It still astonishes me that I could have grown up so near to the Rio Grande Valley, but that I would have to move further away, spending four years in Austin, three months in D.C., and one month in LA to actually fully appreciate what was so near for so long and yet under-appreciated.
I am always told, both by people in a position to actually know and those who parrot the supposedly better informed, that LA, Austin and DC are the places to be, and the Valley is next to nothing. Yet, given the choice of where to locate for the long term, I’d pick the valley. If you know me, you already know why I think DC is next to nothing. LA is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there: Too many “liberals,” not enough guns. Like so WAY totally superficial. Pretty buildings, pretty faces, empty minds and hearts. (Nowhere is perfect; there are still reasons to like it: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,903069,00.html?iid=chix-del )
Austin, despite being the California-liberal enclave of Texas, is the best of the three in terms of actual substance, but it lacks some of the other things LA has: the palm trees, the citrus groves, the beach, the fertile soil, frost-free temperatures, and it’s somewhat further from Mexico. And it doesn’t really have that relish for life that you see in places where you can stick virtually anything in the ground and it’ll grow. Because we’re on the wrong side of the US (western sides of continents tend to possess milder climates), there’s really only one place in Texas that falls in this category, the Rio Grande Valley.
Besides, LA and DC make great terrorist targets. The world will end before anyone decides to avenge Abu Ghraib in McAllen. (Where?)
Despite its relative lack of notoriety, the Valley’s combined current population actually surpasses that of Austin. It doesn’t have Sixth Street, but it does have South Padre. And it, along with our great state (http://www.themonitor.com/articles/percent_22378___article.html/unemployment_state.html ), continues to grow at an astounding rate (http://www.valleymorningstar.com/articles/economy_25866___article.html/ ).
Unlike LA, it seems the Valley’s culminating era lies in the future, which means it is a place yet to be made. This can be inspiring to those who do not like to take what they are given but prefer to forge their own way. LA has in the past been called, “100 communities in search of a city.” That’s not as true for LA today as it is for the Valley, with no defining major center of population. There’s McAllen and Brownsville, roughly of equal size, and a number of 50,000ish and 25,000ish (in terms of pop.) cities, but they are so regularly dispersed as to make one wonder whether they should each be taken as their own city or considered as a whole. I have a feeling, though, that one day this valley too will find its city.
Spanish is far more commonly spoken in the Valley than in the other cities of comparison. This I prefer, as I am attempted to teach myself the language. This proximity to Mexico, in terms of culture, language, and geography, is ideal from my point of view, because I think that America’s is not the future to be betting on. Demographics are often destiny, and on this count Mexico defeats the stale-liberal-interventionist cultural tendencies of the United States hands down. If things get bad here and Texas doesn’t wise up, I want an out, even if it’s just a chance to run straight to a Mexican airport and take the next flight to Chile (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Chile ).
The RGV can certainly speak for itself, as the following pictures making comparisons to Cali can attest, so I won’t let my comments run on. But when I recall the little and negative (poverty, drugs, “Mexico” - like those are all inherently bad things) attention the Valley usually gets, I am often reminded of a phenomenon familiar to all those younger people told that “if they want to get anywhere in life, they have to stay in school.” Sometimes I feel like this is repeated more often to children who attend school than any real knowledge. If school really is so great, it would be self-evident, children would want to be there, and you wouldn’t have to be constantly threatening them with utter-ruin to keep them there. The fact that kids must constantly be told how great school is and how terrible the alternatives are points to the school system’s utter and apparent bankruptcy. So it is to a certain extent with America’s great cities, that came to prominence in a long-past era of laissez-faire. DC, LA, et al, to a great extent live off their reputations; they are mere shells of their former selves, weighed down by the stagnation of excessive unliberal and unprogressive policies. If you’re looking for the future in the U.S., I’d look elsewhere. To ignore one of the fastest growing, economically dynamic areas in our country because it doesn’t fit the typical modern American mold is utter fallacy. And like the world’s future considered at large, it will look a lot less American than you suspect.
LA on the left; RVG on the right.