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Mr. Trump, tear down this wall

Open Letter
Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Dear President Trump,

I am a livelong citizen of the United States, a Texas, a veteran, born in 1934 in Martindale, Texas. My mother came from Mexico and raised her sons and daughters here alone. We lived in extreme poverty in my childhood and had little schooling. We put cardboard in our shoes when the soles wore out. When I was 14, I left for West Texas and worked as a ranch hand for the next four years.

I joined the U.S. Marines when I was 18 and served as a reserve for six years. Two of my brothers joined the Army and another enlisted in the Marine Corps. After my service I returned home and moved to San Marcos, TX. In 1968, I built Pic-A-Taco Restaurant — and on the very day it opened, my Marine Corps brother, Richard Lopez, was killed in Vietnam. He gave his life for our country.

Many Hispanic veterans, returning from service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam to the old world of prejudice and exclusion, started running for office — and winning. Their hard work changed the face of local government for our county, our cities and schools.

I became an independent businessman and a public servant for many years, serving for 10 years as an elected Hays County Commissioner. My restaurant was a center of political activity for two decades. My wife Mary and I have four children, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild. Today, my daughter Debbie is in her 22nd year as an elected county commissioner for Hays County. Our children and grandchildren have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

In February, 1976, a devastating earthquake struck Guatemala in the middle of the night, killing 25,000 people and destroying 250,000 homes. It was the most destructive earthquake in Guatemala’s history. I helped organize our community’s response to the tragedy and took a group of people and supplies to Guatemala to help in the recovery. The poverty and extreme suffering that we witnessed had a big impact on me.

A number of years ago, I went to Washington D.C. To visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial  — to see my brother’s name on the wall. I also visited the Washington Monument where someone was talking about Nosotros Los Pueblos, an international effort to give a voice to the voiceless.

It inspired me to create in San Marcos Nosotros La Gente — We the People — in 1996. This non-profit organization raises money to provide shoes to impoverished school children and assists local residents with medical, transportation and social service needs.

The people of the United States, Texas Mexico and Central America have been connected for thousands of years. In the founding of Texas in the 19th century, many Mexicans were landowners, creators of cities, and heroes of the battles that were fought.

So today — and this is why I am writing to you — I want to urge you to end the horrible policies that are turning our common border with Mexico into a war zone, mistreating refugees, and tearing apart families. This is not what America is about.

Instead, I believe the United States needs to invest in our neighboring countries in human terms.

  • We need to support the development of industries there
  • We need to provide resources to fight the drug cartels — and address the opioid crisis in the United States that is fueling the cartels in the first place
  • We need to support those governments in fighting corruption, crime and violence
  • We need to help our neighbors fight poverty
  • We need to help them support education
  • We need to support freedom from oppression and persecution
  • We need to support DACA
  • We need to work positively on immigration legislation and create paths to citizenship for people who are essential to our economy.

Your predecessor in the White House, President Ronald Reagan, spoke in 1987 in West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, challenging Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall.”

So to paraphrase his message about the Berlin Wall, in 2018, I ask you, President Trump — to tear down this wall.

Rafael (Ralph) Gonzales

San Marcos