Place Where You Live:

McAllen, Texas

McAllen isn’t the most well-known city. It’s definitely not the most prosperous, but it is my hometown. Thinking of it brings me a sense of comfort and belonging. Seeing the palm trees on the way south from San Antonio, or flying across the Rio Grande, the landscape is instantly recognizable. It’s where my friends and I would light fireworks on the beach or go by Whataburger afterschool, by tradition. The city is part of me, and while I now live in New York, a part of me is forever, a Texan.
McAllen is a city of contrasts. On one hand, an abundant culture flourishes throughout the area, giving it a distinguished character. While on the other hand, the city is located in the second poorest county per-capita in the country, ranking fourth worst in health and low in education. Visits to Mexico were all but banned after 2007 following the uptick in cartel-related violence that spewed across the northern border with Texas. Yet there’s nothing like McAllen anywhere else. Such a deep rooted culture isn’t prevalent in most areas of the state or even most of the country. With one of the fastest population growth rates and a sense of community that is nearly unparalleled in a city of its size, the city is truly unique.
My exposure to this city-wide culture has given me an appreciation for what we as a nation take for granted. Living in a city the size of McAllen, about one hundred and thirty-thousand people, the area has given me a sense of place, of belonging. Even though I was born in New York and yearned to move back to the state, there’s something about ‘home’ that always brings one back to their roots. McAllen is where I spent a formative thirteen years of my life, and in McAllen live all the people and places that saw me through each and every one of those moments.