Historical exhibit documents the resourcefulness of health professionals and volunteers in the aftermath of Hurricane Beulah

Hurricane Beulah is still recognized as one of the most significant storms to make landfall in Texas.  On September 21, 1967 the storm moved into the mouth of the Rio Grande and inundated South Texas with heavy rainfall.  The memories of the hurricane and its aftermath were still fresh in the minds of many who attended the May 6th opening of a photography exhibit which chronicles the response of health professionals and local volunteers to refugees displaced by flooding in Starr County.

Hurricane Beulah caused extensive flooding on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.  To escape the rising floodwaters, over 14,000 refugees from Camargo, Tamaulipas crossed the border into the small town of Roma, Texas.  The refugees were in desperate need of food, shelter, and medical care.  It was in Roma that Dr. Mario E. Ramirez, the only physician in town and Starr County’s Public Health Service Director, rose to action in the face of a crisis.  For several weeks, Dr. Ramirez along with volunteers from the local community, UT Medical Branch in Galveston, Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio as well as the U.S. Army worked to help the hurricane victims.

In 2007 the Library at the UT Health Science Center Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen was named for Dr. Mario E. Ramirez. The Ramirez Library subsequently received materials from Dr. Ramirez’ personal archive and library, a rich collection of photographs, letters, and documents. Many of the materials donated by Dr. Ramirez are related to Hurricane Beulah, including 139 photographs and 185 pages of letters, newspaper clippings, and personal journal entries.  The photographs were taken by George Tuley, a Rio Grande City teacher, who would later go on to a 39-year career as a photojournalist at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

The photographs portray the use of makeshift medical equipment in the absence of IV poles, incubators, and oxygen tents.  The photographs also document the transformation of a high school into a packaged disaster hospital where blackboards were used to record patient information including diagnoses and treatments.

In 2009 the Ramirez Library received a Library Technology Award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) to support the digitization, cataloging, and uploading of the Hurricane Beulah photographs to the UT Health Science Center Libraries Digital Archive as well as the creation of a traveling exhibit.  The full collection of Hurricane Beulah photographs from the Ramirez Collection can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/beulahphotos.  The photography exhibit will remain on display at the Ramirez Library, and a traveling version of the exhibit will be made available to local schools, libraries and museums.  For more information, please contact Graciela Reyna, Assistant Director, Mario E. Ramirez, M.D. Library at (956) 365-8850 or reynag@uthscsa.edu.

Kathleen Carter
Ramirez Library Librarian

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