Brownsville, Texas

Editorial Team and Acknowledgments

Editors: Lizzie MacWillie, Kelsey Menzel, Jesse Miller, and Josué Ramirez
Report Photographer: Verónica Gaona

Clockwise from top left: Lizzie MacWillie, Kelsey Menzel, Josué Ramirez, and Jesse Miller. Photographs courtesy of the editors

Lizzie MacWillie is director of urbanism at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP [bc], where she has worked on projects ranging from community engagement for the City of Dallas’ cultural plan to El Sonido del Agua, an arts and advocacy project in the Rio Grande Valley, and design guidelines for Main Street, Millinocket, Maine, as part of the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design. Prior to joining [bc], she worked at OMA/AMO in Rotterdam, Netherlands, as an editor of Elements of Architecture by Rem Koolhaas. She received master’s degrees in urban design and art, design, and the public domain from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Carnegie Mellon University. MacWillie is a member of the equity, diversity, and inclusion committee of the Texas Society of Architects and serves on the advisory board of Columns Magazine. 

Kelsey Menzel is the development manager at [bc]. She oversees the organization’s fundraising and development, cultivating valuable relationships with key stakeholders ranging from large organizations and communities to single individuals—all of whom have at least one thing in common: a commitment to building strong, sustainable, and equitable cities. She previously worked as a copywriter for a local nonprofit development agency before teaching English as a foreign language in Bogotá, Colombia. While completing her master’s degree in urban management, Menzely partnered with the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville to research affordable housing approaches in the colonias of Cameron County. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s in urban management from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany. 

Jesse Miller, AIA, is an architect with Megamorphosis in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. He works “to create places and spaces where people can thrive by using a diverse set of skills and experience in award-winning architecture, community planning, and community education projects and initiatives.” Miller earned a master’s degree in architecture at Ball State University, located in his home state of Indiana. While in graduate school, he studied at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico, working on his thesis, “Between Tradition and Dissent: Learning From and Working With Ignored Communities.” Miller is an adjunct professor in the architecture program at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, working with students on service learning projects with local municipalities and nonprofits. He serves as vice chairperson for the Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville and treasurer of the AIA Lower Rio Grande Valley executive committee, and is a member of the Texas Architect Magazine publication committee. 

Josué Ramirez is the Mi Casita program coordinator at come dream. come build. in Brownsville, Texas, where he has served since 2019. Ramirez guides participating families in the colonias and rural communities of Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties through the homeownership process and the design and construction of their homes through sweat equity. He earned a bachelor’s degree of arts in Mexican American studies with a focus on public policy from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a multidisciplinary artist working through visual art, installation, crafts, and performance. His artwork has been exhibited in the MexicArte Museum, Art League Houston, the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts, as well in publications like Remezcla and Pitchfork. Ramirez serves as the director of raw creativity for Trucha RGV, a media collective and online platform focused on the arts, culture, and social movements of the region. He is a founding member and is responsible for creative/cultural programming.

Verónica Gaona is an interdisciplinary artist living and working across the Texas–Mexico border. Informed by her transnational identity and the sociopolitical climate, Gaona creates an ongoing dialogue between her own body and the land to investigate notions of architecture, migration, and death by conducting location-driven research. A first-generation Mexican American from a family of migrants who has frequently relocated to search for employment, Gaona attempts to disrupt dominant conventionalities of time, such as acceleration and temporal linearity, by examining her physical and psychological situation. Her artwork exists at the intersection of performance, installation, and digital media, foregrounding the labor and spatial issues at play in her migrant family experience. Working from the border, she uses her position as insider and outsider, as a tool to bring migrant spaces to life and center them within the larger debates on migration. In 2019, she traveled to Marfa, Texas, and Nantes, France, to take part in DUST, a residency working at the intersection of spatial practice, critical theory, and contemporary art. She has been published in Critical Storytelling on/from with(in) [the] Border(s), an anthology published with Brill|Sense. In summer of 2021, she will exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Tamaulipas. Currently, she is an MFA in studio art candidate and instructor at the University of Houston.


We would like to thank all of the contributors for their time and labor, not only toward this report, but in their day-to-day dedication to Brownsville and the RGV. The people represented in this collection are a handful of the folks who inspire us everyday and we are grateful for the opportunities we get to collaborate with people and organizations who are doing such amazing work.