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Brownsville-Harlingen, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area

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Brownsville-Harlingen, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area

Brownsville, Texas
City of Brownsville
Nickname(s): "The Green City"
Motto: On the border by the sea...
Cameron County

Coordinates: 25°55′49″N 97°29′4″W / 25.93028°N 97.48444°W / 25.93028; -97.48444Coordinates: 25°55′49″N 97°29′4″W / 25.93028°N 97.48444°W / 25.93028; -97.48444

State Texas Texas
County  Cameron
 • Type Council-Manager
 • City Council Mayor: Antonio "Tony" Martinez
Commissioner At-Large "A": Estela Chavez-Vasquez
Commissioner At-Large "B": Rose M. Z. Gowen
Commissioner District 1: Ricardo Longoria, Jr.
Commissioner District 2: Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa
Commissioner District 3: Deborah Portillo
Commissioner District 4: John Villarreal
 • City Manager Charlie Cabler
 • City
 • Land 144.9 sq mi (375 km2)
 • Water 2.6 sq mi (6.8 km2)
Elevation 33 ft (10 m)
Population (2012)
 • City 180,097 (city proper)
 • Density 1,186.6/sq mi (458.2/km2)
 • Metro 1,136,995
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 78520, 78521, 78522, 78523, 78526
Area code(s) 956
FIPS code 48-10768[1]
GNIS feature ID 1372749[2]

Brownsville is the sixteenth most populous city in the state of Texas with a population of 180,097.[3] It is located on the southernmost tip of Texas, United States on the northern bank of the Rio Grande, directly north and across the border from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. The 2012 U.S. Census Bureau estimate places the Brownsville-Harlingen metropolitan area population at 415,557 allotting it the eighth most populous metropolitan area in the state of Texas.[4] In addition, the Matamoros–Brownsville Metropolitan Area counts with a population of 1,136,995,[5] allotting it the fourth-largest metropolitan area along the U.S.-Mexico border.[6]

The Brownsville urban area is one of the fastest growing in the United States.[7] The city's population dramatically increased after it experienced a boom in the steel industry during the 1900s (decade), where it produced three times its annual capacity.[8] Nowadays, the Port of Brownsville is a major economic hub for South Texas, where shipments from Mexico, other parts of the United States and the world arrive.[9] Brownsville's economy is mainly based on its international trade with Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and is home to one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors in the nation.[10] In addition, Brownsville's climate has often been recognized among the best pro-business climates in the United States,[11] and the city has also been ranked among the least expensive places to live in the U.S.[12]

Brownsville served as a site for several battles and events in the Texas Revolution,[13] the Mexican American War,[14] and the American Civil War.[15] And right across the U.S-Mexico border lies Matamoros, Tamaulipas, a city with a population of 500,000 people and a major site of the Mexican War of Independence,[16] the Mexican Revolution,[17] and the French Intervention.[18]


Main article: Mexican-American War

In 1845, construction of a fort on the Mexican border was commissioned, due to increased instability in the region. Before completion, the Mexican Army began the Siege of Fort Texas, during the first active campaign in the Mexican-American War, between 3–9 May 1846. The first battle of the war occurred on 8 May 1846, when General Zachary Taylor received word of the siege of the fort. They rushed to help, but were intercepted, resulting in the Battle of Palo Alto about 5 miles (8.0 km) north of present-day Brownsville. The next morning the Mexican forces had retreated, and Taylor's troops caught up with them, resulting in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, which was fought within the present city limits. When Taylor finally arrived at the besieged Fort Texas, it was found that two soldiers had died, one of which was the fort's commander, Major Jacob Brown. In his honor, General Taylor renamed the fort Fort Brown. An old cannon at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College marks the spot where Major Brown was fatally wounded.

Contrary to popular belief, however, there is little, if any, evidence that the Fort was called "Fort Texas." In fact, most official correspondence from the time describes the fort as "camp near Matamoros."

The city of Brownsville was originally established late in 1848 by Charles Stillman, and was made the county seat of the new Cameron County on 13 January 1849. The city was originally incorporated by the state on 24 January 1850. This was repealed on 1 April 1852, due to a land ownership dispute between Stillman and the former owners. The state reincorporated the city on 7 February 1853, which remains in effect. The issue of ownership was not decided until 1879, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Stillman.

Main article: Cortina Troubles

On July 13, 1859, the First Cortina War started. Juan Nepomuceno Cortina became one of the most important historical figures of the area, and continued to exert a decisive influence in the local events until his arrest in 1875. The First Cortina War ended on December 27, 1859. In May 1861, the brief Second Cortina War took place.

Main article: American Civil War

During the Civil War Brownsville was used as a smuggling point for Confederate goods into Mexico, most importantly cotton smuggled to European ships waiting at the Mexican port of Bagdad. Fort Brown was controlled by the Confederates. In November 1863, Union troops landed at Port Isabel and marched for Brownsville to stop the smuggling. In the ensuing battle of Brownsville Confederate forces abandoned the fort, blowing it up with 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg) of explosives. In 1864, the town was reoccupied by the Confederates under John Salmon 'Rip' Ford. On May 15, 1865, a month after the surrender had been signed at Appomattox Court House, the Battle of Palmito Ranch was fought and won by the Confederates. Ulysses S. Grant sent Union General Frederick Steele to Brownsville to patrol the Mexican-American border after Civil War to aid the Juaristas with military supplies.

On 13 and 14 August 1906, Brownsville was the site of the Brownsville Affair. Racial tensions were high between white townsfolk and black infantrymen stationed at Fort Brown. On the night of 13 August, one white bartender was killed and a white police officer was wounded by rifle shots in the street. Townsfolk, including the mayor, accused the infantrymen as the murderers. Without a chance to defend themselves in a hearing, President Theodore Roosevelt dishonorably discharged the entire 167 member regiment due to their accused "conspiracy of silence". Further investigations in the 1970s found that they were not at fault, and the Nixon Administration reversed all dishonorable discharges.

On September 8, 1926, The Junior College of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (later known as Texas Southmost College) admitted its first class. In 1945, Fort Brown was decommissioned and in 1948 the City and College acquired the land. Between 1945 and 1970, Brownsville population continued to grow gradually, doubled from 25,000 to 52,000 people. In 1991, Brownsville received a university via the partnership with the University of Texas at Brownsville.

Brownsville was declared an All-America City in the year 2001.

Geography and climate

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches

Brownsville is located on the U.S.-Mexico border (marked here by the Rio Grande) from Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Broadleaf evergreen plants, including palms, dominate Brownsville neighborhoods to a greater degree than is seen elsewhere in Texas—even in nearby cities such as Harlingen and San Benito. Soils are mostly of clay to silty clay loam texture, moderately alkaline (pH 8.2) to strongly alkaline (pH8.5) and with a significant degree of salinity in many places.[19]

According to the city of Brownsville,[20] the city has a total area of 147.5 square miles (382 km2), making it by far the largest American city by land area in the lower Rio Grande Valley and third largest American city by land area along the U.S.-Mexico border, after San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas. 144.9 square miles (375 km2) of it is land and 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2) of it (3.16%) is water.

In addition to being the southernmost city in Texas, Brownsville is among the southernmost of all contiguous U.S. cities. Within the contiguous United States, only a handful of municipalities in Florida's Miami-Dade and Monroe counties (plus Everglades City in Collier County) are further south than Brownsville, which lies at roughly the same latitude as North Miami Beach in northern Miami-Dade County.

Brownsville is now one of the first cities in the U.S. and Texas to ban the use of plastic shopping bags, reaching closer toward its goals of a greener, cleaner city.[21] This has led other cities in the area to also consider such a ban. In addition, Forbes has identified Brownsville as one of 12 metropolitan areas in the U.S. with the cleanest air; Laredo, Texas, was the only other Texas metropolitan area to be among the 12.[22]

Brownsville received the theoretical maximum worst score (72) for its level of human influence on the environment. This is the place where the maximum was observed. It ranked higher than the most populous metropolitan cities.[23]

Brownsville has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa),[24] just outside of a hot semi-arid climate. Yet the nearby ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico help keep Brownsville cooler during the summer relative to cities further inland such as Laredo and McAllen. Thus temperatures above 100 °F (37.8 °C) are uncommon, with an average of only 1.1 days reaching that level of heat. At the other extreme, there is an average of one to two nights per year with freezing temperatures.[25] Rainfall tends to be the heaviest in summer and early part of fall, although it is not unheard of for Brownsville to go for weeks or sometimes months without any rainfall even during the "wet" season. Extreme temperatures range from 12 °F (−11 °C) on February 13, 1899 to 106 °F (41 °C) on March 27, 1984. The greatest snowfall in a day and a season was 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), which fell on December 25, 2004.[25]

On December 25, 2004, Brownsville had its first instance of measurable snow in 109 years, with 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), and the first recorded White Christmas. This was part of the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm.[26]

Brownsville's location at the intersection of different climate regimes (subtropical, Chihuahuan desert, Gulf Coast plain, and Great Plains) causes it to be a birding location. Its unique network of resacas (distributaries of the Rio Grande and oxbow lakes) provide habitat for nesting / breeding birds of various types - most notably during the Spring and Fall migrations.

Climate data for Brownsville, Texas
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 93
Average high °F (°C) 70.6
Average low °F (°C) 51.6
Record low °F (°C) 18
Rainfall inches (mm) 1.27
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.7 5.4 4.2 4.0 5.0 6.6 5.0 7.2 9.3 7.3 5.9 7.2 74.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 130.2 152.6 207.7 234.0 266.6 306.0 334.8 306.9 252.0 229.4 165.0 130.2 2,715.4
Source #1: National Weather Service (normals 1981−2010)[25]
Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory (sun, 1961−1990)[27]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census[1] of 2010, there were 175,023 people, 38,174 households, and 32,180 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,207.1 people per square mile (466.0/km2). There were 53,936 housing units at an average density of 372.0 per square mile (143.6/km2). Hispanic or Latino of any race were 93.19% of the population.[28]

There were 38,174 households out of which 50.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.3% were married couples living together, 20.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 15.7% were non-families. 13.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.62 and the average family size was 3.99.

In the city the population was spread out with 34.6% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 17.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,468, and the median income for a family was $26,186. Males had a median income of $21,739 versus $17,116 for females.


An important pillar of the economy is the Port of Brownsville. The port, located 2 miles (3.2 km) from the city, provides an important link between the road networks of nearby Mexico, and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway of Texas.[29]

The port's Hinterland, from where it draws cargo, is Monterrey, Mexico, just 198 miles to the West, which is one of Latin America's largest industrial cities.

Top employers

According to Brownsville's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[30] the top employers in the city were:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Brownsville Independent School District 7,434
2 University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College 2,386
3 Cameron County 2,076
4 Keppel AmFELS 1,695
5 City of Brownsville 1,178
6 Walmart 1,174
7 Convergys 1,000
8 H-E-B 975
9 Valley Regional Medical Center 757
10 Valley Baptist Medical Center 717

SpaceX has proposed building a private space launch facility east of Brownsville on the Gulf Coast.[31] If built, the facility is projected to employ 75–100 full-time workers in the early years with up to 150 full-time employees/contractors by 2019.[32]


City government

Brownsville has a council–manager style of government. The mayor and six city commissioners, two at-large and four district, serve staggered four-year terms. Elections are held for one at-large and two district seats every two years. Municipal elections are held on the first Saturday of May in odd numbered years. Once a winner is determined, the commissioner-elect will be seated at the next regular meeting of the Brownsville City Commission. City elected officials are non-partisan, meaning that they do not have a party affiliation. They may be personally affiliated with a political party but this has no bearing on the office.

As of 2006, the members of the commission are:

  • Mayor: Antonio "Tony" Martinez (Since 2011)
  • Commissioner At-Large "A": Estela Chavez-Vasquez(Since 2011)
  • Commissioner At-Large "B": Dr. Rose M.Z. Gowen (Since 2009)
  • Commissioner District 1: Ricardo Longoria Jr. (Since 2003)
  • Commissioner District 2: Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa (Since 2011)
  • Commissioner District 3: Melissa Zamora (Since 2009)
  • Commissioner District 4: John Villarreal (Since 2011)

The next regular elections for the City will occur in the following years:

  • Mayor: 2015
  • At-Large "A": 2015
  • At-Large "B": 2017
  • District 1: 2015
  • District 2: 2015
  • District 3: 2013
  • District 4: 2017

The City Commission appoints the City Manager. Since 2006, the City Manager is Charlie Cabler.

The City Commission also appoints a six member Public Utilities Board for a four-year term. Members are limited to two consecutive or non-consecutive terms. The Mayor is an ex-officio member of the Board.

County Commission Representation

The majority of Brownsville is represented by two of the four Commission Precinct Commissioners. They have staggered four-year terms. County offices are partisan, thus the Democratic and Republican Parties will hold primaries in the March of the year of the year that office term expires. The Candidate who receives the highest amount of votes will then receive their party's nomination. The Libertarian Party selects their candidate by means of their County Convention. The nominees of each party will then run in a general election in November, the winner of which will become the Commissioner the following January.

The following Commissioners represent at least part of the City of Brownsville:

  • South and East Brownsville are represented by Precinct 1 Commissioner, Sofia Benavides (D). (Since 2006)
  • North, Central Brownsville are represented by Precinct 2 Commissioner, Ernie L. Hernandez (D). (Since 2011)
  • A sizable portion of Brownsville farm and scrub land north of FM 511 is represented by Precinct 3 Commissioner, David Garza (D). (Since 2001)

The Chief Executive of the County or the Cameron County Judge is Carlos Cascos (R) (Since 2007)

The next regular elections for the County Commission Precincts 1, 2, and 3 will occur in the following years:

  • Precinct 1: 2016
  • Precinct 2: 2014
  • Precinct 3: 2016
  • Judge: 2014

State representation

The City of Brownsville falls under two State House of Representatives districts. Each Representative has a two-year term and is elected in the same manner as other partisan elected officials.

  • District 37: Rene O. Oliveira (D) (Since 1991)
  • District 38: Eduardo "Eddie" Lucio, III (D) (Since 2007)

All of Brownsville is represented by Texas Senatorial District 27, the imcumbent Senator is Eduardo "Eddie" Lucio, Jr. (D) (Since 1991)

  • Brazos Island Brazos Island State Scenic Park, also known as Brazos Island State Recreation Area which has 217 acres
  • Boca Chica State Park
  • Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area - Boca Chica Unit[33]
  • Resaca de la Palma, is a 1,200-acre State Park and World Birding Center site located to the northwest of Brownsville, Texas.[34]
  • Texas Department of Public Safety TxDPS located at 2901 Paredes Line Rd
  • Texas Attorney General's Office, Child Support Division[35] 1900 North Expressway, Ste, K

Federal representation

All of Brownsville is represented by U.S. Congressional District 34, the imcumbent Representative is Filemon Vela, Jr. (D) (Since 2013)

The United States Postal Service operates post offices in Brownsville. The Brownsville Main Post Office is located at 1535 East Los Ebanos Boulevard.[36] Downtown Brownsville is served by the Downtown Brownsville Post Office at 1001 East Elizabeth Street.[37]

There is also a National Weather Service office and doppler radar site in 20 South Vermillion Avenue Brownsville, Texas. They provide forecasts and radar coverage for Deep South Texas and the adjacent coastal waters.

Social Security Administration

  • Social Security Administration located at 3115 Central Boulevard,

Federal Courthouse

  • The Reynaldo G. Garza - Filemon B. Vela United States Courthouse is located at 600 E. Harrison Street[38]

Military installations

National parks

  • Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park[40]


Universities and Colleges

The School of Public Health (UTSPH) opened in 2001 as part of the legislated Regional Academic Health Center program, or RAHC and is physically located on the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville. UTSPH - Brownsville is a regional campus of the University of Texas School of Public Health statewide network which offer students a graduate certificate in public health and the Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) graduate degree. Starting in 2009, the Brownsville Regional Campus also began offering a PhD program in Epidemiology and a Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) in Health Promotion, the only program's of their kind in South Texas. Major public health concerns of the faculty and researchers found here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley Texas include diabetes, tuberculosis, obesity, cardiovascular disease and hepatitis. Other areas of public health significance include physical activity, behavioral journalism, healthy living, diet and lifestyles activities. The Brownsville Regional Campus is also developing a strong research focus in genetics and its relationship to infectious and chronic disease.[42]

Vocational schools

Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

Most of Brownsville is served by Brownsville Independent School District. The BISD counted its total enrollment in the 2010-11 at 49,155 students in 57 schools. It is the 17th largest school district in Texas. A portion of northern Brownsville is served by the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District.

In addition, Brownsville residents are allowed to apply to magnet schools operated by the South Texas Independent School District, as well as BISD magnet schools. Each BISD high school has a magnet school within the school, Gladys Porter High School is home to the High School for Engineering Professions. Homer Hanna High School is home of the Tech Med Magnet Program for Medical and Health Professions. Lopez High School houses the district's Fine Arts Academy, James Pace High School has a Criminal Justice Magnet School and Simon Rivera High School hosts the International Business Magnet School.

State charter schools
  • Raul Yzaguirre School For Success
  • Sentry Technology Prep Charter High School
  • IDEA Public Schools Frontier Academy and College Prep
  • Harmony Science Academy-Brownsville (K–12)
  • Math and Science Academy-UTB

Private and parochial schools

Grades 9-12:

  • Livingway Christian School (grades K3-12)
  • Saint Joseph Academy (grades 7 through 12)
  • Valley Christian High School
  • First Baptist High School

Grades 1-8:

  • Brownsville SDA School
  • Episcopal Day School
  • First Baptist School
  • Faith Christian Academy
  • Guadalupe Regional Middle School
  • Incarnate Word Academy (Brownsville, Texas) | Incarnate Word Academy
  • Kenmont Montessori School
  • St. Luke's Catholic School
  • St. Mary's Catholic School

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville operates area Catholic schools.

Public libraries

The Brownsville Public Library System

  • The Main Branch Library, located at 2600 Central Boulevard[45]
  • The Southmost Branch Library located at 4320 Southmost Boulevard.[46][47]
  • The Cameron County Law Library located at 974 E. Harrison Street[48][49]

University libraries

  • Arnulfo L. Oliveira Memorial Library located at 80 Fort Brown[50]
  • University Boulevard Library located at 2035 University Blvd.[51]


Mass transit

Established in mid-Brownsville in 1978, with expanding bus service to rapidly developing North Brownsville. The Brownsville Urban System (BUS) consists of 14 buses running 11 routes covering a large portion of Brownsville.[52]


Brownsville is served by the following U.S. Interstates and Texas State Highways:

International bridges

Brownsville has three international bridges:

  • The Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge (B&M), known locally as the "Old Bridge." The B&M International Bridge also serves as an international railway for Union Pacific.
  • Gateway International Bridge, known locally as the "new bridge" despite the fact that it's no longer the city's newest international bridge.
  • The Veteran's International Bridge at Los Tomates, or locally simply known as the "Los Tomates" or "Veteran's" bridge.


Brownsville has its own city-owned airport, the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport. The airport is used for general aviation and is served by United Airlines (service to Houston-Intercontinental), AeroMexico (service to Monterrey, Mexico) and American Eagle Airlines (service to Dallas-Fort Worth).[53]

Art and culture

The Brownsville area is full of well-established art galleries and museums that represent not only art of the region and Mexico but feature traveling exhibits from around the world.[54]


Each year, Brownsville hosts the Jackie Robinson World Series for nine-year-old baseball players.

In 1920 the St. Louis Cardinals held spring training in Brownsville.[55]

Entertainment and nightlife


  • The Camille Lightner Playhouse[56]
  • Jacob Brown Auditorium
  • The Arts Center[57]


  • Charro Days Fiesta This usually occurs the last week of February.[58]
  • CineSol Film Festival
  • Sombrero Festival, Created to enhance the spirit of Charro Days, this festival usually occurs the last week of February.[59]
  • Brownsville Latin Jazz Festival
  • Fourth of July Parade
  • Winter Break Parade


  • Fort Brown Memorial Gulf Course
  • Valley International Country Club[60]
  • Rancho Viejo Resort and Country Club[61]




The Brownsville area is served by numerous local television affiliates.


  • KVNS 1700 AM Fox Sports Radio
  • KURV 710 AM News Talk
  • KFRQ 94.5 FM Rock
  • KKPS Que Pasa 99.5 99.5 FM Tejano
  • KNVO 101.1 FM
  • KVLY 107.9 FM MIX FM
  • KBFM Wild 104 104.1 FM Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, Reggeton
  • KBNR 88.3 FM Radio Manantial (Spanish Christian)
  • KTEX 100.3 FM Country
  • XHMLS Exa FM 91.3 FM Latin Pop
  • XHNA Mega 105.9 FM Regional Mexican
  • KHKZ Kiss 106.3
  • KVMV 96.9 FM Contemporary Christian
  • KMBH/KHID 88.9 Public Radio 88 FM NPR and Performance Today
  • KJAV 104.9 Jack FM Adult Hits
  • UTB Radio[62] (formerly UTB Sting Radio) Internet Radio with diverse DJ Shows e.g., Thinking Out Loud[63] philosophy programming

Points of interest

Local attractions include the Gladys Porter Zoo, the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, Camille Lightner Playhouse, a historical downtown with buildings over 150 years old, the Port of Brownsville, and the Children's Museum of Brownsville. There is also easy access to South Padre Island and the Mexican city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Sunrise Mall is the largest shopping mall in the city of Brownsville. Since being remodeled in 2000 the mall has become the primary mall in the Brownsville-Harlingen metroplex. Brownsville previously had another shopping mall, Amigoland Mall by Simon, though the building has since been purchased by the University of Texas at Brownsville after many of its tenants moved from Amigoland to Sunrise.


  • Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary[64]

Notable people

Sister cities

See also

Texas portal


External links

  • Brownsville Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Brownsville Chamber of Commerce
  • Brownsville Public Library System
  • in the The Handbook of Texas Online
  • National Weather Service - Brownsville
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