¡Viva la Huelga!

The fiftieth anniversary ceremony began with the singing of a corrido. As the guests of honor found their seats on the stage of the octagonal-roofed Kiosk on the first day of June, Daria Vera shuffled to the mic, gripping an official program with the lyrics on the back cover. The guitarist and accordionist struck up the first chord. Her deep, gravel-lined, distinctive contralto struggled to carry over the rumble of the cross-border freight trucks hemming us in on parallel one-way arteries of Highway 83 through downtown Rio Grande City, Texas. But then a high-pitched grito emanated from among the metal folding chairs lined up on the sidewalk, followed by a familiar cry:“¡Viva la Huelga!” (Long live the strike!) Daria’s singing rose up over the din of the traffic, over the murmur of greetings and fifty years’ worth of catching up. In time, her voice regained the volume and assurance of another era, as the corrido’s couplets began to tell its story. Keep reading at the Oxford American

The Early Bird’s Reward

When nature enthusiasts think of the Rio Grande Valley, they most often picture the glimmering resacas and moss-hung forests of destinations like the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. But venturing farther upriver, away from the large cities and the tropical influence of the Gulf Coast, one finds a strikingly different landscape of rolling ranchland, sheer bluffs, and Old West frontier towns. Not long ago, my wife, Laura, and I headed west from our home in McAllen to explore the natural offerings of Starr County. We hoped to find not only scenic vistas of starkly beautiful country but also bird and plant species that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States. Keep reading at Texas Highways

Navigating the Past

The first words out of my son Byrdie’s mouth when I pick him up from school are usually, “Did you know that… ?”, followed in turn by the latest astonishing facts he’s discovered in kindergarten that day. Lately, he’s been interested in history—especially dinosaurs and ancient civilizations—and so my wife Laura and I decided it would be a good time to take him and his sister Ana to the Museum of South Texas History, which chronicles the heritage of the Rio Grande Valley from the Cretaceous Period to the present day. Keep reading at Texas Highways.

Making a Stink

For as long as Abril and Ariss Cosino could remember, the noxious odor had been part of life in South Tower Estates, an unincorporated community of 3,300 near the Texas-Mexico border. Residents complained about it and told their children not to play outside on days when it was particularly bad. But the sisters didn’t know what was causing the rotten-egg smell until they participated in a summer leadership program organized by the nonprofit A Resource in Serving Equality. That’s when they learned about the antiquated wastewater lagoons across the street from their house, hidden by an embankment and a barbed wire fence. “The sewage doesn’t even come from our neighborhood,” Ariss explains. It’s sent there by the adjacent city of Alamo. “As Hispanic, low-income people, we have to deal with their stuff. When we found that out, we wanted to do something.” Keep reading at Sierra.

At This Texas School, Birding is the Big Game

Football may be king in Texas, but one of the fastest growing youth sports in the state may actually be . . . competitive birding? For the fledgling ornithologists who compete each April in the Great Texas Birding Classic—the birding equivalent of the state playoffs—Friday Night Lights have given way to Saturday Morning Pre-Dawn. In the Gliders division, teenagers race to find the greatest number of birds in 24 hours, while under-13 Roughwings participants compete in an eight-hour window. Up to 20 youth teams across the state participate, each composed of three to five students and at least one experienced mentor who verifies every sighting—but can’t point out or identify birds themselves. Keep reading at Sierra.

National Park Citizen Science Projects Anyone Can Join

The National Park Service will mark its 100th birthday on August 25, 2016. What better way to celebrate than to band (and hold!) a warbler in the Great Smokies or to net butterflies in an alpine meadow in the Cascades? These are just two of the citizen science projects anyone can join at national parks across the country. Citizen science also helps the NPS do its job: Data collected by scores of park visitors affords a much broader overview of ecological change than staff could collect alone. Some projects monitor threatened or reintroduced species, while others look at phenology—the relationship between climate and biological phenomena, such as plant flowering and bird migration—an increasingly important field as climate change disrupts linkages between species. The projects below require little or no training and are open to any visitor with a desire to learn and help out. To get started, just check out the websites below and find your nearest park. Keep reading at Sierra.

The Point of Thorns

“Often kids see nature as beautiful if they’re looking at a picture of a super-big, thick forest. If they see a plant that has thorns, they say, ‘It’s not pretty.’ I want them to see the beauty of our local ecosystem here in the Rio Grande Valley. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biodiverse places in the country. But when I became the refuge manager two years ago, I realized that many people in the community didn’t know we existed.” Keep reading at Sierra.