Thursday, March 26, 2009


The County Commissioners discussed a fairly wide variety of issues at their regular meeting on Monday morning, March 9 and their special meeting on Monday morning, March 16.
On March 9, the commissioners voted to name Rose Benavidez as director for the Rio South Texas Economic Council.
County Judge Eloy Vera explained, “The purpose is to promote this region to attract large businesses. We did agree to become members. Rose Benavidez made a presentation supporting this organization. I suggest we name Ms. Benavidez to serve as director.”
Federal/State Programs Coordinator Rafael Montalvo declared about the 2007 ORCA Project, “We’re waiting for the state to allow the drawdown to begin.” He added, “We sent out the application for the Renewable Energy Project.”
The commissioners were told that International Bridge revenues for February 2009 totaled $214,160, an increase of $19,310 from the February 2008 figure of $194,850. The February 2009 total showed a decrease of $11,744.50 from the January 2009 amount of $225,904.50.
At the March 16 special meeting, County Tax Assessor/Collector Carmen A. Pena explained about the February 2009 report, “The revenues not going to the county are going to the hospital and STC (South Texas College).”
Judge Vera commented, “The adjustments make the collection rate seem higher than it actually is. This is not reflected in the original budget. The appraisers say that can’t be avoided. The delinquent attorneys don’t come into the picture until taxes are not paid.”
After brief discussion, the commissioners rejected a resolution to submit an application to the Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) for Colonia Planning.
Montalvo explained, “It looks like the most we can get is $15,000 because not enough people will benefit. This involves a subdivision in Escobares. I question whether we should apply. The $15,000 will not make a dent in what we need.” The commissioners then approved a motion rejecting the application.”
The commissioners approved the Election Equipment Lease/Rental Fee. Montalvo, who is also Elections Administrator, indicated, “It looks like the only election (in May) will be in Grulla. It looks like Escobares and the hospital will cancel.”


The Rio Grande City Police Department is searching for a 39-year-old illegal alien in connection with the murder of a Rio Grande City resident early Saturday morning and the subsequent kidnapping of a passenger inside the murder victim’s car.
Tomas Padilla, 32, of Rio Grande City died almost instantly after being shot at least four times shortly before 3 a.m. Saturday at a residence on Monroe Street. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:55 a.m. by Justice of the Peace Salvador Zarate.
RGCPD Sergeant Detective Roberto Ramirez indicated Monday afternoon that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Rodolfo DeLeon Gonzalez. He noted that two other suspects are also being sought. One suspect is nicknamed “Sobrino” and the other suspect has the nickname “Morro.”
Ramirez declared, “It is our understanding that Gonzalez does have a past criminal history.” He stressed, “We are attempting to find out the full names of the other two suspects.”
The detective noted, “On Saturday, March 21 at roughly 3:35 a.m., officers were dispatched to 335 East Monroe Street in reference to a man that had been shot. When officers arrived, they went inside a residence and found a man’s body lying in a pool of blood. He was lying face down and was already deceased.”
“The suspects had fled through the rear door of the residence,” indicated Ramirez. “We are currently looking for three individuals…All three individuals are illegal aliens.”
He explained, “The victim called his ex-girlfriend at around 2:30 a.m. and said he wanted to see her. He entered the inside of the residence and got into an argument and scuffle with the three suspects, who were sleeping on the living room floor. Four or five shots were fired, with all hitting his (the victim’s) body.”
The detective stated, “We didn’t find a weapon. We found four casings from a .38 caliber handgun. The shots were fired at close range; it was a small room.”
“We don’t yet know what the argument was about; eventually the argument turned to fighting,” declared Ramirez. “Two women residing in the house heard the argument and the shots.”
Ramirez added, “When the suspects fled through the rear door, they came across Padilla’s vehicle in the alleyway. The motor of the vehicle was running. There was a young adult male in the front seat. One of the suspects placed a pistol against the man’s neck…They (then) took off in the vehicle.”
Ramirez noted that “the car driven away from the scene of the shooting was a silver Chrysler passenger vehicle.”
The investigator continued, “One subject still had a gun against the victim’s neck (as the vehicle sped away)…All three suspects had separate handguns…They drove to see of the bridge was still open. They went on a gravel road east of Rio Grande City and forced the man in the back seat to get in the front seat and drive, with the gun still being placed against his neck.”
“They (then) drove east toward Mission and McAllen on Highway 83, got off the freeway, drove several miles north of U.S. 83 and stopped at a residence that was dark,” added Ramirez. “The suspects told the man to move away quickly from the residence or he would be shot. The man then drove away as quickly as possible and made it back to Rio Grande City.”
Ramirez emphasized, “Right now we have a homicide and a kidnapping.”
The detective noted, “One of the suspects sustained some kind of cut and was bleeding (during the abduction and flight from Rio Grande City).”
Ramirez stressed that the investigation into the murder and subsequent kidnapping is continuing. He said that persons with knowledge about the two incidents are strongly encouraged to call RGC Crimestoppers at 487-8477 or the RGCPD at 487-8892. All information will be kept confidential.
Ramirez noted that federal agencies are assisting the RGCPD in its investigation of the two violent episodes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

RGCHS Class of 1985 plans 25th reunion


The Rio Grande City High School Class of 1985 met on Saturday, Feb. 28 at Denny’s to discuss preparations for the 25-year class reunion. The reunion events are scheduled for Oct. 22-24, 2009. Planning Committee members are pictured above as follows: Standing (back row) left to right: Arnoldo Alaniz, Monica (Chapa) Aguilar, Anna (Trillayes) Elizondo, Teresa Barrera, Anabel Garza; Second row l-r: Theresa (Falcon) Saenz, Iliana Olivarez, Aissa (Garza) Diaz; Seated l-r: Transito Rivas, Vanessa (Olivarez) Cruz and Calixtro Villarreal. Not pictured is Luis Trevino. The next meeting will be held on Saturday, March 28 at 4 p.m. at El Mexicano Restaurant in Escobares. A class leader emphasized, “We extend a warm invitation to all our classmates to join us at this important planning meeting.” For more information, contact organizers Theresa Saenz at 735-7278, Transito Rivas at 844-1974, and Iliana Olivarez at 573-5754.

STC club brings Valley heritage to life at Starr County festival


South Texas College’s Border Studies Club will host a Cultural Festival at the college’s Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City on Thursday, March 26 at 6 to 9 p.m. The event celebrates the Rio Grande Valley’s rich cultural heritage.
The club was founded by STC History Instructor Elizandro Muñoz Jr. with the idea of promoting and preserving the rich cultural history, traditions and lifestyle of the region.
“History helps us learn about the past and understand where we came from,” said Muñoz. “The valley has a great story to tell, and we invite people to come and enjoy what promises to be both an educational and fun event for people of all ages. The event is free and we invite the community to visit the STC Starr County Campus and enjoy an evening of rich cultural entertainment.”
Scheduled to perform are the Mercedes Mariachi Nuevo Sendero. The Bear Clan will also set up a tepee and display original bows and arrows, perform demonstrations on how to make arrow heads, as well as show fire starting with flints and more. Living history performers will wear period costumes and provide demonstrations and exhibits on 1800's spinning and weaving and fur trapping. The Texas Apache people will also display artifacts.
The Tejano Cookers will set up a campsite with a 100-year-old Chuck Wagon from which they will make and serve Pan de Campo. Local musician and award winning and nationally recognized artist, Roel Flores will display artwork with local valley themes. Flores’ artwork emphasizes Conjunto music themes.
For more information about the event or STC’s Border Studies Club, contact Elizandro Muñoz at or at 973-7630.


New economic recovery investment will create jobs, strengthen public transportation
Washington, DC – Congressman Henry Cuellar today announced that the federal economic recovery bill will provide $243,000 to the Community Action Council of South Texas to assist with its public transportation system.
Specifically, the agency will use the money to purchase three 8-12-passenger busses equipped for persons with disabilities and two seven-passenger vans. Each of the three busses has been designated for Duval, Jim Hogg, and Zapata counties, while the two vans will be used by Starr County residents. The transportation system has its presence in rural areas and is mostly used by residents for various purposes, including visits to the doctor’s office, trips to the grocery store, and for recreational activities.
“This is one more way that the economic recovery bill is creating jobs and strengthening our economy in counties served by the Community Action Council of South Texas,” said Congressman Cuellar. “In these challenging economic times, these funds will help strengthen the Community Action Council of South Texas to help employees get to work, help families get to the store, and help drive our economy forward.”
Three of the four counties – Jim Hogg, Starr, and Zapata – served by the Community Action Council of South Texas are in Congressman Cuellar’s 28th District.


Washington, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives today voted overwhelmingly to pass the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009, major legislation that invests $18.7 billion over five years in strengthening America’s wastewater infrastructure. Included in the bill were amendments authored by Congressman Henry Cuellar that call for new studies of wastewater discharge into the Rio Grande and of colonias’ water infrastructure needs.
“A clean and plentiful water supply is critical to public health, and it is the foundation of economic success for every household, every business, and every farm in Texas,” said Congressman Cuellar. “This bill, and the amendments I authored, will help build and maintain the water infrastructure that the Texas economy depends on. Just as importantly, the bill will create 480,000 jobs over the next five years, helping to strengthen today’s economy even as it improves tomorrow’s water supply.”
The first of Congressman Cuellar’s amendments would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in consultation with the State Department, the Mexican government, the International Boundary Waters Commission, and state and local governments, to study wastewater treatment facilities that discharge into the Rio Grande River and provide recommendations to improve monitoring, information sharing, and cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Families and communities living on the Rio Grande depend on the river for their health and livelihood,” Congressman Cuellar said. “Especially in the midst of an ongoing drought, the quality of the Rio Grande is of critical importance to Texas communities.”
Pollution from both sides of the border poses a significant threat to the Rio Grande’s water quality. According to the Congressional Research Service, pollution on the Mexican side mainly consists of raw sewage from urban areas pouring directly into the river, while pollution from the American side includes industrial and agricultural waste products.
Congressman Cuellar’s second amendment would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study rural water infrastructure in colonias along the U.S.-Mexico border, specifically examining the colonias’ comprehensive planning needs relating to water and wastewater infrastructure.
“This study will provide a blueprint for future Congressional action to provide basic utility service to colonias,” Congressman Cuellar said. “It is the first step toward helping colonias develop into more modern and economically viable communities.”
During his time as a state legislator, Congressman Cuellar passed the landmark H.B. 1001 to help stop the growth of colonias in Texas.
Congressman Cuellar’s amendments were incorporated into a broader package of amendments offered on the floor by Congressman James Oberstar of Minnesota. The amendment passed without opposition, and the broader legislation later passed by 317-101. The bill now goes to the Senate for further action.

“Cooking Classes on Diabetes”

On Educational program to help people with type 2 diabetes on how to prepare their meals will be conducted in April at the Starr County Extension office.
Learning what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat is a key part of learning to take care of blood sugar levels. Choosing your food wisely can help you feel better from day to day, lose weight if you need to, and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other problems caused by diabetes.
A healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of all your favorite foods. At the “Cooking Well with Diabetes” class you will learn more about what’s right for you – a healthy diet that includes moderate amounts of your favorite dishes.
The information presented is one you can depend on. Classes are based on the latest research and meet the current national standards of the American Diabetes Association.
To “sign up” for the free classes you need to c all the Extension office at 487-2306.
There will be a total of 4-5 classes. The classes will start at 10am and run for about 2 hours and will be held at the Extension office located at 500 North Britton in Rio Grande City.
The thought of going on a diet can make one feel overwhelmed. However, diet is not only about eating less of the foods that you love or about losing weight – it is more about making lifestyle changes that you can enjoy and stay with.
If you have questions feel free to call Yolanda Morado at 487-2306.

Manuel Medrano spins tales of Valley’s rich history at STC’s Mid-Valley Campus

The people, traditions and culture of the Rio Grande Valley make up a tapestry of stories and tales woven together to create one unique history. Author Dr. Manuel F. Medrano knows a great deal about this rich history, and his latest book of poetry, “In Body and Mind/En Cuerpo y Mente” chronicles the cultural and genealogical roots of his own family and other families like his on the border.
The noted educator and author shares his knowledge of Valley history and reads excerpts from his book at South Texas College’s Mid-Valley Campus auditorium (G-191) on March 25 at 7 p.m. The event, which is sponsored by STC’s Mid-Valley Campus Reading Committee, is free and open to the public.
Medrano has a faculty member at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College for more than 30 years and he was recently honored as the recipient of the Chancellor’s Council Outstanding Teaching Award. In additional to his bilingual poetry book, he has also produced an oral history project, “Los del Valle,” about Valley people, traditions, and culture.
“We are truly honored to have Dr. Medrano share his work with the audience, as his poems speak volumes about the cultural fabric of the region,” said STC English Instructor Laura Steinert. “We hope the event will both introduce the community to his beautiful poetry and highlight the creative and limitless talent of our local authors.”
The program is made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information contact Laura Steinert at 956-447-6619 or by e-mail at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

STC summit on college access proves helpful


College students and administrators are pictured at South Texas College’s fourth annual summit on college access and success in March 2009. From left are Pricilla Hinojosa, MISD project manager for STC; STC President Shirley A. Reed; and Jessica Ray Rincones, a student in STC’s MCCTI Program, with her parents Nancy and Ruben Rincones.

Starr Residents Inducted Into Walk of Fame


Two Starr County residents of Rio Grande City, Alberto Barrera and Ruben Saenz, along with 38 other Rio Grande Valley residents, were inducted into The Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame in an Induction Ceremony held at the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo on Wednesday, March 4, 2009.
The Walk celebrates life, achievements and significant civic contributions of outstanding men and women in all walks of life to communities in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. Alberto Barrera was nominated by the City of Rio Grande City and Ruben Saenz by the Rio Grande City Chamber of Commerce.
The nominees were selected to the Walk of Fame by the City of Hidalgo, the BorderFest Association, the Hidalgo Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Hidalgo Texas Municipal Facilities Corporation. Inductees were presented a keepsake brick with his/her name inscribed on it.
As each inductee came forward to receive his/her award from Eduardo Vela, Chairman of the Board of the Hidalgo Chamber of Commerce, his/her most significant accomplishments were announced by John David Franz, Mayor of the City of Hidalgo, to the hundreds of persons in attendance at the noteworthy event.
Each inductee was honored by having a 12”x12” brick paving stone inscribed with his/her name and the wording; “The Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame, 2009”, which has been permanently placed on the main sidewalk at the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo.


A La Rosita man is very likely to face federal charges in the near future related to the discovery of a pipe bomb at a residence in La Rosita on Thursday, Feb. 19.
Eduardo David Rosa, 50, also faces local charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. Rio Grande City Police Chief B.A. “Dutch” Piper indicated Monday that crack cocaine and 106 pounds of marijuana, along with a pipe bomb, were discovered at a residence on Highway 83 in La Rosita.
Piper stated, “The Rio Grande City Police Department, the Starr County Interdiction Task Force, and the Starr County Sheriff’s Department conducted a narcotics search warrant at a residence on West Highway 83 in La Rosita…The raid took place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 19.”
Piper added, “ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) was called in due to the discovery of the pipe bomb and took over the investigation involving the pipe bomb…Charges by ATF are pending against Rosa.”
The chief noted, “The pipe bomb was about 10 inches long and one inch wide.”
Elias Bazan, Resident Agent in Charge at the McAllen ATF Office, declared on Monday, “ATF is following up with federal charges in that matter. It’s likely to be one count of possession of a destructive device.”
“Apparently, it was an old device that had been there for some time,” explained Bazan. “It’s a smaller device than we’re accustomed to seeing; it involved plastic pipe.”
Piper indicated that a handgun and shotgun were also confiscated in the La Rosita raid on Thursday.


A mechanic from Rio Grande City was released from a McAllen hospital Friday evening after being wounded several hours earlier in a drive-by ambush shooting on FM 755 just north of Rio Grande City.
Sheriff’s Department Captain Larry Fuentes indicated Monday that Jose Luis Rios, 42, was released from McAllen Medical Center early Friday evening, Feb. 27 after being injured by a gunshot at some time just before or just after 4 p.m. that day.
Fuentes stated, “The incident was reported to the Sheriff’s Department at 4:43 p.m. Friday. Deputies were dispatched to Starr County Memorial Hospital about an individual with a gunshot wound to his chest.”
Fuentes continued, “He (the victim) said the shooting occurred north of Rio Grande City on FM 755. He said he took off at 3:30 p.m. to test drive a vehicle he had worked on. He said that when he passed the 755 Quick Stop store, the vehicle began to overheat. He pulled over and began to work on the car.”
“He said he (then) heard a loud bang as he was closing the hood and felt a pain in his chest,” added the captain. “He had turned around and was headed southbound on FM 755. He was facing the highway; he pulled down the hood and that’s when he heard a loud bang.”
Fuentes declared, “He described a black pickup truck of unknown make or model heading north. He drove back to Rio Motors, and one of his co-workers drove him to the hospital.”
Fuentes explained, “It looks like a small caliber weapon was used.”
The captain concluded, “We’re continuing to investigate the case. We’re still trying to determine a motive.” He emphasized that anyone with information about this incident is strongly encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Department at 487-5571. All information will be kept confidential.


A 24-year-old Rio Grande City man is currently being held without bond on a murder charge in the fatal shooting of an acquaintance in the early morning hours on Saturday.
Juan R. Requenez, 22, of Rio Grande City was fatally shot shortly after 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28. The shooting occurred outside a residence located at Teodora and Carter Streets in Rio Grande City. Requenez was shot while seated inside a pickup truck.
Gerardo Echavarria, Jr., 24, of Rio Grande City was arrested shortly after the shooting and charged with first degree murder. He was arraigned on Saturday morning before Municipal Judge Leo Lopez, Jr., who denied bond.
Rio Grande City Police Chief B.A. “Dutch” Piper indicated, “On Saturday at 2:45 a.m., the Rio Grande City Police Department received three 9-1-1calls about a shooting outside a residence located at Teodora and Carter Streets in Rio Grande City.”
Piper added, “Officers responded to the scene and found an individual slumped over in the driver’s side of a late model single cab Ford pickup. He had sustained multiple gunshot wounds. The suspect was there at the scene and was arrested.”
“The victim was shot at least four times,” stated the chief. “He was hit in the face and in the mid-torso area. The gunman was on the outside of the truck to the left of the victim.”
Requenez was pronounced dead at the scene by Justice of the Peace Ricardo Pena. An autopsy was scheduled to be performed on Monday afternoon, March 2.
Piper declared, “The shots were apparently fired at very close range. The weapon, a .40 caliber handgun, was recovered at the scene. We recovered several casings as well.”
Piper noted that “the gunman did not resist arrest and was captured at the scene.”
The chief explained, “There had been an argument and a scuffle prior to the shooting. After the scuffle, the victim got into his truck and the shots were fired…There were some people nearby, but we don’t know if they witnessed the shooting.”
“At this point, we don’t know for sure what the argument was about,” continued Piper. “…From what we’ve heard, the argument might have been over a female. We don’t know exactly what transpired…From what we understand, the gunman and victim were friends.”
Piper emphasized that investigation into the slaying is continuing.