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A lot of other kids from McAllen would cross the border into Reynosa as well. You could be dressed like Robert Smith or that dude from Dead or Alive and have access to cheap drinks and cheap thrills and come home safe. My mom, a woman raised in an apostolic church in Mission, would have given me a hard time if she knew I was at these dirty, smoky, hole-in-the-wall discos with dayglow colors and black lights. Mex was safe … or safe enough.
It was , one year after Mark Kilroy, a University of Texas student, was murdered in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, during spring break. We were not scared by his death. This guy was an outsider coming across the border; we were locals. Reynosa closes up at dusk because of drug-related violence in Mexico.
People from the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico head to 17th Street, an entertainment district in downtown McAllen, to have a good time in safety. In the space of 12 blocks there are more than 50 urbane-looking establishments, bawdy beer joints and even an Italian-styled pizza place where everyone speaks Spanish and watches Mexican soccer on flat-screen TVs.
Who knows where you are? It started out as a piano bar, but had to change its musical offerings to stay afloat. Joe Rodriguez is the driving force behind the nonprofit Heart of the City of McAllen Improvement Corporation, which has been on a crusade since to promote the downtown area and stimulate economic growth in this city of , people, just across the border from Mexico, and among the poorest cities in the nation.
He admits that revitalization has been a struggle. The area is booming, and liquor sales are bringing in considerable money. Rodriguez and business owners along 17th say the entertainment district is benefiting from the narco-violence in nearby Reynosa. Now there are other reasons for not crossing the border. You might get shot or abducted. Reynosa is a place where people die of drug-related violence. And few of the deaths are documented.