ZAPATA COUNTY, Texas -- A traditionally Democratic county in Texas voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in nearly 100 years.
Helen Trapp was among the voters that helped President Donald Trump win Zapata County this year.
When we caught up with Trapp, she stood outside her home and admired the flags hanging from her façade. In the middle was the American flag and on the right was a blue pro-Trump flag.
The flag reminds her of some words of wisdom her grandfather would say when she was a child: “Be proud of your Mexican heritage, but your country is first.”
Decades later, she heard a similar message from Trump.
“His policy was always America first,” Trap said.
It was this message that encouraged the Mexican American to switch from voting blue to red. Her vote was one of the thousands that helped turn Zapata County, a traditional Democrat stronghold, into a Trump county.
Trump’s election signs are on fences, billboards and houses in the community that borders Mexico, just south of Laredo.
“He’s not a politician,” said Trap. “We’re tired of Democrats coming here when they want the vote and forget the town completely.”
The county had not voted Republican in a presidential election since 1920. There is not even an established Republican Party in the community.
Nearly 95% of residents are Mexican American. Some experts believed Trump’s negative comments of immigrants in the past would have kept Texas communities like Zapata blue but that wasn’t the case. Communities along or near the border like Reeves, Val Verde, Frio, LaSalle, Jim Wells, Kleberg, and Kennedy counties flipped from blue to red in this election.
Judge Joe Wrathful believes that the county turned red because residents believed Democrats would not protect the oil and gas industries.
“Being from a rural county, good jobs are hard to find. The oil industry offers good-paying jobs for many years,” Wrathful said. “The voters felt threatened by potentially losing incomes to support families.”