Author Archives: Tony Vindell

Freelance journalist Tony Vindell has more than 30 years experience as a newspaper reporter. Born in Nicaragua, he studied journalism and political science at the University of Missouri-Columbia and at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. He began his career working for The Pecos Enterprise in West Texas. Vindell also worked for The Laredo News, The Brownsville Herald, Valley Morning Star, Port Isabel News Press and the Raymondville Chronicle/News. Vindell, who lives in Brownsville with his wife Sharon, enjoys hunting, fishing and traveling.

Company Recycles Cooking Oil

Fatty Chem plant manager Hector Martinez stand in front of a company tanker truck and next to used cooking oil collection containers. (VBR)

Some jobs are said to be as clean as a whistle while others sound as dirty as a pig sty. One successful Rio Grande Valley enterprise that some people might consider to fall in the latter category is recycling used cooking oil. A Los Fresnos-based company called Fatty Chem By-Products Inc. bills itself as a full-service recycler of fats and oils, with some of the byproducts having been used in…

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Resaca Walls Protect Property

A retaining wall under construction along a resaca in the Brownsville area. (VBR)

Although the city of San Benito bills itself as the Resaca City due to the waterway that meanders through the town, there are other parts of Cameron County that boast the historic channels cut into the landscape by the Rio Grande over the centuries, among them the Brownsville, Rancho Viejo, Los Fresnos and Bayview areas. A resaca is an old river channel created by floods that carved out the Rio…

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Growing Dragons in Willacy

Oklahoma native Chuck Taylor grows pitaya, or dragon fruit, commercially in Willacy County. (VBR)

Tucked away at the end of Kenaf Road just west of Raymondville is a small farm that has commercially produced a little-known tropical delicacy for seven years. Pitaya, more commonly known as dragon fruit, is a reddish oval-shaped fruit grows from the arms of a plant of the cactus family. Largely unfamiliar to Rio Grande Valley residents, this new crop has yet to be a common ingredient in a fruit…

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Comeback in Brownsville

Mariachis perform at Noche de Garibaldi in downtown Brownsville. The musical event was patterned after the music scene in Mexico City’s Garibaldi Plaza. (VBR)

Downtown Brownsville is a happening place again. The once thriving central business district is undergoing a major transformation, and much of the credit is going to the city’s leadership and to the progressive vision of some of its residents. Brownsville’s downtown used to be a place bustling with people shopping for a variety of merchandise, ranging from fashionable clothes to ropa usada to household goods to furniture to gadgets of…

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Loans that Lift Businesses

Owner Martin Leal and his son Marty enjoy coffee at the family-owned coffeehouse Angelita’s. (VBR)

Are you interested in owning your own business or improving your existing venture but are not willing to take the risk because of financial roadblocks or other uncertainties? A San Antonio-based company with two offices in the Rio Grande Valley can offer advice for start-ups and existing businesses, and loans of anywhere from $500 to $50,000. Called LiftFund, the company makes loans at interest rates ranging from 9 percent to…

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Sesame Seeds Grow a Business

Romi Cordova, a veteran worker at Dipasa, arranges bags of roasted sesame seeds. (VBR)

The Rio Grande Valley’s ubiquitous tortillerias and tamale factories are well known as producers of popular food products that are staples to Mexican food fans throughout South Texas. But for more than three decades, a Brownsville company has earned distinction as a manufacturer of a food product more familiar in another part of the world. Since 1985, Dipasa USA Inc. has been processing roasted sesame seeds into tahini, a paste…

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Brownsville’s Burger History

A burger and fries basket served at The Palm Lounge. (VBR)

When it comes to having a burger, most people think about fast-food joints like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s or Jack in the Box. Others favor chains known for having some of the best hamburgers in the country, like Corpus Christi-based Whataburger and In-and-Out Burgers of Irvine, Calif. Some people might say that all beef patties placed inside a bun or roll are basically the same, but three of the oldest…

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Sea Wolf Howls on Island

The Lobo Del Mar Dance Troupe performs an eclectic blend of international dances. (Courtesy)

Palm Street Bar & Grill on South Padre Island used to be just a place to grab a sandwich, enjoy a spirit or listen to good music. Not anymore. The bar and grill, now operating under the name Lobo Del Mar Café, has transformed into a potpourri of entertainment, art, food and people under the direction of a large family group of entrepreneurs. Sitting at the end of West Palm…

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Historic Valley Funeral Homes

Raymondville’s David Wittenbach now operates one of the oldest family-owned funeral homes in the Rio Grande Valley. (VBR)

Most funeral homes in the Rio Grande Valley are located in the more heavily populated cities like Brownsville, McAllen and Harlingen, with many of them owned by large corporations. But a few are still family-owned and operated. The small Willacy County city of Raymondville has two of them, down from three just a few years ago. Duddlesten Funeral Home and Good Shepard Funeral Home are both located along West Hidalgo…

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Gluten-free Goods on the Road

Peggy Harris with some of her gluten-free breads at a farmers market. (VBR)

Selling shrimp caught in the Gulf Mexico was a full-time job for Peggy Harris when she was a vendor on the second floor of Valley International Airport in Harlingen. Called Texashrimp, the business on the south side of the boarding area was easily seen by passengers wanting to take some fresh shrimp with them. After eight years, she sold the venture and embarked on a new and different type of…

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