Four decades after my mother, Gaudencia "Gaudi" Campos, served with the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce ("the Chamber") as a Six Shooter (today's equivalent of an Ambassador), I have been honored with the Chamber's Ambassador of the Month award for February 2023 on behalf of my blog, Explore Harlingen.
About the Chamber
The Chamber, a not-for-profit, membership-based association, was established in 1919. Its mission is to promote growth by creating a positive atmosphere where businesses can receive training, network with other businesses, and be marketed to the community. The Chamber started having a group of volunteers called the Six Shooter Committee represent them at grand opening ribbon cutting and ground-breaking ceremonies in 1961. They were dubbed the "Red Coats" because they wore red blazers to these events.
Why My Mother Joined the Chamber
My mother started her own business in November 1979 at age 47, called the Gaudi Campos Employment Agency after being a housewife for many years. She became a member of the Chamber in 1980. Her records indicate that she began volunteering with the Chamber's Six Shooter Committee in 1983 as one of the first female Six Shooters. Image below is from the Valley Morning Star, when she attended the ribbon cutting for the first Chick-fil-A in Harlingen located at Valle Vista Mall in October 1983.
My mother, known for her infectious smile, achieved many accomplishments, including serving as Executive Director for Involvement of Mexicans in Gainful Endeavor (IMAGE) and being the first woman to serve on Harlingen's Planning and Zoning Commission. She received too many accolades to mention, but she was a person who loved her community and gave of herself selflessly.
A Hobby Becomes a Business
When my mother passed away in October 2020, I had to dig deep to figure out my purpose. I took a break from my blog, Explore Harlingen, during this time to grieve and perform my executor duties (it was the only extended break I have taken since starting the blog in October 2013). I had been overwhelmed by additional responsibilities resulting from the pandemic (as many of us were) and had to decide whether or not I should continue the volunteer work on my blog.
In January 2021, I resumed my blog with a renewed passion and dedication. I had never thought of my blog as a business before, but with increased advertising on my Facebook page, I finally began to see it as its own small business and treat it as such. In August 2021, I registered for an Assumed Name certificate with Cameron County, which ensured no one else could use the Explore Harlingen name for 10 years, reinforcing my commitment to the blog for at least the next decade.
Why I Joined the Chamber
After continued momentum in 2022, Explore Harlingen joined the Chamber as a member in October. (Coincidentally, I was 50 years old, around the same age as my mother when she joined the Chamber.) Simultaneously, I asked to volunteer as a Chamber Ambassador. I have always been interested in and supportive of local businesses. In fact, my first job after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin was as Membership Coordinator for the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The Red Coat Lives On
The current Chamber Ambassadors are now known for wearing a red coat or red shirt to grand opening ribbon cuttings. I found my mother's red coat that she wore as a Six Shooter. I was delighted to discover that it was still in excellent condition (a tremendous feat after 40+ years!). I had some minor alterations done to remove the shoulder pads (that were popular in the 1980s) and lengthen the sleeves to fit me better.
I fondly remember my mother being active in the Chamber when I was a little girl growing up in Harlingen. We would attend the annual convention for the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) in various Texas cities and we would treat it like a family vacation.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine having my own business to qualify as a member of the Chamber, to be able to follow in her footsteps.
Now that I have a daughter of my own (Lola), I take her to ribbon cuttings with me when she is not in school. Maybe, just maybe, in another 40 years, Lola will want to invest in her community and continue the legacy her beloved grandmother started.