The Crossroads Festival concluded its talks Wednesday with a bilingual panel about the future of Matamoros and Brownsville with Mayors Trey Mendez, of Brownsville, and Mario Lopez, of Matamoros, where the city leaders talked about plans and the importance of collaborating together.

The conversation started in Spanish to an audience of more than 100 people. Mendez said that the economy in Brownsville is growing even though the community is among the poorest in the United States. He said he hopes to create more opportunities for collaboration with Matamoros.

“Brownsville is a city that is growing, and it is growing very fast,” Mendez said in Spanish.

“Our economy is also growing … I understand that we find ourselves as one of the poorest cities in the United States, but I also understand that it is an opportunity for us to keep growing and keep moving and look for opportunities and ways on which we can continue to grow and grow our economy to improve the lives of our citizens.”

Lopez said he would like Brownsville and Matamoros to be the number one commercial port instead of Laredo. He said Brownsville and Matamoros have better logistics and having a bridge that unites I-69 to Matamoros would improve the economy.

“We are privileged because we have ports, and we have industrial systems so what we have to change is the way we transport things from I-69 in Texas to Mexico,” Lopez said in Spanish. “We need to bring that merchandise through Brownsville and Matamoros. We have better logistics than Laredo, we have that privilege, Brownsville and Matamoros, to be the point with the most logistics in every way, and we have better logistics than Laredo and that has to be said.”

During the conversation, a previous Crossroads talk by UTRGV Translation and Interpreting Professor Gabriel Gonzalez was mentioned. The talk was about the importance of bilingualism in communities and how the communities flourish economically when there are two, or more, official languages.

“That’s something that I didn’t actually know, and that’s something that I’m definitely going to start looking at because the real theory there is embracing it and we both know that a lot of people speak both languages here,” Mendes said. “Some people speak another language, but most people that live in Brownsville can speak in both languages and we never really fully embraced that and I think that is something to think about.”

“That in a way embraces the other language, embraces the other culture and really brings to life the value of that relationship and the value of our culture as a border city.”