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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, 16,059; deaths, 3,817; 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 (85,456) 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 (138,356) government/services; food processing and shipping, varied manufacturing, tourism; community college; hospitals; Palmfest in October.
Mission (81,581) citrus groves, agricultural processing and distribution; hospital; community college; international butterfly park; Citrus Fiesta in January.
Pharr (74,334) agriculture, trading center; trucking; tourism; old clock, juke box museums; folklife festival in February.
Other towns include: Abram (2,193); Alamo (19,225) live steam museum; Alton (13,943); Doffing (5,355); Donna (17,446) citrus center, varied manufacturing; Edcouch (3,243); Elsa (6,354); Granjeno (296); Hargill (900); Hidalgo (12,671) trade zone, shipping, winter resort, agribusiness, historical sites, library, Borderfest in March; La Blanca (2,558); La Homa (12,602); La Joya (4,238); La Villa (1,952); Los Ebanos (346).
Also, Mercedes (16,556) “boot capital,” citrus, and vegetable center, food processing, tourism, recreation vehicle show in January, Hispanic Fest July 4; Mila Doce (6,659); Monte Alto (2,036); North Alamo (3,598); Nurillo (7,838); Palmhurst (2,665); Palmview (6,798); Palmview South (5,843); Peñitas (4,505); Perezville (5,660; Progreso (5,868); Progreso Lakes (249); San Carlos (3,299); San Juan (36,120) retirement area, trucking, Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan, Spring Fiesta in February; San Manuel-Linn (831); South Alamo (3,517); Sullivan City (4,253); Weslaco (37,515) 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.