Mr. Amigo 2016-17 delivers powerful message of solidarity at Charreada

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Mr. Amigo 2016-17 Fernando Landeros Verdugo, founder of Fundación Teletón, which has raised funds for more than 20 years to support children with disabilities and cancer, addresses the standing-room-only audience at Charreada 2017, hosted by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Texas Southmost College on Thursday, Feb. 23. Both campus communities joined the 80th annual Charro Days festivities to welcome Mr. Amigo at the Charreada event, held in partnership with the Mr. Amigo Association, Charro Days and Sombrero Festival. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

 Texas Border Business

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – FEB. 24, 2017 – Solidarity, mutual respect and a call for peace were the overriding themes of Charreada 2017, hosted by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Texas Southmost College on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Both campus communities joined the 80th annual Charro Days festivities to welcome Mr. Amigo, Fernando Landeros Verdugo for the Charreada event, held in partnership with the Mr. Amigo Association, Charro Days and Sombrero Festival.

Numerous civic and political dignitaries from both sides of the U.S./Mexico border attended, with emcee Tania Leal, weather anchor for Telemundo, welcoming the standing-room-only audience in SETB Lecture Hall on the TSC Campus.

Representing UTRGV was Veronica Gonzales, vice president for Governmental and Community Relations; representing TSC was Melinda Rodriguez, vice president of Institutional Advancement and Workforce Training.

“Charro Days was born out of the Great Depression,” Gonzales said. “Those were dark days, and local business leaders were looking for something to lift the spirits of the community. It worked, because 80 years later, Charro Days continues to be a shining example of international harmony and friendship between two cities, from two countries with a long and rich history to commemorate.”

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After the presentation of the U.S. and Mexican colors and the national anthems of both countries, UTRGV Folklórico Tizatlán performed a rousing norteño dance typical of the border state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Then, children from the TSC Raul J. Guerra Child Development Center stole the show, dressed as little charros, with a heart-warming performance of the Jarabe Tapatío, a dance from the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Gonzales introduced the three U.S. congressional representatives from Texas in the audience: Congressman Filemón Vela (TX 34), from Brownsville, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX 15) from McAllen, and Congressman Beto O’Rourke (TX 16) from El Paso. Each spoke briefly of their support for cross-border cultural and economic ties.

Leal introduced Mr. Amigo, the founder of Fundación Teletón, which has raised funds for more than 20 years to support children with disabilities and cancer. Fundación Teletón has a presence throughout Latin America and in San Antonio, Texas. The TeletonUSA Children’s Rehabilitation Institute (CRIT) is located near Toyota Field and Heroes Stadium in San Antonio.

Landeros referenced having just participated in the iconic “handshake across the river” that occurs between Brownsville and Matamoros, in which Mr. Amigo joins dignitaries from both sides of the Rio Grande at the center point of the International Bridge.

“I confess to you, there was a moment when we were on the bridge when I was thinking about the significance of Mr. Amigo, and I felt something very intense come over me. And I thought, ‘Why am I on this bridge, really?’” he said. “And I knew I was on that bridge, so happy and content and proud, because I want my three children …”

Here, Landeros paused, visibly moved as he glanced at his three small children in the audience, then at his wife seated on the stage. He took a moment to compose himself before continuing.

“I want my three children and my wife and all of my family to be able to cross a safe bridge, a bridge that unites us. Let us continue to build bridges,” he said.

Landeros introduced Moises Diaz Gonzalez, Honorary Mr. Amigo, one of the “hundreds of thousands of children who are today’s miracles,” who sat proudly on the stage next to Landeros’ wife, Paola Albarrán.

“If we learn from anyone in the world, it is these special children,” Landeros said. “In this world, there will always be obstacles to be overcome. They are brave children, and their parents are brave.”

He closed his remarks with a subtle yet powerful nod to today’s political realities. 

“There is nothing, nor anyone, who can deny us our dignity and our humanity,” he said. “Our dignity is our essence, and although some would want to oppress us, at the end of the day, our dignity and our humanity will carry us forward.”