Matthew Wilson

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Matthew Wilson is a multimedia and general assignments reporter for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4425 or at mwilson@themonitor.com.

La Joya High honors last living Class of 1940 alumnus

LA JOYA — With chill winds blowing in and the La Joya High School Band readying to play, Angelica Garcia stepped onto the football field before the Coyotes’ game Friday night for the first time in nearly 80 years. Garcia, 96, hadn’t been to a La Joya football game since she graduated from what was then Nellie Schunior Memorial High School in 1940. Her graduating class totaled 18. Read more at themonitor.com

A year in, Texas A&M’s McAllen outpost celebrates growth that exceeded expectations

McALLEN — Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp told a story to businesspeople and community leaders gathered here at the Texas A&M University Higher Education...

Bert Ogden Arena announces Cirque du Soleil’s insect-themed traveling show

EDINBURG — The circus is coming to town. During a news conference Monday, Bert Ogden Arena representative Shalimar Madrigal announced that Cirque du Soleil would be performing at the venue this spring. “For the first time ever in Edinburg, Texas, the Bert Ogden Arena is proud to welcome the Cirque du Solei’s traveling show, ‘Ovo’,” Madrigal said. “Ovo means egg in Portuguese, and is a headlong rush into a colorful ecosystem teaming with life where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and even look for love in a non-stop riot of energy and movement. When a mysterious egg appears in their midst, the insects are awestruck and intensely curious about the iconic object that represents the enigma of the cycles of their lives.” Read more at The Monitor.com.

Four-day religious retreat provides female first responders an outlet

“God is good!” a police officer at the Shields of Christ Women’s ACTS Retreat at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen shouted to the circle of female first responders around her. “All the time!” the other police officers, deputies, troopers, border patrol agents, EMTs, firefighters and dispatchers shouted back to her. It was the second time the women had done the chant, and it seemed like a few of the first responders wanted to do it just one more time. The chant marked the end of the first Shields of Christ Women’s ACTS Retreat to be held in the Rio Grande Valley. The event brought together just under fifty female first responders for a weekend of fellowship and bonding. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Edinburg PD event widens support for domestic violence victims; fire chief shares personal account

The entrance of the Edinburg Police Department was awash in the red and blue lights of police cars and firetrucks Wednesday night as members of the public holding purple balloons and electric candles gathered to hear speeches from domestic violence survivors and support organizations at the agency’s Domestic Violence Awareness Walk. After hearing from the event’s speakers, the crowd embarked on a mile-long walk to the county courthouse. Police Chief Cesar Torres says it was the first time the department has hosted the event. “We’ve never done it before, so I’m very amazed by our turnout,” he said. Torres says the event was meant to serve several purposes. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Inspired by cultural themes, New York ballet company’s performance strikes chord with local students

Dance students from three high schools and eight middle schools in La Joya ISD were treated to a performance Tuesday by Ballet Nepantla, a New York-based dance company founded and directed by Edinburg native Andrea Guajardo. Guajardo and the members of her company are classically trained ballet dancers, but their performance Tuesday, “Valentina,” only resembles ballet in its poise and finesse. Instead of tights and tutus, the dancers wear flowing skirts and serapes. Heeled leather boots often take the place of slippers during the performance. The only props most of Ballet Nepantla’s ballerinas use during the show are rifles and bandoliers. “Valentina” tells the story of women during the Mexican Revolution, melding together characters and styles that have long had a place in Mexican folklorico with ballet and contemporary dance to tell a tale of struggle and strife during a time of war. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Alamo Flea Market honors the dead in colorful altar

ALAMO— The Alamo flea market was as busy Sunday as it usually is, with shoppers strolling the aisles, Tejano bands blaring out music and people hawking everything from used tires to bananas. Although the market bustled with life, a small section at the heart of the pulga was formally devoted to death earlier this month. On October 6, the market opened a display commemorating Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, complete with an altar and skeletal catrinas. Historically prevalent in Southern and Central Mexico, the traditions of Día de los Muertos have steadily crept northward, aided by films like Coco and the James Bond movie Spectre. Traditionally, the holiday involves individuals gathering to commemorate and pray for deceased loved ones, bringing offerings of flowers and pastries to gravesites, and erecting altars at home or in public with gaudy skulls and depictions of La Catrina, a skeletal woman in her finest clothes. Most of these traditions are represented in the display at the Alamo Pulga. The altar is separated from the rest of the market by black tarping, skulls illuminated by electric candles, loaves of bread made of glazed clay, photographs of deceased loved ones, and scores and scores of marigolds. “Marigolds have very important symbolism, that’s why you see them a lot,” Manuel Ruben Cantu, the artist who built the display, said. Cantu said he built his first Día de los Muertos display at the market last year. “I had actually never made one before,” he said. “It was really popular last year, so the property owner decided to do it again. This year it’s twice as big.” Although Día de los Muertos is traditionally celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, the display in Alamo will be open to the public through November 3. “The altar will be set for the rest of the month, so people will come in and leave their own photos of friends or loved ones,” Cantu said. Nancy Kim, the property owner who commissioned the altar, said she sees it as a way to showcase and preserve Mexican culture. “We decided to build the altar because the majority of the public who visit us are Hispanic and obviously we want to show them our traditions and how this Mexican tradition is so it won’t get lost,” she said in Spanish. “That is basically what inspired me to present this altar and show one of the most beautiful traditions in Mexico.” Kim said the altar is also a way to honor and commemorate deceased people who were important to the market. “In the Mexican culture, there are a lot of superstitions, where we don’t lose our contact with our loved ones once they pass away. Our beliefs as Mexicans is that on that specific day, we make a celebration in which we make an altar and have a party and they will supposedly come and celebrate with us,” she said. “We usually have some pictures on the main altar, the small ones are employees who have worked here and have passed away, and the person who is in the main picture is the founder of the Flea Market of Alamo.” On Sunday, a steady stream of visitors wandered in and out of the market, peering at the displays and taking photos with the decorations. Kim said the altar has been warmly received. “The people are very happy,” she said. “They like it a lot, and have enjoyed and appreciated the traditions and values of the altar.” Stephanie Leal visited the display Sunday with her cousin. She said she enjoyed the altar. “It was nice. It reminded me of Coco,” she said. “I’ve never (seen) anything like it.” While Leal has never taken part in the tradition, she said her mother has, laying flowers on the graves of deceased loved ones in Mexico. “It’s something different,” Leal’s cousin, Bobbie Leal, said. “I guess it just brings us closer to our culture. It’s something I’ve never gotten to experience before.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Local organizations renovate McAllen veteran’s yard

Twenty-five volunteers from the Pharr Home Depot and Habitat for Humanity gathered here Monday, at the home of Retired Cpl. Juan Antonio Cocio to transform the veteran’s yard. Volunteers cleaned, gardened, hammered and sawed throughout the morning. By early afternoon, a dump truck’s worth of debris had been removed from the Cocios’ yard, a large collection of plants and flowers was sitting on a new plant rack and the couple was sitting in the shade on their porch enjoying their new yard. “This is one of six veterans projects that we have going on in the Valley right now,” Herman Ochoa with the Home Depot Foundation said. “Every store in the Valley is doing one project for a veteran, so we continue to give back to those that gave so much to us.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Local organizations renovate McAllen veteran’s yard

McALLEN — Twenty-five volunteers from the Pharr Home Depot and Habitat for Humanity gathered here Monday, at the home of Retired Cpl. Juan Antonio Cocio to transform the veteran’s yard. Volunteers cleaned, gardened, hammered and sawed throughout the morning. By early afternoon, a dump truck’s worth of debris had been removed from the Cocios’ yard, a large collection of plants and flowers was sitting on a new plant rack and the couple was sitting in the shade on their porch enjoying their new yard. “This is one of six veterans projects that we have going on in the Valley right now,” Herman Ochoa with the Home Depot Foundation said. “Every store in the Valley is doing one project for a veteran, so we continue to give back to those that gave so much to us.” Read more at the monitor.com.

Mission restaurant owners arrested for illegal oysters

Two Mission restaurant owners were arrested by Texas game wardens last week on charges stemming from over 50 bags of oysters allegedly purchased illegally and being sold in the men’s restaurants. On the afternoon of Sept. 27, a Texas game warden conducted a compliance check at Mariscos El 7 Mares # 2, located at 2500 E. Expressway 83 #100 in Mission, according to documents released Wednesday. During the inspection, the warden discovered 21 unlabeled clear bags of raw oysters in a large freezer located in the kitchen. The bags had no certification number nor any labeling as required by state law. Read more at the monitor.com.