Thanksgiving looked a lot different this year.
Following recommendations from health experts, many practiced social distancing during the holidays to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by celebrating the holiday with less people.
This adjustment is one that even local leaders went through based on conversations with the mayors of the city of Alton, La Joya, Mission, Palmhurst, Palmview and Peñitas. The Progress Times reached out to them to ask them how they celebrated the holiday and what it means to them. All of them had different traditions, but they all expressed gratitude for being able to celebrate the holiday with loved ones.
Mayor Salvador Vela
The grandfather of 13 will have a smaller party this year, Alton Mayor Salvador Vela said.
“We won’t be able to all come together despite it being a family thing,” Vela said. Typically, his three children and 13 grandchildren visit Vela and his wife and spend the holiday with them. Though the family may not all be together, Vela said they won’t forget the meaning of Thanksgiving.
“To me, the holiday means getting together with family and celebrating all the prosperity God has given us in this nation.” Vela said. “We have to give thanks for all God has given us, especially protecting us from COVID, so why wouldn’t we be thankful for that? We are protected because of his love.”
Mayor Isidro Casanova
Every year, La Joya Mayor Isidro Casanova spends Thanksgiving with his extended family.
“Of course with the pandemic going on it will be different as we will only celebrate it with immediate family,” Casanova said.
Like Mayor Vela, Casanova is spending the holiday being thankful for the health of his and his family.
“We’ve been getting by with the pandemic and we’ve been very fortunate that no one has gotten sick,” Casanova said. “Our prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, it will be hard for them knowing they’re having to get together with less family members due to them dying. It’s why we have to be thankful for what we have now and spend as much time with family as we can.”
Mayor Armando O’Caña
Like other mayors, Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña is appreciative of God and believes the best way to celebrate the holiday is to give thanks to him.
“He has given us life and the wisdom to be able to work with the COVID-19 situation,” O’Caña said.
Usually O’Caña celebrates the holiday with his extended family that is so large that he splits them into different groups to spend time with throughout the day.
“But we’re thinking outside the box with the celebration this year and having one sit down meal with seven family members,” O’Caña said. “It hurts my heart to have to select which family you’re going to be spending time with because you can’t see them all but we know it’s for the best,” O’Caña said. “I hope that we all still have a happy Thanksgiving and remember that the virus is still out there.”
Mayor Ramiro J. Rodriguez Jr.
Palmhurst Mayor Ramiro J. Rodriguez will continue to celebrate Thanksgiving at his home with his son visiting from Austin.
“Usually we either celebrate with the entire family including the parents of my son’s fiancée but this year it’ll be a small gathering,” Rodriguez Jr. said. “Usually my wife and I make a feast but now because of this, we’re going to order takeout from Luby’s and celebrate small. I miss normalcy but am also praying to God to get us through this.
Rodriguez Jr. said it was important for people to be responsible this holiday season.
“It’s our moral, social and civic duty to do so, we need to celebrate Thanksgiving by ourselves so hopefully next year we can have it with the physical presence of our loved ones instead of having to wish them a happy Thanksgiving in the cemetery,” Rodriguez Jr. said
Mayor Ricardo “Ricky” Villarreal
Palmview Mayor “Ricky” Villarreal is also cutting back on the amount of people he celebrates Thanksgiving with. The holiday is usually filled with multiple relatives at his mother’s house cooking many things in the kitchen such as tamales, the turkey, pies and even sides like pico de gallo.
“We’re going to celebrate but not as a whole family united like we normally do,” Villarreal said. “It shouldn’t matter though, the greatest thing is to give thanks to our Lord and savior for another year of life. We wish all families a safe Thanksgiving as they continue to wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear a mask.”
Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez
Peñitas Mayor “Rigo” Lopez has spent much of the pandemic staying home and Thanksgiving will be no different, he said.
“We’re only celebrating it with immediate family and enjoy good food and give thanks to everything we have,” Lopez said. “Usually we spend it with everyone in our family and have a good time but this year everyone is social distancing as much as possible. We hope everyone spends it well with their family and uses it as a time to safely prepare for the next holiday.”