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TXMap-RGV-Shaded.png

The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) or the Lower Rio Grande Valley, informally called The Valley, is an area located in the southernmost tip of South Texas. It lies along the northern bank of the Rio Grande, which separates Mexico from the United States.

The Rio Grande Valley is not a valley, but a delta or floodplain containing many oxbow lakes or resacas formed from pinched-off meanders in earlier courses of the Rio Grande. Early settlers from the Dust Belt, who came to capitalize off of unclaimed land, utilized the name "The Magic Valley" to appeal to investors. This named referred to the fact that this land was controlled by the US military after several failed civil uprisings by the people to protect their land and was surrounded by two "figurative" mountains that were military bases in Brownsville and Rio Grande City... The "Magic" element was attributed to the Rio Grande river which ran through, supposedly enriching the soil with minerals which made it prime for planting. " The Rio Grande Valley is also called "El Valle", the Spanish translation of "the valley", by those who live there.[1] Another affectionate term that the residents of the Rio Grande Valley use to refer to the area is "El Magico Valle del Rio Grande" ("The Magical Valley of the Rio Grande") and also simply by its initials of "RGV."

The region is made up of four counties: Starr County, Hidalgo County, Willacy County, and Cameron County. As of January 1, 2008, the Texas State Data Center estimated the population of the Rio Grande Valley at 1,138,872.[2] Over 80% of the residents of the Valley are either "Chicano", "Spanish", "Tejano", "Hispanic" or "Latino".

The largest city is Brownsville (Cameron County), followed by McAllen (Hidalgo County). Other major cities include Harlingen, Mission, Edinburg, and Pharr.[3]

The city of Pharr stands out historically as the catalyst to social change in the South Texas court system. After the Pharr Riot on February 6, 1971, for the first time a Hispanic was found innocent of wrong-doing in a case against a white man.

Contents

Tourism

The Valley encompasses several landmarks that attract tourists, and is primarily known for South Padre Island. Other popular destinations include Port Isabel Lighthouse, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. The Valley is a popular waypoint for tourists seeking to visit Mexico. Popular destinations across the border include: Matamoros, Nuevo Progreso, Río Bravo, and Reynosa, all located in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The Valley also attracts large numbers of wealthy tourists from the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Distrito Federal, and Tamaulipas.

The Valley is a popular Winter tourist destination for residents from the Midwest United States and Canada (called Winter Texans). Along with Mexican nationals and thousands of college students who visit South Padre Island throughout March and April, Winter Texans are the bulk of the Valley's tourism. Winter Texans typically arrive in October–November and stay until February–March, causing a seasonal swell for local businesses. It is also the only region within the United States where birders can observe certain varieties of tropical birds more typical of Mexico. It is also along the path taken by the migratory Monarch Butterfly as it transits to and from the Mexican state of Michoacan.

The history of the Rio Grande Valley is chronicled at the Museum of South Texas History.

People of historical interest

A list of notable people who were born, lived, or died in the Rio Grande Valley includes:

Places of Historical Interest

The First Lift Station in Mission, Texas once provided water for irrigating the crops of the early Rio Grande Valley.
  • La Lomita Historic District
  • Rancho de Carricitos

The Brownsville Raid and the construction of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle both took place in The Rio Grande Valley.

Economy

The Valley is reliant on agribusiness and tourism. Cotton, various sorghums, maize, and sugarcane are its leading crops, and the region is the center of citrus production and the most important area of vegetable production in the State of Texas. Over the last several decades, the emergence of maquiladoras (factories or fabrication plants) has caused a surge of industrial development along the border, while international bridges have allowed Mexican nationals to shop, sell and do business in the border cities along the Rio Grande River. The geographic inclusion of South Padre Island also drives tourism, particularly during the Spring Break season, during which South Padre Island becomes reminiscent of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. There is a substantial health-care industry with major hospitals and many clinics and private practices in Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen.

The economy is shifting gradually from agricultural to lignt and medium industrial focus- with low labor content jobs on the US side of the border and high labor content tasks on the Mexico side of the border.

According to the 1990 census, just over 82 percent of Cameron County, over 85 percent of Hidalgo County, over 97 percent of Starr County, and over 84 percent of Willacy County were Hispanic.

Texas is the third largest producer of citrus fruit in United States, the majority of which is grown in the Rio Grande Valley. Grapefruit make up over 70% of the Valley citrus crop, which also includes orange, tangerine, tangelo and Meyer lemon production each Winter.[4]

Education

Colleges and Universities in the Rio Grande Valley include:

Media

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Newspapers

Television

Radio

  • KBFM Wild 104 (Hip Hop/Top 40)
  • KBTQ 96.1 Recuerdo (Spanish Oldies)Univision
  • KCAS 91.5 FM (Christian, Teaching/Preaching/Music)
  • KESO Digital 92.7 (Internacional, Spanish Top 40)
  • KFRQ Q94.5 The Rock Station (Classic/Modern/Hard Rock)
  • KGBT 1530 La Tremenda (Univision)
  • KGBT-FM 98.5 FM (Regional Mexican) Univision
  • KHKZ Hot Kiss 106.3 (Hot Adult Contemporary)
  • KIRT 1580 AM Radio Imagen (Variety, Spanish contemporary)
  • KIWW (Spanish)
  • KJAV 104.9 Jack FM
  • KKPS Que Pasa 99.5 (Tejano)
  • KMBH-FM/KHID 88.9/88.1 NPR (Classical/Public Radio)
  • KNVO-FM Super Estrella (Super Star) 101.1
  • KQXX 105.5 (Oldies)
  • KTEX 100.3 (Country)
  • KURV 710 AM Heritage Talk Radio (part of the BMP family of stations)
  • KVLY Mix 107.9 KVLY (Hot Adult Contemporary)
  • KVMV 96.9 FM (Christian, Contemporary Music) World Radio Network

External links

References


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The Rio Grande Valley is along the Gulf Coast of Texas.

  • Brownsville - The southernmost port city of the continental US is an important border city.
  • Harlingen -also has a barge port (with the Arroyo Colorado as the waterway). Several Shrimp Farms, Orchid operations, and other things are around Arroyo City (between Harlingen and the bay (Laguna Madre)
  • McAllen - The City of Hidalgo is the border town, McAllen is about 10 to 12 miles from the border with Reynosa -city of Reynosa in Mexico.
  • Weslaco, Progresso - Weslaco is in the Mid-Valley, and close to Progresso- which as a sister city across the river also known as Progresso a -Progresso in Mexico.
  • Edinburg - is just North of McAllen -The 4 county area of Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy, and Starr are generally referred to as the Rio Grande Valley
  • Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge
  • South Padre Island, including Isla Blanca State Park
  • Edinburg Birding Center, including Park Areas
  • Other birding Centers

Understand

The Rio Grande Valley, sometimes known as the RGV by locals, encompasses the coastal areas south of Baffin Bay down to the Rio Grande River, which serves as Texas' border with Mexico.

Get in

Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen Airports have commercial service with daily flights

or Drive down, Highway 77, or Highway 281 (future I69) -be mentally ready for a long drive- Texas is about 800 miles North South, and about 800 miles East West depending on your route- and for a visual reference- a 10 hour drive from here will either take you to Mexico City, or to Dallas -they are about equal distance.

Take breaks from Driving- see other sections on driving safety- Whataburger makes a good stop (or Dairy Queen in either Three Rivers or George West- story telling capital of the world)

If arriving from the south- take Highway 40 from Mty (short for Monterrey Mexico), or highway 180 to highway 97 North from Victoria Mexico. Highway 180 continues on to Matamoros/ Brownsville, while 97 splits off for the Reynosa/ McAllen area.

Be sure to have appropriate VISA/ Passport documents for entry to the USA.

Get around

Brownsville is the only major city to have a complete bus system, McAllen has started a bus system- currently with limited routes and schedules (about once an hour on only 4 lines).

The pickup truck is king on the Texas Roads- and you can even rent one from the car rental agencies either at the airport or in town. -Europeans might be amazed at what Texans drive as average vehicles- reducing our carbon footprint is an ongoing thought- and summer of 2008's $4 gas helped get our attention. -of course where else can your 4 door pickup truck haul a 15,000 lb boat and trailer while also carrying 6 people in comfort?

Bicycle -possible- but traffic has it's hazards- I believe we have lost 4 souls to being run over while cycling so far this year- even the bicycle lanes are regularly violated by cars and trucks turning right.

Car/ Pickup dependent culture in general- sidewalks are not consistent through towns and cities- forcing pedestrians to walk either on uneven ground or on the street. The hot climate is not well suited to long walks- if walking for any distance consider a camel back- water supply system.

Distances are fairly large between attractions in the area- Blue Town on old Military Highway was named for the location where troops from Fort Brown would meet Troops from Fort Ringold for joint drills.

Do

Bird Watch, (many areas of the Valley) Parrots, Egrets, many birds visit the area each season- along the coast Flamingos stop by as well

Fish- Laguna Madre (our bay) is a shallow bay, and a great place to run aground while fishing- this is why most of the bay boats you will see have tunnel hulls, and motors that can lift (usually a Jack-Plate). Just be careful -if you are used to fresh water fishing to keep your fingers out of the mouths of the fish- many have sharp teeth.

Offshore Fishing- there are captains that charter (6 pack or larger) and take folks out to the snapper banks (60 miles) or other offshore fishing.

Scuba, -while the Gulf of Mexico often has a "murky layer" there are artificial reef areas set aside specifically for scuba- these have several features sunk for divers to experience- and in the upper layers of water- the visibility is quite good.

Scuba- offshore oil wells- these habitats are great for fish- and wildlife, essentially any structure on the bottom of the gulf attracts fish.

Los Caminos de Rio- does one day a month of bicycle touring on a 600 acre nature preserve- and also does kayaking trips directly on the Rio Grande- if you don't actually put your feet down on the Mexico Side of the River- then you have not left the USA. Also, the new Anzulduas Bridge will have a dock level reentry point when it opens- better allowing for a Mexico Visit by Kayak during excursions.

Discussions and explorations of re-opening Delta Lake for recreational use are underway- (north of Edcouch-Elsa, and the Monte Alto area) -Los Caminos Del Rio will participate in having their Kayaks there for an event summer 2009- to show possible rental income for economic analysis. (not every weekend, but likely to be one special event.)

Eat

There are many eating options across the RGV area, new to the McAllen Mission area- is the entire zone around the McAllen Convention Center- several restaurants from PF Changs, to the more local Kumori Sushi exist here alongside our more traditional Tex-Mex or RGV food. Local dining stands are sometimes small- with hamburgers and traditional tacos around (a normal order is 6 small format tacos).

On South Padre Island, Blackbeards has been serving up half pound burgers, shrimp and even steaks for more than 30 years- the back room is the original restaurant seating area. The Island has been recovering from Dolly (2008), and from our own bridge collapse event in 2001 (a barge hit it) -There are many places to eat at the Island, from Beachside to Bayside- many places on the Bay are excellent spots for sunset watching. -many people enjoy a beverage while watching the sun set -Pelicans Wharf is one such spot -as is 202, Louie's backyard, and many more. -by the time you arrive who knows there could be a new one you should try out.

The food options extend to both sides of the border- just be sure to bring your passport or new passport card- Garcias, Arturos, La Mansion, La Fogata, and many other high service food options are just across the border- or for the adventurous- several Calle de-Taco options are out there.

Many of the great local places have literally grown out of walk up stands- to full service places- and even adding on rooms for special events like weddings and such- one is Trevino's in Edinburg (North of the Courthouse on business 281)- even in the last 14 years it has expanded twice- classic valley food.

Our newest stand in Edinburg has the kitchen in a trailer (perhaps easier to get financing if it can be reposessed), seating outside, but under a roof- and many options on traditional style tacos. (at 107 and Depot road (or north 23rd to University from McAllen) -4 orders of tacos (6 each) were around $22 bucks last time I visited. -The Nuevo Leon version had avacado, and white cheese along with the meat and veggies. They are still getting their main signs up- although "Now Open" currently appears to be their name.

La Jaiba Shrimp house has several locations around the Edinburg area- there are also several new places on North 10th in McAllen as you approach the Trenton cross street. -Many of these are being influenced by new chefs, trying out new concepts - the churn rate has been high- so by the time you eat out they will either be very good, or very new!

Drink

-drink plenty of water- this is a HOT Climate! dehydration will make your trip a bad one.

-this is a bilingual area -so ordering can be more fun.

Stay safe

start with drinking water- most bad things (everywhere) happen between 12 midnight at 6 am, so you could try Benjamin Franklins advice "early to bed early to rise..." but then again- you may be here for late night fun.

McAllen's downtown has been revitalized- with relatively new parking options (parking tower), and nightlife -riff-raft were cleared out a few years ago creating a much safer environment that is more tourist friendly.

Crime Statistics are out there- it seems to be no less safe here than most other metropolitan areas- and despite the so-called narco-trafficking violence- it seems at least as safe as Texas's other major cities and MSA's.

Get out

Highway 83 follows the border out of the Valley to Laredo area -through historic Zapata county- "better to die on your feet than live on your knees" -that is the famous saying of it's namesake.

Highway 281 goes North- out of the RGV, and also Highway 77 goes North out of the RGV.

Going south, Mexico's Highway 40 goes to Monterrey MX, Saltillo, Torreon, Durango, and ultimately Mazatlan -the last section having been the highest death rate per mile in the past- I believe Mexico has been rebuilding and redesigning the road- From Mazatlan a Ferry goes over to the Cabo San Lucas Area- and if going to LA just head north from there.

Highway 97 goes south to Victoria, and Tampico- towards Veracruz Mexcico.

If departing by water- it is possible to leave the RGV from either Port Mansfield (a scenic fishing and small boat port) or Port Isabel. (Port of Brownsville is for Ships, while Port of Harlingen is for Barges)- if heading to Florida- sail east for 600 to 1000 miles, if to Cancun South East for 600 miles.

AIRPORTS, yes you can depart by commercial air service from Brownsville, Harlingen, or McAllen- or if you Charter a plane or bring your own- many other airports.

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