BROWNSVILLE — Hundreds of cars and their drivers started to line up at 8 a.m. Saturday at IDEA Riverview to receive barbacoa and complete the census as part of the “Cuenta con la Barbacoa” outreach event by the city of Brownsville and the U.S. Census Bureau to get people counted as the deadline was extended to Oct. 31.

As of press time, only 52% of Cameron County residents responded to the census, 5% less than in 2010, according to Sylvia Garza-Perez, Cameron County clerk and county chairman for the census.

“We wanted to be creative and get people counted, so we came up with ‘Cuenta con la Barbacoa’ so that everyone who likes barbacoa and tacos can come out and we are very excited to know that we got an extension,” she said.

“Hopefully that will get the entire Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville and Cameron County, excited and we continue counting people.”

For the next three weeks there will be several outreach events for the census throughout the county. Garza-Perez said completing the census is important because it leads to funding for infrastructure and resources, jobs, schools, grants for first responders, hospitals, new programs and equipment.

“We are hoping we have until then to make sure that we get counted. If we realistically look at everything, originally we had five months to do the census, from March to July 31 st . But then the pandemic hit, so basically the entire month of May, June and July we were shot down for shelter in place. So we did not have three months,” she said.  “We are hoping that things get better, and continue to get better with the pandemic, but this is our opportunity to make sure that we catch up with those three months that were taken away from us because of the pandemic.

“This was something nobody planned for. How do we prepare for it? We don’t know. But now we got a little bit more time and hopefully we will be able to get there.”

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez urged all residents through his Facebook page to take the time to complete the census.

“The easiest way is to go online and let yourself be counted. There is no citizenship questions, no sensitive information and your responses will help determine representation, funding, education and public programming for the next 10 years in our community,” he wrote.