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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, 7.5; Black, 0.8; Hispanic, 90.9; Asian, 1.1; Other, 0.9.
Vital Statistics, annual: Births, 16,101; deaths, 3,817; marriages, 4,895; 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 (79,742) county seat; vegetable processing and packing, petroleum operations, tourism, clothing; planetarium; the University of Texas-Pan American; hospitals; behavioral, health center; museum; Texas Cook’em High Steaks July 4 weekend, Fiesta Edinburg in February.
McALLEN (135,497) government/services; food processing and shipping, varied manufacturing, tourism; community college; hospitals; Palmfest in October.
Mission (81,267) citrus groves, agricultural processing and distribution; hospital; community college; international butterfly park; Citrus Fiesta in January.
Pharr (75,001) agriculture, trading center; trucking; tourism; old clock, juke box museums; folklife festival in February.
Other towns include: Abram (2,154); Alamo (19,428) live steam museum; Alton (13,637); Doffing (5,240); Donna (16,369) citrus center, varied manufacturing; Edcouch (3,224); Elsa (5,989); Granjeno (298); Hargill (893); Hidalgo (11,854) trade zone, shipping, winter resort, agribusiness, historical sites, library, Borderfest in March; La Blanca (2,525); La Homa (12,319); La Joya (4,118); La Villa (2,054); Los Ebanos (338).
Also, Mercedes (16,343) “boot capital,” citrus, and vegetable center, food processing, tourism, recreation vehicle show in January, Hispanic Fest July 4; Mila Doce (6,520); Monte Alto (1,984); North Alamo (3,458); Nurillo (7,595); Palmhurst (2,677); Palmview (5,662); Palmview South (5,699); Peñitas (4,693); Perezville (5,569; Progreso (5,746); Progreso Lakes (248); San Carlos (3,220); San Juan (35,509) retirement area, trucking, Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan, Spring Fiesta in February; San Manuel-Linn (809); South Alamo (3,445); Sullivan City (4,102); Weslaco (37,498) 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.