There's not much excitement in town

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LaGRULLA, Texas _ The town of LaGrulla is a tiny community set apart from the rest of civilization.

Before we came here to live on Oct. 31, I was repeatedly told by the Martinezes and other migrant families I met in the Pacific Northwest that there is ``nothing'' in LaGrulla. They were right.

The town of 1,445 is located three miles south of Texas 83, which is a main highway connecting all the cities and communities that line the South Texas border.

Once you reach Texas 83 from LaGrulla, you have to drive 10 miles either east or west before reaching a larger community.

In LaGrulla, there are two ``Mom and Pop'' grocery stores, similar to general stores. But locals won't shop there because, they say, prices are too high. Instead they drive into one of the larger communities to do their weekly shopping at a supermarket.

There are only two gas stations in LaGrulla. But again, prices are too high.

There is an elementary school, a post office, two cemeteries, two churches _ one a Catholic Church and the other a Mennonite Church _ a tiny community park and a community center, both of which are rarely used.

A few businesses _ two mini-markets and an auto shop _ have closed during the past year after being open only one year.

The roads in the community are paved but are big enough for only one car. The homes, most built of wood, are constructed closely together. It's common to see dogs and chickens cross the road. Occasionally, tarantulas and rattlesnakes can be seen making their way across the road.

In the mornings, residents are awakened by the crowing of roosters.

At night, the community is virtually dark, with a street light located every mile or so. Rarely does one see a front or back porch light on.

During the day, most of the activity, and gossip, occurs at the post office. But usually the community is deserted as most of its residents go into Rio Grande City, 13 miles away, to do their business.

``The community has really gotten quiet, especially this year,'' Maria Elena says while sitting at her dining table, sipping coffee. ``It used to be so lively. You would go outside and you could see everyone walking around, visiting neighbors, the teens driving by in beautiful trucks, and everyone would gather together.

``I don't know what happened, but things are so different, so sad. Things aren't the same no more.''

Her husband, Raul, says nothing will compare to the way things were when he and his wife were married 35 years ago.

``Every weekend, there would be a dance at the center, when it was cold, or outside in the park when it was hot,'' he says in Spanish. ``It used to cost us only $1 per person and everyone went with their entire families.

``Now, when there is a dance, you have to go all the way to Rio Grande City and it costs about $10 a person. Who around here has that kind of money?'' he asks his wife.

There also used to be a movie theater, but that has been closed for at least 15 years.

``Things have gotten real bad here,'' Maria Elena says. ``I guess it's because there is no money.''

Even though the economy has caused the community to lose much of the spirit it once had, the Martinezes say they will never leave their hometown.

``This is our home. This is where we were born, grew up, got married and where our children were born,'' Maria Elena says. ``How can you leave your home?''

Raul nods his head in agreement.

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