu St-Arnaud, the exhibition is truly an immersive experience as you’re taken through a 3D sensory experience that brings more than 300 of the artist’s works to life. Guests are literally engulfed by the art and get to see popular works like “The Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “Cafe Terrace at Night” from a different lens.

“As you enter the different rooms, you enter the introduction room and this is your opportunity to connect with Vincent,” said Art History Consultant Fanny Curtat, Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. “He found the remedies for the darkness in his life by painting. This exhibit is about spreading joy. It’s about community.

“It’s about enjoying the simple things around us. It’s a celebration of life — that’s what this show is really focused on.”

The exhibition is broken up into separate large rooms in a 30,000-square-foot space within the McAllen Convention Center. Guests are introduced to Van Gogh in the first room and then taken into “The Waterfall Room,” where the first hints of an unconventional art experience awaited. This experience prepared the mind for something truly unique as Van Gogh’s art was projected all around. The art swirls and moves to the musical selection that fills the space.

“Van Gogh has moved through time, and the different styles of music selected for the exhibition are all relevant


to his work,” Curtat said. “The idea was to bring different styles to enhance his art. This project seeks to really connect the 21st-century audience with the 19th-century artist, and the music helps do that.”

This exhibition and its creators have made Van Gogh accessible in a space that has brought art beyond the limitations of a museum and made it accessible to people from all walks of life. The exhibit has already been seen by four million people across the world and has toured 40 cities. This different way of experiencing Van Gogh allows guests more freedom to walk through the art, literally.

The team of artists carefully selected Van Gogh’s art and created an experience that showed the artist’s evolution, taking guests through the much darker works from when he lived in the Netherlands, to his time in Paris, where his work became much brighter. That arc is felt in the show as the guest is taken from one room to the next and experiences the art connecting to the colors and the music.

“It’s a different way to experience art,” Curtat said. “For a lot of people, this space gives them the freedom to be themselves with the art and explore.”

Where: McAllen Convention Center

When: Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience runs through Jan. 12, 2023

Tickets: www.vangoghmcallen.com

The team of artists carefully selected Van Goghs’ art and created an experience that showed the artist’s evolution.


A sport rising in popularity is swinging and serving its way across RV parks and community centers nationwide. Pickleball has surpassed “fad” status, with matches being telecast on networks, including ESPN.

The game is a smashing success with senior citizens. McAllen Parks and Recreation’s Kristyna Mancias was introduced to the sport around four years ago while in charge of a city community center.

She has moved up to superintendent of athletics for McAllen Parks & Recreation and oversees soccer, inline hockey, and flag football, as well as McAllen’s “house leagues,” such as basketball at community centers, the track, and field team, and, now, pickleball.

“When I was at the Palmview Community Center, I worked with the pickleball league there,” she said. “We would see the seniors

come in in the afternoon. During our Golden Age Olympics, which happens in the month of January and February, we hold a huge tournament. Back then, I didn’t know how big it was.”

The sport has skyrocketed in popularity in the last year. Big-name athletes have been spotted on the court, and even superstars from other sports, like Lebron James and Tom Brady, are investing in their own competitive teams.

“It was popular among Winter Texans, but recently I’ve been seeing it take hold in different places," said Mancias, citing Chicken N’ Pickle, a food chain that serves up grub alongside courts. “I thought maybe we can do a pickleball league for everybody — for all of the community. That’s where I got the idea to do that there at McAllen Sports Park’s Pavilion.”

by Nathaniel Mata | photos by Sam Smith Pickleball Sport Rises in Popularity Nationwide

Mancias said as a parks and recreation professional, it’s encouraging to see all ages of adults on the court getting a sweat in and having fun.

“It’s super amazing because the thing about pickleball is you can play at any age,” Mancias said. “You have people in their 20s or 30s or 40s, but then…the other day… we had someone sign up to play who was 75.”

Currently, McAllen only hosts adults. Interest will determine where pickleball can go next. If you find the right Facebook group, you can find a pickleball game almost every night Valleywide.

Mancias said serving up a growing sport for residents and visitors is part of the department’s mission.

“We try to stay with the trends, and the main thing is to have people active and participate in recreational programs,” she said. “Some things hit and others miss. For us, it's trial and error.

“We put a lot of effort and thought into our programs. What is unique about pickleball is that it has spread almost completely by word of mouth. We haven’t put a lot of advertising out.”

First, players must find the facility, which is tucked away inside of McAllen Sports Park. It is easiest to access the pavilion and rink entrance of the park from 34th street, just northeast of Target.


McAllen Sports Park Pavilion is undergoing a renaissance. Originally built in 2005, the covered pavilion

that houses a full-size roller rink and sizable bleachers is seeing more action than ever before.

You might have missed it because of the sea of soccer fields, but in a seven-day week, the pavilion supports sports on inline skates, roller skates, shoes, and even wheelchairs.

Mancias and the facilities team keep the pavilion dry and ready for the next event.

“We look at that facility, and no one else really has something to this extent in the Rio Grande Valley,” Mancias said. “It’s a huge covered pavilion with really good lighting and seating. It’s in a location central in McAllen, and it’s just perfect for multi-purpose sports. We have hockey, roller derby, and pickleball.”

On one night, you might find six pickleball courts full of active seniors, and the next morning, a group of special needs athletes breaking a sweat. And by nighttime, again, adult and youth hockey players are practicing on wheels.

Mancias has been a part of numerous initiatives to create more inclusive play and athletic spaces for people with disabilities, including work with the Capable Kids Foundation.

“Our Special Olympics use it for bocce ball in the mornings,” she said. “People with special needs in wheelchairs might not be able to be on grass, but that surface is perfect.”

Pickleball nights are Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m., the fee is $1, and paddles are available to borrow.

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Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been serving Texans through access to nature, birding, fishing, and more for 100 years.

Bentsen State Park is one of 88 Texas State Parks that will be taking part in a centennial celebration.

Bentsen State Park’s Lead Interpreter Roy Rodriguez said he is excited to welcome more visitors to the area.

“A lot of our parks have annual events, but

you’re going to see new events throughout the year to celebrate and bring people in to enjoy these great parks,” Rodriguez said.

Usually, state parks don’t get much publicity. But this year, a campaign will be launched to celebrate and build awareness about the family fun and benefits of getting outdoors to a state park.

“The first state park was created by Texas Governor John Nance Garner,” Rodriguez said. “The centennial is going to be promoted

by Nathaniel Mata | photos by Abe Hernandez
Bentsen State Park Welcomes Visitors to Centennial Celebration with Events Throughout the Year

across the state. We have partnerships with H-E-B and they’re going to be selling items about our centennial. We’re going to have a state park passport to see how many you can visit.”

Bentsen State Park is located at 2800 S. Bentsen Palm Drive (FM 2062) in Mission. The site also serves as the headquarters for the World Birding Center and attracts birding enthusiasts from around the country, and the world, to view rare birds in their migratory path.

Rodriguez and the team he works with put a strong emphasis on education. School groups are common at Bentsen due to TPWD’s policy offering free entry to school groups.

“It’s vitally important for children to get outside and for us to be able to get the word out,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t charge entry; we offer free programs. Whenever we get a call from a school, most of them are nearby, so the La Joya, Mission, and McAllen area, but we get districts from as far as San Antonio.

“We get people from all over the place wanting to experience our unique sights. We can’t minimize the importance of young people getting involved with nature at a young age.”

The site has plenty to offer — from fishing to biking to birding.

“State parks are meant to serve population hubs,” Rodriguez said. “Even in big cities like Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas, they aren’t that far from a state park. Our site is interesting because we have primitive tent camping. We have a fishing lake and we have bird feeding areas.”

The park has seven miles of trail, including 3.5 miles of park road on bike or foot. The 1.8-mile Rio Grande Trail is wheelchair accessible.

Visitors can bring their own bikes or rent bikes for $5 a day. The park also offers tram tours and has a cafe for a quick bite before or after enjoying the trails.

Ranger-guided programs are a good way to learn about the local wildlife. These programs ramp up in the summer with outdoor skill lessons in activities such as kayaking and fishing.

Get active and get in touch with nature! Bentsen State Park is open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at a fee of $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under.




A Flamenco Performance from Madrid

by Sonia Chapa Gomez and Katherine Moore McAllen | photos by Carlos Limas

A La Música is a flamenco dance performance premiering February 13th and 14th, 2023, at UTRGV. This unique event bringing dancers and musicians from Spain and México is organized by Ballet Español Director Sonia Chapa Gomez and Katherine Moore McAllen, Director of the Center for Latin American Arts (CLAA) at UTRGV.

On February 13th, the performance will be held at 10 a.m. at the UTRGV Performing Arts Center in Edinburg. Three performances will continue on February 14th at 10 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.

Professional flamenco dancers Daniel Caballero Pérez and Nerea Carrasco are visiting South Texas from Madrid, Spain, where they perform at famous flamenco tapas venues, or tablaos, and at theatres with other renowned flamenco artists and live musicians.

Caballero Pérez is a fixture on tablao stages around Madrid, and he works frequently with flamenco stars like El Piculabe, guitarist Jeronimo Maya, and La Familia

Losada. He also travels around the world performing and teaching master classes.

Caballero Pérez is not only a professional flamenco dancer but also a celebrated choreographer, talented musician, and innovative composer. This spectacle at UTRGV’s Performing Arts Center, A La Música, is his creation with dazzling original scores, choreography, and light design. The RGV will be the first to experience this original concert in a Valentine’s Day extravaganza in Edinburg with special dinner packages provided by The Sidebar Restaurant.

These performances created by Caballero Pérez will be a captivating flamenco experience to entertain all audiences. The uniqueness of f lamenco dance has roots in Indian, Arabic, and Spanish traditions. As an art form, flamenco dance also exhibits artistic and cultural expressions through the dedication, skill, and passion needed to execute a Ballet Español performance of this

At left, UTRGV Ballet Español Spanish Nights Concert January 2020. At top, UTRGV Ballet Español dancing Tangos during the Spanish Nights Concert January.

At top left, UTRGV Ballet Español dancers doing a Q & A session with local K-12 students after their Spanish Nights performance. At top right, UTRGV Ballet Español dancing Sevillanas during their Spanish Nights dance concert January 2020. At bottom, Chayito Champion taking a bow after her performance with the UTRGV Ballet Español Spanish Nights Concert January 2020.

caliber. The footwork, arm movements, sounds, and rhythms of the music are mesmerizing.

This diverse style of flamenco is the result of the Roma migration from Rajasthan (in northwest India) to Spain between the ninth and 14th centuries. These migrants brought with them musical instruments, such as tambourines, bells, and wooden castanets, and an extensive repertoire of song and dance.

Chapa Gomez, artistic director of Ballet Español at UTRGV, teaches the art of Spanish dance that encompasses a great range of styles, such as bailes folklóricos representing different regions of Spain; flamenco, the art of the gypsies of Spain; and “palos,” such as Alegrías, Tangos, Solea, Bulerías, Siguiriyas, and Escuela Bolera, a style of classical ballet principles that combines typical Spanish arm movements with castanets and flamenco footwork.

The UTRGV Ballet Español group is comprised of

students who learn the flamenco dance art form and present a formal concert once a year. The UTRGV CCLAA has sponsored and supported this group every year since its inception. Last year, the student’s performances provided exciting entertainment for K-12 schools and the RGV community.

The Center for Latin American Arts has also helped this student group travel to San Antonio to perform, which gives them the experience they need to succeed and complete their Bachelor of Arts degrees in dance.

This student group is also presenting flamenco performances for the Spanish Nights Annual Student Concert Series on January 27th and 28th at the UTRGV Performing Arts Complex in Edinburg at 7:30 p.m. On Feb. 13th and 14th, the CLAA sponsored A La Música concert series featuring Caballero Pérez and Carrasco will collaborate with the UTRGV Ballet Español student group as well.


The A La Música concert series organized by the CLAA is made possible by the generous financial support of the Raul Tijerina, Jr. Foundation and the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation. With this funding, the CLAA is also sponsoring master classes in flamenco dance for UTRGV and K-12 students in the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District and the Pharr - San Juan - Alamo Independent School District led by Chapa Gomez and the visiting artists from Madrid.

Additionally, Sidebar Restaurant in Edinburg is collaborating with the CLAA to create a special Valentine’s Day dining experience paired with the A La Música concert series.

Caballero Pérez will also be working to prepare students with a special choreography, which they will perform in the spectacle.

This concert series highlights the special talents of the CLAA, which aims to engage the community by

offering exceptional concerts led by passionate faculty. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity for audiences to learn about Spanish culture and diverse dance forms in affordable concerts at UTRGV during Valentine’s week.

A La Música will have four performances on February 13th and 14th in this Valentine's concert series. For more information about the A La Música Flamenco concert, visit the UTRGV CLAA at https://www.utrgv. edu/claa. To purchase tickets, visit the CLAA and UTRGV Arts website at https://www.utrgv.edu/arts/.

For special Valentine’s Day dinner and concert packages available through Sidebar Restaurant at 215 East University Drive, Edinburg 78539, call (956) 3005165, or for more information, visit their website at https://www.sidebar215.com/.

Follow the CLAA on social media at Instagram @claa. utrgv, Facebook UTRGVCLAA, and the CLAA YouTube channel: Center for Latin American Arts.

Photos provided, Daniel Caballero Pérez and Nerea Carrasco performing at a flamenco tablao in Madrid, Spain 2022.
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