Harlingen Happenings

By Mary Torres, Special to the STar

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over five months since the Coronavirus pandemic first impacted  the Lower Rio Grande Valley and changed our lives in ways that we never imagined. In an effort to contain the virus, we’ve had to quarantine or shelter at home, follow safe practices recommended by the CDC: wash your hands frequently, wear a mask or protective covering over your mouth and nose, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings of people. Many activities and events that we participated in were canceled or have gone virtual. The business closures and job losses that occurred have impacted our local economy. We are facing many issues including when schools can reopen safely for face-to-face instruction. As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise and a vaccine or treatment not yet available, it appears that it will be a while before we experience “the new normal.”

We owe a debt of gratitude to the frontliners and the essential people who continue to risk their lives and those of their families to provide medical care to people with COVID-19. Of course, these people at the front line and they are truly appreciated  but have you thought of thanking some of the other people who are going to work during the pandemic and who are also putting their lives at risk to provide you with goods and services?

Grocery store employees and law enforcement personnel come to mind, but what about the people who keep your air conditioner running, especially now during the “Dog Days of Summer,” the people who keep the ATM machines working so you can pick up cash whenever you need it, the truck drivers who deliver goods to local stores, maintenance and housekeeping staff who ensure the cleanliness of a facility,  restaurant workers, repair shops, and many other businesses and services that I’m sure I’m failing to mention. Thanks to all of you!

My Heritage.com, a fee-based genealogy site is unlocking both of their popular photo tools, “My Heritage Photo Enhancer,” and “My Heritage in ColorTM”  free from now through September 10, 2020. Normally, these features can be used by non-subscribers on up to 10 photos each, while users with a Complete plan enjoy unlimited use. But now, anyone can enhance and colorize as many photos as they’d like for free! Using these tools, you can get to know your ancestors in a whole new way.

Your old, faded, black and white family photos will come to life, in full color and sharp focus, making them look almost as though they were taken yesterday. According to Daniel Horowitz of My Heritage, “this continues our tradition of giving back to the community. With so many people currently confined to their homes and doing their best to stay safe and healthy, we’re giving everyone a fun way to pass the time and enjoy genealogy.” Please share this information with your family and friends. I’ve colorized some of my photos and the results are amazing.

In last week’s column, I mentioned that the assets of Ancestry.com, a popular fee-based genealogy site and home DNA testing company were bought by Blackstone, Inc., a private equity firm for $4.7B. As can be expected this has produced many comments and concerns on various genealogy blogs. One of the questions asked is whether you should remove your  DNA data from Ancestry. The consensus is that removing your data is a futile effort in that Ancestry has back-up copies of everything previously entered and those will be included as part of the sale. As posted in one of the blogs, “this is just another reminder that when you hand over your DNA, you never know who might eventually own it.”

On Sunday, August 23, at 2 p.m. the Museum of South Texas History (MOSTH) Sunday Series Online will feature “The Phantom Zone and Other Stories: An Author’s Talk,” by Jose Alaniz.  Mr. Alaniz, a comics scholar, and artist will discuss his first comics collection, made up of strips first published in the 1990s in The Daily Texan (the student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin) and more recent material. The presentation will be streamed at facebook.com/MOSTHistory/live. This program is made possible by the generous support from the Carmen C. Guerra Endowment.

Stay safe.