Here’s Why SpaceX’s Move to Boca Chica Could Create a Clash of Culture

Brownsville is its own time warp. Could SpaceX’s new site change that?

By Michael MarksAugust 26, 2016 10:22 am

The future of space exploration is coming to the Rio Grande Valley. Boca Chica Beach is adjacent to Brownsville, right near the Mexican border. It’s also where SpaceX, the Elon Musk-owned space transport company, is building a launch pad.

The company broke ground on the $100 million project in 2015. Its first launch will be 2018, at the earliest.

Domingo Martinez grew up in Brownsville. His family regularly took trips to Boca Chica Beach. In a recent Texas Monthly article, he reflected on what SpaceX’s arrival might mean for the culture and economy of his hometown.

He says Boca Chica was South Padre’s poor cousin. Martinez lived next door to Boca Chica – his family’s land abutted the farming territory around there – which he says was like the “last vestiges of the city before it turned into the rolling salt flats.”

“The idea behind Boca Chica – it was sort of a tacit understanding that you didn’t need much,” he says. “You just needed a vehicle to get you there. Throw some firewood in the back, maybe stop at the H-E-B and pick up some fajitas, but you certainly didn’t need to dress up. … That was our Sunday afternoon. That was our Fourth of July. That was Easter Sunday.”

He says he was concerned SpaceX moving into the space would create a clash of culture in the area.

“The idea of SpaceX being such a forward-thinking, such a progressive internationally known and globally supported type of attitude meeting the laissez-faire attitude of the lower Rio Grande Valley,” he says, “I thought ‘Wow, this is headed for a collision.”

But even so, Martinez says he’s all for the construction.

“Ultimately what [SpaceX is] hoping for and what the city planners are hoping for, and what I’m hoping for,” he says, “is that it’ll create an ecosystem of vendors and suppliers and people working with SpaceX and that expands or diversify the economy.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.