By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
If there’s one phrase I’m sick of hearing, it’s the oft-uttered cliché, “Only in San Benito.” Well, maybe not so much the phrase but its level of contempt is what has recently earned my scorn. Know that the source of my frustration stems not from the cynical, pseudo-intellectual types who think themselves far too world-weary and wise to expect anything good to come from San Benito, but from the stigma they’ve helped San Benito incur as a crime-plagued community full of degenerates and lowlifes.
This is a particularly ugly misnomer for a city that has made contributions to music, sports, culture and humanitarianism – around the world, no less – so significant that they’ve been widely-published and well-documented in the mainstream media.
And yet, a squabble between two families at a middle school football game in San Benito generates thousands upon thousands of Facebook “Likes” and more than 100 comments – many, if not the majority of which are asinine remarks from individuals who likely know little about this city beyond what they read on social media.
Whoa. Wait a minute. What’s that you say? People have a right to their opinion? Well hey, y’all. I’m not denying anyone their opinion. I’m only calling attention to the sheer idiocy on display within some of these remarks, which is my right as well. Besides, what are we supposed to believe, that “only in San Benito, a cesspool of humanity” or “no pos wow, puro San Bene chisme” are poignant, thought-provoking commentaries from would-be geniuses who represent a vocal majority? Please.
Newsflash: If all you know of San Benito are the arguments you have with your children’s teachers and school district officials about…I don’t know, whatever; or the woman who looked at you the wrong way, the dude who cut you off while driving to HEB or the petty crime reports that litter your newsfeeds on a weekly basis, then you know nothing of this community or its people. You also need to get out more.
On display Thursday was all that makes San Benito a source of pride for the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas and the state. The Freddy Fender Humanitarian Awards, a suit-and-tie affair that recognizes individual and collective efforts to improve the lives of the people of South Texas, honored San Benito native Rogelio Nuñez for his work at Casa Proyecto Libertad and the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center.
Nuñez, one of four inductees recognized at the awards ceremony inside TSTC’s Cultural Arts Center, by far received more pomp and circumstance than others (not trying to make this a competition, but if it was, then Rogelio won by a landslide) in the form of three presenters: Jonathan Jones, a member of Proyecto’s Board of Directors; and fellow NMCAC co-founders David A. Garza, Precinct 3 Cameron County Commissioner, and Dr. Ramón de León.
The presenters gushed over Nuñez, and rightfully so, for leading the charge for immigrant advocacy in the Valley, helping make a better life for countless individuals escaping violence and even death in some cases.
The event’s namesake, Freddy Fender, was also honored at the ceremony with a montage of clips portraying the best of El Bebop Kid. This was Baldemar Huerta at his finest, and not just as a Grammy Award winner notable for his work with the Texas Tornados and his appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Hollywood Squares and The Dukes of Hazzard, but because he hailed from San Benito and was proud of it.
When considering how Fender’s unique brand of Tex-Mex music topped the pop charts, coupled with the humanitarianism of citizens such as Nuñez, and let’s not forget San Benito’s other favorite son, Bobby Morrow, whose gold medal trifecta at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne earned him accolades that included Sports Illustrated’s coveted Sportsman of the Year honor; one can easily make the case that San Benito helped change the world. In fact, it’s “only in San Benito” where you’ll find such an eclectic class of individuals.
Don’t forget this the next time someone from town makes Valley news for leaving milk out of the fridge or ripping the tag off a mattress.