VALLEY GIRLS: Coming of Age Along the Border

Ilana Panich-linsman


Brownsville, Texas, United States; McAllen, Texas, United States; Weslaco, Texas, United States; Heroica Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico

There’s a template of sorts for being a teenage girl in America: ballet and soccer, school and church, makeup and texting. But for teenagers growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, where Mexico and the United States come together in a lush land of brush-covered hills, fast-growing cities and deep, shared history, there is no dependable template.

To grow up in the Valley is to live in a bilingual, binational world that defies the barriers dividing the two countries. Some Valley girls have relatives on both sides and, depending on their schedules, live on both sides, sleeping over here one day and over there the next. They meet their friends at the mall, at Whataburger, at the volleyball court. But many live with the daily drama of poverty and deportation, in households that often cannot afford a car or even a quinceañera dress. Worries about immigration status often linger in the background.

Valley girls are Americans with Mexican roots. They are Mexicans with American dreams. These are their stories.

-Excerpted from “The ‘Valley Girls’ of the Rio Grande,” May 4, 2019 The New York Times by Manny Fernandez and Ilana Panich-Linsman

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