Undivided: Ceremony underscores lasting U.S.-Mexico bonds

March 1, 2019

Hands Across the Border, an annual Charro Days event celebrating the ties between Brownsville and Matamoros and honoring the new Mr. Amigo, took place Thursday under partly cloudy skies and flitting swallows on the Gateway International Bridge.

A highlight of the gathering was the exchange of national flags and gifts between children from Brownsville and Matamoros dressed in festive traditional costumes. The national anthems of the United States and Mexico were sung. Officials from both sides of the border exchanged gifts, praised each other and made speeches centered on the theme of unity between the two cities and their respective nations.

Arturo Elias Ayub, Mr. Amigo 2018, echoed the sentiment in his remarks, saying he lacked the words to adequately express how honored and grateful he felt for the recognition and hospitality from his Brownsville hosts. Marisela Cortez, representing U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela’s office at the ceremony, presented Ayub with a framed Congressional Record saluting him for a 30-year-plus career as a “distinguished, businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist” and highlighting the bond between the two countries.

“There isn’t a line or boundary that can eradicate the memories and friendships that have flourished over the generations,” Vela wrote in the Congressional Register, which will be kept in the Library of Congress.

Ayub, from Mexico City, is one of Mexico’s highest profile executives, currently serving as CEO of the philanthropic giant Telmex Foundation, director of UNO TV and director of strategic alliances for America Movil, Latin America’s largest wireless provider. He’s also a panelist on Shark Tank Mexico. During the ceremony Ayub was presented with an ornate, fringed Tamaulipeca jacket, which he modeled for the crowd of spectators and media.

Hands Across the Border has been around for 32 years, though this year’s event, with its heavy law enforcement and customs presence, took on a particular resonance with the political spotlight trained so intensely on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border.

Among the several dignitaries on stage were Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez and Mario Alberto Lopez, mayor of Matamoros. Sounding a theme touched on by most of the speakers, Martinez emphasized that “we are one family.”

“It is a good time for all of us to relax,” he said. “Learn how to love one another. Learn what’s it like, because we are one human family.”

State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. also spoke in terms of bi-national unity, insisting that “we belong to one another.”

“I wish that our Legislature and our leadership in Austin and the Congress and the leadership in Washington had witnessed what we have today,” he said.

Of the morning’s speakers, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño drove home the point most forcefully, saying people everywhere should understand that “we are safe and secure en la frontera (on the border).”

“I want to make sure that it’s clear to anyone in Washington or throughout the country that has an idea that the border ... is insecure, and especially here in the Rio Grande Valley, that we are not a political football,” he said. “We are human beings. We are two nations joined by the river, not divided by it. In Cameron County, we love our Mexican family and our Mexican neighbors.”