While Donald Trump talks of a border wall, local officials in Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico work on identifying opportunities to cooperate, as reported by Ana Arana in Citiscope (26 August 2016).
Despite the harsh rhetoric of the U.S. presidential campaign, officials in the two sister cities are identifying common problems and opportunities and looking for ways to cooperate. Ibarra’s rail-trail is just one example. From fighting crime to promoting economic development to combating Zika virus, local officials in these two cities increasingly see their fates tied together.
On the U. S. side, the 8-mile (13-kilometer) Linear Park follows the path of an abandoned rail line before ending in a pleasant green space in Brownsville’s revitalized downtown. The park anchors a cultural district that includes an art museum, restored historic buildings and a zoo. On weekends, it’s the gathering area for the local farmer’s market.
The planning director of Matamoros, Mauricio Ibarra, thinks the Mexican city could do something similar to connect the two border towns. A few years ago, Union Pacific railroad relocated a route that had crossed over the B&M Bridge, abandoning tracks on both sides of the border. Ibarra wants to turn the tracks and a switching yard on the Mexico side into a bike trail and park that would anchor Matamoros’ own cultural district of museums, music schools and theater spaces.
One day last month, Ibarra visited with Ruth Osuna, Brownsville’s assistant city manager in charge of downtown revitalization. Perusing an aerial map on Google Earth, they noted how their two urban renewal projects practically touch each other — despite the border. “Their project ends where ours begins,” said Osuna.
“Everybody is trying to separate us,” she continued. “But we keep coming together.”