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Fronteras: ‘As the Valley goes, so goes Texas’ — Fighting misconceptions of the Rio Grande Valley

The story of the Rio Grande Valley is one often portrayed through a limited, oversimplified point of view.

Mainstream media tends to focus on border walls, migrants, crime or drug smuggling.

While large numbers of asylum seekers do choose the Rio Grande Valley as refuge, the story of the Valley encompasses so much more than what’s shown on the news.

A unique ecosystem of wildlife, birds, and butterflies flourishes in the area; It’s home to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, a distinguished institution that is bicultural, binational, and bilingual; it even argues its barbacoa is second to none.

K. Jill Fleuriet, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, explores the reality of the Valley in her book “Rhetoric and Reality on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Place, Politics, Home.”

Fleuriet says a rural, rugged image of the borderlands perpetuates false narratives.

“The only reason why the Valley is still salient to the national discussion is because it's … a political football.”

Fleuriet, a Valley native, spent years conducting what she calls “participant observation.” She spoke with hundreds of other natives about what life in the Valley actually looks like.

She says both the media, and we as individuals, have a role in correcting the border narrative.

“Everybody’s got a responsibility in these border fictions. It’s not just the news. It’s not just politicians,” she said. “It's how we talk about the border in a daily way.”

Listen to part 1 of the conversation with Fleuriet here.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1