This recent picture was taken at Montes Field at J.W Nixon High School in Laredo, Texas. (The Magnet Tribune: Justyne Bernal)
This recent picture was taken at Montes Field at J.W Nixon High School in Laredo, Texas.

The Magnet Tribune: Justyne Bernal

The Bug: There’s no place like home: Laredo, Texas

May 15, 2019

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This is senior Justyne Bernal’s final column in The Magnet Tribune’s online edition.

“From the outside looking in you cannot explain it. From the inside looking out, you cannot describe it.”

This quote perfectly describes the way I feel about my community, Laredo, Texas. A place that is 90 percent Hispanic. Laredo is known for having Mexico in its backyard, and as “The Gateway City,” “The City Under Seven Flags,” and more. Here, there is real Mexican foods sold at stands or restaurants at every corner that satisfy all our taste buds. Where we say Green and Gold is Forever, Once a Tiger always a Tiger, and Toro Pride Runs Deep. Where teams annually from different areas come and play in the famous Border Olympics tournaments. Here is where if you know the streets Saunders, McPherson, San Bernardo, you could get anywhere without getting lost. This is the place that dedicates the entire month of February to celebrate Washington’s birthday, where the Outlets Shoppes is a vast income source, and where our biggest traditions are rivalry games. Here is where families have cookouts every week despite the 100-degree weather. This is home.

Citizens who do not live here may fear for their lives when hearing about Bordertown Laredo but should not. The misperception needs to be cleared out because Laredo is a safe place to grow up, visit, or live in.”

— Justyne Bernal

City people are described as the opposite on social media. Not only online, but politicians or people who are so close-minded that go along with the stereotypes. As I mentioned, you cannot understand it from the outside. Our city is depicted as a crime zone. Being next to Mexico does not negatively affect us. Now, people are afraid to come down here because of the image the news has put out for us. Citizens who do not live here may fear for their lives when hearing about Bordertown Laredo but should not. The misperception needs to be cleared out because Laredo is a safe place to grow up, visit, or live in.

As much as you ask people what they feel towards their community the ending answer will not change. They are going to say that it is sometimes boring but there is no place like it. It is such a disappointment to see that people who did not grow up here, those who have no memories here, ones who do not know Laredo have the loudest negative opinions.

Over the years the tourists have stopped coming, and downtown buildings are not as attractive as before. I do not believe that this should define people’s interest in coming down to Laredo. It certainly has not changed the outlook of us, the people who live here.

This all leads to the perception that our country is having what President Trump describes as an “emergency crisis.” He tends to go on and on about having to build a wall to divide two countries that hold each other on a tight rope. It makes us, citizens who live at the border to feel like he is talking nonsense. The images that are put into people all over the country is that Mexico is attacking or coming at us when in fact, they are not. We maintain a neutral friendship that keeps us all safe.

People believe that it is an unsafe environment to live or grow up in. I cannot agree with this; I have never felt like my life was on the line. The news makes it seem like we have to dodge bullets when we go downtown or to the park. That people are being murdered left and right when our city is not dangerous. I have never felt like I put myself at risk; we are the closest to the border yet here is where I feel the safest. Not to mention, the FBI looked at the rest of the nation and their crime rates compare to ours. Last year’s statistics show that every city along the Texas- Mexico border has fewer murders occurring than in major U.S cities. This goes to show that it is not a war zone the way social media or politicians make it seem. There is time to fix immigration and border security. There is no rush because down here we are in a good place. The mutual friendship we hold with Mexico helps us in trade and retail sales.

Ask any U.S Border Patrol or Customs Officer; they see it every day. People who come to the U.S in the hope of a brighter future. Those who cross every day to give their children a better education; those who cross to come work tirelessly all day. They are not afraid of losing what they have for a better tomorrow. The stereotypes that Mexicans are taking our jobs is a joke. They take every job opportunity, ones that most Americans are not willing to do. For border towns such as ours to be attacked because the majority of us are Hispanic is simply discriminatory. We are targeted to be described as full of negative and useless people when in reality, it is the opposite. In Laredo you will find hardworking salesmen, teachers, officers, waitresses, managers, we have it all.

Although there is not much to do, this city truly becomes a representation of who we are. Whether it be our manners or our traditions, Laredo stays within all of us.”

— Justyne Bernal

When attending a summer camp up north I was asked if I ever felt afraid to go outside because of how dangerous it is. If I was ever held at gunpoint or saw people cross the river? All that? Stereotypical and insane? Maybe. It is because this is the only place I have ever lived in but it is not bad. Now, I am not saying that Laredo is the safest because every city has its downside.

My opinion of my city? There is no place like it. People always say that there is no place like home and indeed Laredo is a place that is irreplaceable. The culture, people, history, and food is like no other in the world. The tight bonds that are created or renewed in this city each have stories of their own. Although there is not much to do, this city truly becomes a representation of who we are. Whether it be our manners or our traditions, Laredo stays within all of us.

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