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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, 7.73; Black, 0.43; Hispanic, 90.68; Asian, 0.95; Other, 0.23.
Vital Statistics, annual: Births, 16,398; deaths, 3,642; marriages, 4,685; divorces, 19.
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, vegetables (first in acreage), citrus, cotton; livestock includes cattle; 270,000 acres irrigated. Market value $314.3 million.
EDINBURG (77,100) 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 (129,877) government/services; food processing and shipping, varied manufacturing, tourism; community college; hospitals; Palmfest in October.
Mission (77,058) citrus groves, agricultural processing and distribution; hospital; community college; international butterfly park; Citrus Fiesta in January.
Pharr (70,400) agriculture, trading center; trucking; tourism; old clock, juke box museums; folklife festival in February.
Other towns include: Abram (2,067); Alamo (18,353) live steam museum; Alton (12,341); Doffing (5,091); Donna (15,768) citrus center, varied manufacturing; Edcouch (3,161); Elsa (5,660); Granjeno (293); Hargill (877); Hidalgo (11,198) trade zone, shipping, winter resort, agribusiness, historical sites, library, Borderfest in March; La Blanca (2,488); La Homa (11,985); La Joya (3,985); La Villa (1,957); Los Ebanos (335).
Also, Mercedes (15,570) “boot capital,” citrus, and vegetable center, food processing, tourism, recreation vehicle show in January, Hispanic Fest July 4; Mila Doce (6,222); Monte Alto (1,924); North Alamo (3,235); Nurillo (7,344); Palmhurst (2,607); Palmview (5,460); Palmview South (5,575); Peñitas (4,403); Perezville (5,376); Progreso (5,507); Progreso Lakes (240); San Carlos (3,130); San Juan (33,856) retirement area, trucking, Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan, Spring Fiesta in February; San Manuel-Linn (801); South Alamo (3,361); Sullivan City (4,002); Weslaco (35,670) 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.