Sunday, January 23, 2011


Last night the Stillman Trust hosted their 2011 Awards Dinner at the Brownsville Historical Association's Alonso Building. It was nice.

I will get into the recipients in a minute, but first. I met a lot of people whose names I had seen in the paper or heard in the news. I got a great education about what is happening in Brownsville in terms of restoration of the older more historical buildings.

These are the people I most enjoy being around. Why? They are not politicians - they are the type people who make things happen. They understand the politics of politics and know if anything is to ever get done they must do it. These are private citizens who simply put their mind to things and then accomplish them. They are not out front claiming credit for other people's work or creating web page cites to their ego. These are the people who make a difference.

I met so many people who in my mind should have all been recipients of the awards. Thank god none of them will ever run for office - why? because then they would stop working to make Brownsville a better and more beautiful place.

I think the most interesting award went to Mr. Francisco Cermeno. His vision of Brownsville and what Brownsville can become is typical of so many new immigrants to the United States. It has historically been this constant influx of energy from immigrants which keep this country moving forward, and forcing the old guard to work harder if they want to compete.

Mr. Cermeno bought and restored the old Bollack Building 1223 E. Elizabeth, circa 1906. As a child he remembered his father bringing him across the river to shop at the store in the Bollack building. Something he said in Spanish caught my ear - he feels like other building owners in downtown do not share his vision of restoring the buildings.

What Mr. Cermeno has proven is, a private citizen can move downtown forward without having to wait for the City Commission to end its endless meetings or endless studies. Mr. Cermeno like so many of the people I met last night understand - if you want to move forward - move forward - you cannot wait for the government to take control and make things happens.

Mrs. Mellena Conner was also honored for her work in the parks. She was the force behind the Christmas village this past holiday season in Dean Porter park

My brother-in-law, Danny Montes was also honored for his work in the cemetery and many of the buildings already restored. As was noted either his father or grandfather were key builders of the buildings now being restored with Danny's assistance.

Danny is not some brick-layer laying bricks - he is hired for his knowledge. Larry Lof who gave him the award said it best - it takes someone like Danny - will be 90 in March - because he learned from the very people who constructed these buildings in the first place. A problem they always face is matching the mortar. Danny knows how the original mortar was mixed. He can match texture and color. As was also noted he knows the importance of making the mortar not as hard as the brick. Why? So when the building moves the mortar cracks and not the bricks.  No one can match old bricks they way Danny can.

The final award went to Mr. Alexander Stillman. He received the Legacy Award.

Not only to these 4 great residents of Brownsville do I say thank you, but to all of the people behind the scenes working hard to make these things happen. They are not politicians promoting themselves, they are workers building a better and more beautiful Brownsville.

The Herald just profiled another Mexican immigrant who has contributed to Brownsville. Roberto Ruiz. Again another example of the value new immigrants bring to our community.

A lot of the stone work is that of Danny Montes and his brother Isaac. I remember just getting in from Dallas one day when Danny told me to meet him at Mr. Ruiz's home. He was there with his brother Isaac carving the stones. These guys can take a raw stone, put it in their hand, look at the wall and using a pick axe shape the stone to fit. They did this for hours on end. I have no idea how their hands held up.

These are the people we should be celebrating.  These are the quiet heroes of Brownsville making it a better place.  They have no need to build web pages to their ego.  Their ego is seen in their workmanship an ego of pride and respect for themselves and their work.


Anonymous said...

So true!

Anonymous said...

nice piece....

Anonymous said...

great article

Anonymous said...

Kuddos for the people that really want the best for Brownsville.

Anonymous said...

Nice article! I'm glad to read something positive about the stuff going on behind the scenes in Brownsville. Some of the people who really deserve it never get the accolades or the credit because they are humble and are not media hounds.