Brownsville Woman Displays Hundreds of Nativities

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BROWNSVILLE - Many people are beginning to decorate their home for the holidays, but one Brownsville woman has been making preparations for weeks.

Emma Rios said it takes her almost a month to put up her collection of nativities.

“Last night, we counted them and we have 458,” she said. “The collection began in about 1971. I bought my first nativity scene when my oldest son was about a year old.”

That was 46 years ago, and ever since Rios continues to buy new additions. But there are a few that were given to her by friends and relatives.

“I love to sit and unwrap them and take them out and look at them. A lot of them have very important memories. We remember those people of those situation or that trip,” she said. “I like to have them up by Dec. 1 because then I get to enjoy them longer.”

Her husband and retired Brownsville police officer, Ruben Perez Rios, said they would travel to different places to look for new pieces.

“You get a chance to really look into it when you try to keep it safe. And pray to God you don’t break one,” he said.

And also part of their tradition, they have trees for every member of their family.

“It started when my boys were living at home. Each one has a tree and it was specific to their likes,” Rios said.

It soon expanded to include new family members.

“I have trees for my grandchildren also. My husband was in law enforcement so there’s a section exclusively to him. I cook and bake so there’s a section exclusively about baking,” she said.

But it’s the nativities that take center stage.

“Those people in Oaxaca put together those nativity scenes. And all the colors are little, bitty, tiny beads,” she said as described the pieces.

The collection stays up for the rest of the season.

“When everything comes down, the house looks pretty sad,” she laughed. 


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