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Physical Features: Rich alluvial soils along Rio Grande; sandy, loam soils in north; semitropical vegetation; Anzalduas Channel Dam, Delta Lake, Valley Acres Reservoir.
Economy: Food processing and shipping, other agribusinesses, tourism, mineral operations.
History: Coahuiltecan and Karankawa area. Comanches forced Apaches southward into valley in the 1700s; Comanches arrived in valley in the 1800s. Spanish settlement occurred 1750-1800. County created in 1852 from Cameron and Starr counties, organized the same year; named for leader of Mexico’s independence movement of 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo.
Race/Ethnicity: (In percent) Anglo, 7.1; Black, 0.9; Hispanic, 91.2; Asian, 1.1; Other, 0.9.
Vital Statistics, annual: Births, 16,325; deaths, 4,046; marriages, 4,950; divorces, 3.
Recreation: Winter resort, retirement area; fishing, hunting; gateway to Mexico; historical sites; Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park; museums; All-Valley Winter Vegetable Show at Pharr.
Minerals: Oil, gas, stone, sand and gravel.
Agriculture: Ninety percent of farm cash receipts from crops (ranked first in state), principally from sugar cane (first in acreage), grain sorghum (first in acreage), vegetables (first in acreage), citrus, cotton; livestock includes cattle; 184,000 acres irrigated. Market value $452.8 million.
EDINBURG (83,970) county seat; vegetable processing and packing, petroleum operations, tourism, clothing; planetarium; the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley; hospitals; behavioral, health center; museum; Texas Cook’em High Steaks July 4 weekend, Fiesta Edinburg in February.
McALLEN (138,082) government/services; food processing and shipping, varied manufacturing, tourism; community college; hospitals; Palmfest in October.
Mission (83,394) citrus groves, agricultural processing and distribution; hospital; community college; international butterfly park; Citrus Fiesta in January.
Pharr (76,476) agriculture, trading center; trucking; tourism; old clock, juke box museums; folklife festival in February.
Other towns include: Abram (2,265); Alamo (19,149) live steam museum; Alton (14,065); Doffing (5,556); Donna (17,429) citrus center, varied manufacturing; Edcouch (3,330); Elsa (6,578); Granjeno (307); Hargill (903); Hidalgo (12,610) trade zone, shipping, winter resort, agribusiness, historical sites, library, Borderfest in March; La Blanca (2,569); La Homa (13,124); La Joya (4,206); La Villa (2,346); Los Ebanos (350).
Also, Mercedes (16,798) “boot capital,” citrus, and vegetable center, food processing, tourism, recreation vehicle show in January, Hispanic Fest July 4; Mila Doce (6,838); Monte Alto (2,108); North Alamo (3,757); Nurillo (8,108); Palmhurst (2,714); Palmview (6,667); Palmview South (6,056); Peñitas (4,759); Perezville (2,793); Progreso (5,999); Progreso Lakes (241); San Carlos (3,392); San Juan (36,634) retirement area, trucking, Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan, Spring Fiesta in February; San Manuel-Linn (795); South Alamo (3,682); Sullivan City (4,138); Weslaco (37,797) agriculture, nature tourism, South Texas College, hospital, Dragonfly Days in May.
The approach to Bentsen–Rio Grande Valley State Park near Mission. Photo by Robert Plocheck.