McALLEN — If recently proposed border wall construction plans become a reality, some areas of Hidalgo County would be walled off from the rest of the region — including a historic chapel in Mission.

McALLEN — If recently proposed border wall construction plans become a reality, some areas of Hidalgo County would be walled off from the rest of the region — including a historic chapel in Mission.

In response, nearly 40 different non-governmental organizations will gather this weekend during a two-day event to underscore the uniqueness of the Rio Grande Valley — and to protest the Trump Administration’s plans for a border wall there.

Stefanie Herweck, an executive committee member of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club, a local chapter of the national nonprofit environmental organization, said the purpose of the event is to highlight the Valley’s history and culture, and bring together people who want to stand up to the idea of a wall.

“This is an intersectional event. We’re joining together with allies, people like (La Union del Pueblo Entero), ARISE, The Stonewall Democrats, and faith based groups. This is an excellent example of how strong our connections are between groups that have different concerns in the Valley — because we’re in this remarkable, unique place, being border residents,” she said.

The event is scheduled for Saturday in the heart of Mission at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church beginning with a dawn procession, complete with available water stations. The protest will move south about four miles ending at La Lomita Mission Chapel.

The chapel, a more than 100-year-old historical shrine that continues to bring comfort and consolation to its visitors and the also the town’s namesake, would be one of the locations in the Rio Grande Valley that would sit behind the Trump Administration’s proposed border wall if construction were to begin there, according to initial plans presented to community leaders.

Once the procession comes to an end at the chapel, attendees will be treated to guest speakers, authentic South Texas music, poetry, and food, until at least the heat becomes unbearable, Herweck said.

The event, hosted by the multiple organizations, comes a month after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials confirmed the beginning of preliminary work on a wall running through the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, a more than 2,000-acre swath of land in Alamo that is home to more than 400 animal and bird species.

Herweck said the refuge, much like the river it sits next to, is part of the makeup of the Valley.

“People are shocked and horrified (about the wall), even people that are not as likely to visit Santa Ana, or the last time they did (they were children). It’s still a really important part of our community, and it’s a part of people’s identity in a way they may not have been aware of until now that it’s under threat,” Herweck said.

The day after the procession, organizers plan a protest hike, scheduled for the morning at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge — the site where just last month government contractors marked portions of land in preparation for construction.

Government officials confirmed last month that it had prioritized the refuge as one of the locations for the new proposed border wall construction — a promise Trump made to supporters during his presidential campaign.

Since that confirmation, the focus has turned to other parts of the Valley, where the looming threat of a wall has provoked nationwide support in opposition to a wall, including environmentalists and politicians.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who was in the Valley as part of his Tour of Texas at the end of July, made an impromptu visit to the refuge after hearing concerns from locals, stating it was time for the border communities to stand up to the federal government.

“I feel like the border is rising up, standing up for itself and sharing this incredibly positive story of who we are. Santa Ana is part of who we are. This is the heritage that we’ve inherited, that we want to pass on to our kids, that we want the rest of the country, the rest of Texas, to see. We don’t want a wall to close off that possibility,” O’ Rourke said during the July 31 visit to the refuge.

Herweck, who expects organizations from all over the country to attend, said she hopes the event will amplify the message that the Valley and people nationwide are united in their fight against the wall.

“(These people) are concerned about protecting the Rio Grande, and protecting our access to it, the nature and the culture that the border wall threatens,” she said. “We want to bring together people that have different concerns, whether it be because how certain vulnerable populations are treated, the way immigrants are treated, or how our land is treated. We want to pull people with all those concerns together, reaffirm our culture, our solidarity, and fight against this atrocious project.”

Border Residents Rally against Border Walls at La Lomita and Santa Ana

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 12, 7 a.m.

WHERE: Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 620 N. Dunlap Ave., Mission

(Participants unable to make the walk can join the event at 9 a.m. at La Lomita Park, where there will be children’s activities, tours of the chapel, and “take action” tables.)


WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 13, 9 a.m.

WHERE: Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Old Military Highway 281 one-fourth mile east of Alamo Road, Alamo