Magnolia Park, near the Houston Ship Channel in eastern Harris County, is one of Houston's oldest Hispanic neighborhoods. It was laid out in 1890 on a 1,374-acre site belonging to Thomas M. Brady, on Harrisburg Road across Bray's Bayou from Harrisburg and seven miles downstream from Houston. It was named for the 3,750 magnolias that developers planted there. The community became an independent municipality in 1909. Though Whites first inhabited the town, Mexican Americans from South Texas began arriving by 1911, first settling in the area filled by sand dredged from the turning basin and known as El Arenal or the Sands. Most of the new settlers worked as laborers, laying railroad tracks or dredging and widening Buffalo Bayou. Others loaded cotton on ships and railroad cars or helped construct the ship channel. Mexican-American women worked in jute mills, making gunnysack material for binding cotton bales. Residents of Mexican origin purchased lots at the townsite, built single-family homes, and fostered an active Mexican cultural life through clubs, fraternal organizations, theatrical groups, and events. Organizations like the Sociedad Mutualista Benito Juárez, founded in 1919, provided mutual aid and a rented hall for social functions. Immaculate Conception Church, which predated the arrival of the Mexicans, prohibited them from entering pews and required them to stand during services, but Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, organized in 1912, provided schooling, and, along with the Heart of Mary Catholic Church, established in 1926, became a community center. By 1920, with an influx of immigrants from northern Mexico, the community had become a barrio with its own business district of Mexican-owned firms. A school named for Lorenzo de Zavala was established in 1920, and a Mexican chamber of commerce looked after the community's interests. Sports associations sponsored by Mexican-owned businesses flourished, along with social clubs like the Club Cultural Recreativo Mexico Bello, founded in 1924. Magnolia Park was annexed to the city of Houston in October 1926.
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