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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, 3,591; 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, vegetables (first in acreage), citrus, cotton; livestock includes cattle; 270,000 acres irrigated. Market value $314.3 million.
EDINBURG (81,335) 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 (134,106) government/services; food processing and shipping, varied manufacturing, tourism; community college; hospitals; Palmfest in October.
Mission (79,626) citrus groves, agricultural processing and distribution; hospital; community college; international butterfly park; Citrus Fiesta in January.
Pharr (73,984) agriculture, trading center; trucking; tourism; old clock, juke box museums; folklife festival in February.
Other towns include: Abram (2,130); Alamo (18,964) live steam museum; Alton (13,052); Doffing (5,187); Donna (16,089) citrus center, varied manufacturing; Edcouch (3,197); Elsa (5,976); Granjeno (295); Hargill (895); Hidalgo (11,844) trade zone, shipping, winter resort, agribusiness, historical sites, library, Borderfest in March; La Blanca (2,513); La Homa (12,193); La Joya (4,102); La Villa (2,012); Los Ebanos (336).
Also, Mercedes (16,166) “boot capital,” citrus, and vegetable center, food processing, tourism, recreation vehicle show in January, Hispanic Fest July 4; Mila Doce (6,368); Monte Alto (1,961); North Alamo (3,362); Nurillo (7,595); Palmhurst (2,651); Palmview (5,634); Palmview South (5,616); Peñitas (4,666); Perezville (5,513); Progreso (5,653); Progreso Lakes (244); San Carlos (3,201); San Juan (35,123) retirement area, trucking, Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan, Spring Fiesta in February; San Manuel-Linn (802); South Alamo (3,408); Sullivan City (4,046); Weslaco (37,063) 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.