Mi Barrio: Rio Grande Valley

rio-grande-riverWhen you hear someone say “I’m from the Valley,” do you ever wonder what they mean? Do they mean Nappa Valley? Do they mean Silicon Valley? What exactly is the Valley?

“The Valley” is actually located at the Southern tip of Texas where it is most often referred to as the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) or the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It is made up of four counties, and as most recent as 2012, has an estimated population of 1,300,000 people. This makes the Rio Grande Valley more populated than states such as Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

It really is a big place with a culture that changes the more south you go. Somewhere along the cities of Edinburg and McAllen, the culture slowly begins to change – an effect from the close proximity to the city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas and the country of Mexico. As stated by the website Rgvpride.com, “this part of the country is a crossroads between American and Mexican cultures.”

Food, for instance, is one of the things the Valley is most known, like Mr. Taco. Mr. Taco is one of the restaurants where people can go for a quick lunch or a late night snack. While the menu is just tacos, they never get old! The Valley also has chain restaurants like Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Italian Restuarant and Five Guys. However, just as any Valley native will tell you, any taqueria, or taco place, is delicious. You will never get tired of them as even the local gas stations have “breakfast tacos”, a trend that is native and most popular in the Rio Grande Valley area.

Photo Credit: Charrodaysfiesta.com

Photo Credit: Charrodaysfiesta.com

Its location adds to the major cultural influence. While New Orleans, Louisiana has their Mardi Gra celebration, the valley has Charros Day.  As stated on the website charrosdaysfiesta.com, the very first Charros Day took place during the Great Depression in 1937. Brownsville was home to a couple of the small battles (Fort Brown is a military post popular in the city of Brownsville). Because of this history, Charro Days celebrates and honors Brownsville’s neighborly location to Matamoros, Tamaulipas with the Sombrero Festival and local parades and festivities.

South Padre Island is the most popular tourist site you will find in the Valley. You have probably been introduced to the island by The Travel Channel, The Weather Channel, and MTV2. Whether you’re in the mood for a road trip or a fun weekend activity, South Padre Island is always the place to go.

That does not mean there are not any other attractions. If you are interested in history,the Resaca de Palma State Park and the Palo Alto Battlefield and Park are two of the most historical landmarks you can visit in the Valley. If you are interested in checking colleges, the city of Brownsville has the University of Texas – Brownsville while the city of Edinburg is home to the University of Texas – Pan American.  If shopping is what you enjoy, the city of Mcallen and the city of Mercedes have the two most populated malls in the valley – La Plaza Mall and the Rio Grande Valley Outlet Mall.

While the Rio Grande Valley has faced its controversy in the past due to the rise of drug trade along the US-Mexico border, the Rio Grande Valley continues to be one of the most unique places to live in and travel to in the United States.

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