Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) hosted a meeting at TAMIU to discuss the treat of the Zika virus in Texas, and how it affects Laredo as a border city. Officials of the meeting discussed the actions that were being taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Aside from the efforts of the federal government, they discussed the efforts taken by state, local, and international agencies. Their discussions explored how all of these levels of governments could cooperate for the health of their citizens. Alongside the congressman were high-ranking officials from the CDC, as well as other government officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the State of Texas and the Texas Department of State Health Services, the City of Laredo Health Department, Webb County, and representatives from the Laredo hospitals and hospital from Nuevo Laredo. With those officials were also representatives from universities including TAMIU, universities from Mexico, and University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The Zika virus began its spread form infected mosquitos similar to the West Nile virus. Common symptoms from the virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. The virus is not extremely lethal, and those who catch symptoms do not feel sick enough to go to the hospital. However, the Zika virus is seen problematic for women infected during pregnancy. It has been causing birth defects for newborns that have been fatal. On the brighter side, once someone has been infected, they are likely to be protected from future infections The first confirmed infection originated in Brazil in May 2015. From there, it spread across Latin America and the Caribbean. Just recently, a Zika virus related death was confirmed in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and other American island territories. There have been 358 confirmed travel-associated cases of the Zika virus in 40 American states. 27 of those cases were in Texas. However, there have been no cases or reports of the Zika virus in Webb County or the border area. The discussions brought upon by the congressman and the other officials plays in part with Cuellar’s understandings of international affairs. Cuellar takes into much consideration for the need of inter-governmental and international cooperation. The Zika virus, alongside all of Mother Nature, pays no regard to national boundaries and governments. Doing so, nations and agencies need to come together in the common goal of human health. The amount of representation from both the United States and Mexico was remarkable, and it contradicts the rhetoric coming from presidential candidates that accuse and misjudge our Mexican neighbors and the border region. “The Zika virus disease is a reminder of how we must stay vigilant against biological and physical threats at our borders,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar. “While the news seems alarming, no cases have been reported in South Texas. However, it is concerning because of the rapid spread of the disease and the birth defects it causes in pregnant women” concluded Cuellar.
The Bridge News had the delightful honor of meeting and interviewing Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz. The interview was held in Killam Library, and conducted openly with students continuing on with their daily studies. Saenz was elected mayor in 2014, succeeding Raul Salinas. His term ends in 2018, but he plans on considering reelection. Saenz considers himself “different” than his predecessor. Unlike the previous mayor, he aims to remain neutral. Personally, Saenz has both liberal and conservative views like many Laredoans. When Saenz was elected, he came in as the outsider. He was the independent candidate coming from a professional career in law. He has good relations with the city manager, but he does acknowledge some of the gridlock in in city government. There is some divide between the Laredo establishment and new voices emerging in Laredo’s government. Saenz is one of one them, and understands the people who voted for him wanted change from the old institutions. With Laredo being a city that lives and breathes on economic trade, Saenz has been pushing for ways to create more and new jobs. Laredo’s populations grows by the day, and though he gave a modest number of 260,000, the city is probably pushing 300,000. With the city growing at a rapid rate, he understands that employment must also grow as well. Voter participation was also a large concern for the mayor. He takes note that many people in Laredo do not vote, which inhibits the democratic process. However, Saenz recognized the some of the political enthusiasm coming out of the presidential election. He was pleased with the amount of younger people becoming politically active, and hopes that their enthusiasm could reflect local politics as well. Likewise, Saenz was impressed in the student’s efforts to discuss local politics and be further involved with civil affairs. Concerning the city’s growth, Saenz has been working with different parties in looking to allocate funding and support into completing and maximizing Loop 20’s potentials. Performing these feats requires Saenz’ neutrality. He understands that to achieve such construction, he would have to cooperate with Democrats in the city and Republicans in the state legislature. Recently here on campus, a controversial petition was presented. The petition was originally intended to appear on the November ballot, and if passed, will add some strength to the mayor’s veto power. The petition comes as a reflex to some of the gridlock seen in the city council. Saenz does favor this. He understands that Laredoans elected him for a reason, and understands that legislations needs to get done. This gridlock cannot go on forever. He does not want the city’s government to look like the current U.S. Congress. Saenz was interviewed on FOX Business a few months ago where he was asked about some of the proposed plans by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Though he does not have full confidence that Republicans will be achieving the White House, he did share his thoughts on the matter. He strongly acknowledges that harming relations with Mexico would cause severe economic damage to Laredo, other border cities, and the state of Texas. Saenz also agrees with the state legislature on their opposition to Trump’s proposals. He also knows that the increased presence of federal authorities in Laredo, such as the Department of Homeland Security and possibly the military, would turn the city from the one of the largest land ports to a defense fort. Laredo’s international trade would become a service to the military industrial complex. Though the heavy rhetoric coming from the Republican field is supported among their voters, Saenz feels confident to know that Laredo, for the most part, rejects these ideals. “If you remove yourself from the border area, it is very easy to say ‘build a wall’,” said Saenz Saenz believes that the people of Laredo, who are immigrants themselves or first-generation Americans, understand the plight of national acceptance. Laredo is mainly a Hispanic/Mexican-American city, but he agrees that the city and its people would be very welcoming to other foreigners of different background. Laredo may be relatively homogenous, but it does excel in tolerance. “Laredo is very welcoming. We’re good people,” he said. Saenz is definitely a man who understand the city, and its needs. He stays and works here for a reason. He hopes that more people, especially the young and educated, will consider staying in and improving Laredo, a growing city that is still worth investing in.
Several TAMIU students and community members participated in a fashion show benefiting the Border Region Behavioral Health Center on April 27. Photos by I.M. Kero
By Daniela Rodriguez, Student Contributor As a student of Texas A&M International University, I am very proud to be part of a great community within a great city. I live near Merida Avenue, which is only a 15 minute car ride to TAMIU. However, when I ride the bus, travelling takes more than two hours. Besides myself, many other students struggle with the same situation. Throughout the eight months I have been riding the bus, I have realized the city needs to expand their routes and schedules, add the number of the route to every post, and add a map to every bus stop. It is necessary that the proper authorities realize Laredo is growing rapidly, and that they should expand their routes to accommodate this growth. For example, according to El Metro Transit website, there are 22 bus routes covering the Laredo area, but none of them take you to newly-opened Alamo Draft House on East Point Drive, which is located in a rapidly booming and northernmost area of town. Similarly, bus services for the southern area of Laredo must be expanded as well. Like its northern counterpart, it is also growing at a substantial rate. Unfortunately, only three routes cover this area: Route 14 (Santa Rita), Route 19 (Santo Niño) and Route 20 (Los Angeles). The average wait time for an individual taking these routes ranges from 70-90 minutes. Regarding the schedules of El Metro Transit, they must be expanded to adapt to Laredo’s growth. Personally, I need to take two different buses in order to get home. The first one is Route 16, which covers the TAMIU area, and it takes me downtown to the transit center where I must take Route 19 to get home. Route 19 only has one bus which takes more than an hour to complete its crossing. This means that if Route 16 is delayed, I must wait downtown for an hour to wait for the next Route 19 bus. Also, I have noticed that some routes end too early, which causes problems for workers who leave work late at night and to students who cannot enroll in night classes or have to leave during class to take the last bus. Finally, I must mention the lack of maps at bus stops. A few months ago at a bus stop, I ran into a woman who was visiting Laredo. She asked me which route we were on. That made me realize the lack of maps and route numbers at all bus stops. It is difficult to get to know a city when there is no transportation capable of giving access to all areas of the city to its citizens and visitors. The first time I rode the bus, I had no idea where it would take me. If I had not been able to check the route schedule on my phone, I do not know what could have happened. I encourage El Metro Transit to observe and improve these problems mentioned above. The people of Laredo deserve a better bus system. Laredo is the largest international port in the country, and many workers from Mexico use the bus to travel to and from work. Ensuring a better public transportation for not only students, but transnational workers as well, ensures a stronger economic future for our city. I know that I am not the only person dealing with this problem. I hope when the authorities read this, they see what can be improved and work towards building a better Laredo.
Rodriguez invites all readers to participate in the following survey. The results will be presented to officials at City Hall on April 18th at 5:30 P.M: