Harlingen Happenings

Mary Torres, Special to the Star

In the fall of 1918 through early 1919, the world underwent a flu pandemic, unlike anything it had ever experienced before. Close to 50 million people of all ages died as a result, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

Texas and the Rio Grande Valley were not immune to it. In reading about the 1918 pandemic, one notes that there are many similarities to the present Covid-19 pandemic including the way the virus is spread and the measures being taken to combat the spread including sheltering-at-home, hand washing, social distancing, and the wearing of face masks or coverings. Can you imagine how conditions were 100 years ago without the ability to communicate electronically and transmit data instantly?

One thing is certain, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed our lives in ways no one could have imagined and seriously impacted individuals, families, and the economy.

Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-18, Phase One, called for the Re-Opening of Texas on Friday, May 1. The order stated that businesses that could be reopened included restaurants, retail stores, malls, theaters, libraries and museums with certain restrictions.

The Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum, 2425 Boxwood St. resumed business activities on May 1, 2020, with health protocols in place for employees and under the following restrictions:

• Only 25% of the museum building’s capacity for occupancy will be permitted inside the building, at any time. The main museum building has an occupancy rating for 150 attendees. No more than 37 (25%) people, inclusive of all staff, volunteers and patrons will be permitted in the building at any given time.

•All full-time staff, vendors, and patrons will be brought back in a manner to provide as much capacity for patrons as possible. Part-time staff will be brought in on a limited basis.

•Museum staff will monitor volunteers, vendors, and patrons to ensure that social distancing protocol is adhered to, at all times.

•Employees, vendors, and volunteers temperatures will continue to be taken.

•Signage stating that face-masks or coverings are required to enter all public areas in the museum buildings will be placed in prominent public view. In the event that a patron does not have a mask, one will be provided to them by museum staff. Additionally, pages 35 – 37 of Governor Abbott’s Report to Open Texas will be placed along with signage requiring face-masks.

Many organizations have canceled meetings and events or rescheduled them for the fall. The Tip O’ Texas Genealogical Society and the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Genealogical Society, both of Harlingen, have suspended meetings until further notice, but are looking into the possibility of holding virtual meetings.

The 2020 RGV Birding Festival has also been canceled in light of the current environment of uncertainty caused by Coronavirus. Mark your calendar for November 10-14, 2021 for the 27th Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

If you are still looking for some things to do online, I suggest the following:

FamilySearch.org hosts free monthly genealogy webinars. Some of the classes for May include: “Using the FamilySearch Catalog for Beginners,” “To America and Back: Crossing the Pond with Your Swedish Ancestors,” United States Vital Records Overview,” and more. For a list of monthly classes, visit http://familysearch.org/locations/library_class_schedule.

Reclaim The Records, is a new not-for-profit activist group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and open government advocates. They identify important genealogical records sets that ought to be in the public domain but which are being wrongly restricted by government archives, libraries, and agencies. The group files Freedom of Information and Open Data requests to get that public data released back to the public. And if the government doesn’t comply, they take them to court. The group then digitizes the records they won and put it all online for free, without any paywalls or usage restrictions so that it can never be locked up again. Learn more about this organization and sign up for their newsletter at https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/#newsletter.

Internet Genealogy Magazine is offering a free download of its March 2020 issue. You can add this magazine to your reading collection with no strings attached at https://bit.ly/IG-Download. and enjoy articles such as “European Online Archives;” “Researching Confederate & Union Armies; “ “Masonic Records at your Fingertips,” and more.

Stay home. Stay healthy.