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Archive for August, 2011

Dan Millis has witnessed first-hand the human tragedy and environmental devastation unfolding daily along the U.S.-Mexico border. Shortly after finding the lifeless body of a young girl along a migrant trail in Arizona, Dan was convicted of littering for leaving bottles of  clean water in the same area. He now works for the Sierra Club in Tucson fighting on behalf of the people and places victimized by border walls and enforcement-only politics.

On two evenings, Dan will discuss the impacts of flawed U.S. border policy and how you can make a difference. Please join us Monday evening, August 22nd at 7:00 pm at Galeria 409 in Brownsville or Tuesday August 23rd at 7:00 pm at St. John the  Baptist Parish Hall in San Juan.

Directions to Galeria 409, 409 E. 13th St.: From Expressway 77/83 in Brownsville, exit International and go south. Turn right onto Washington. Turn left on E 12th. Turn left on Levee St. Turn left onto E 13th. Galeria 409 is on the left in the middle of the block between Levee and Elizabeth streets. Parking is available at meters on Levee and Elizabeth, and there’s a big parking lot on Levee and E 12th. Call Mark at 455-3599 for further directions.

Directions to St John the Baptist Parish Hall, 216 W. 1st St.: From Expressway 83, exit San Juan/FM 1426 and turn south. Turn right on 1st St.  You will see the tower on the right.  The Parish Hall is just past the tower.  Parking is on the west and north side of the church complex.  Call 453-0754 for further directions.

For more information contact lrgvsierraclub@gmail.com. Co-sponsored by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club, Call to Action-RGV, Equal Voice Network, Galeria 409, Holy Spirit Peace and Justice Community, Pax Christi, and People for Peace and Justice.

To learn more about these issues, visit http://www.sierraclub.org/borderlands and www.nomoredeaths.org, and read The Death of Josseline by Margaret Regan 2010, Beacon Press Books.

Download a Deaths in the Desert flyer to share with your friends.

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In May 2010, McAllen voters decided the fate of the McAllen Botanical Garden.  Asked to choose between a new 40-court tennis complex and preserving the site as a forested nature park, McAllen residents chose to preserve their forest.  Now this act has gone down in history—literally.

The timeline of the exquisite new history book by Eileen Mattei, Leading the Way: McAllen’s First 100 Years (McAllen Chamber of Commerce, 2011) includes the following sentence under the 2010 entry: “Citizens organize to save the McAllen Botanical Garden and the 1960s-era Civic Center.”

In addition, the long history of the park is recaptured in the 1962 timeline entry:  “Valley Botanical Garden, a preserve of palms and native plants providing habitat for horned lizards and indigo snakes, opens.  Norman Heard arranged to train mentally handicapped people here.”

These entries in McAllen’s official history book are an encouraging sign that McAllen citizens are reembracing the Botanical Garden  as a part of their heritage and will renew their more than 50-year-old commitment to this land by restoring and preserving it.  Such a project could have an impact beyond the establishment of a single park.  It could rekindle a passion for urban conservation in McAllen.

An organization of citizen volunteers formed the Valley Botanical Garden Association and on August 1, 1960 signed a lease with the City of McAllen for the property, establishing the Valley Botanical Gardens on the site before the park opened in 1962.

Conservation was a central part of the original 1960 mission of the Botanical Garden.  The founding Valley Botanical Garden Association committed to “conserve the Valley’s native flora for future generations.”   In 2011, we are the future generations they were preserving the Garden for.  Now it is our job to carry on this mission, to emulate the far-sighted citizens who came before us, and to preserve the Botanical Garden and the other remaining forested areas of McAllen for our children and grandchildren.

In her book, Mattei relates McAllen history through a series of turning points: the founding of the town, the early arrival of National Guard troops for training, the construction of the Hidalgo-Reynosa International bridge, and the establishment of the Foreign Trade Zone.

It would be wonderful to read in the history books years from now that 2010 was a turning point as well—one that ushered in a new  era of urban forest and green space conservation in McAllen and in the Valley.  History has shown that a group of determined, passionate citizens working together with their leaders can make this happen.

Copies of Leading the Way are available for purchase at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.  In addition, there are several copies available to check out from the McAllen Public Library.

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