Located on the US-Mexico border in the southern tip of Texas is the Rio Grande Valley, or as Texans call it, “The Valley” or “RGV.” While the RGV, made up of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willas counties, last made national news during Texas Governor Abbott’s anti-immigrant blockade, there is much more to the region.
The RGV is home to the Pharr Bridge, the nation’s busiest land crossing, moving more than $60 million worth of goods daily. Elon Musk’s famous SpaceX South Texas launch site, Starbase, is also in the valley. But it is more than just commercial power. RGV also uses people power.
While U.S. Census Bureau data shows the Valley’s population growth has been low in some areas and below the state average, a new study on Texas Economic Growth (Council of Texas Business Coalition) shows that Hispanic Texans are helping population growth. Between 2010 and 2019, the Hispanic population in the Valley grew by nearly 11%, from 89.6% of the total population in 2010 to 91.5% in 2019.
As the United States celebrates and honors the impact of immigrants on our nation during Immigrant Heritage Month, those contributions are also reflected in the Rio Grande Valley.
More than 25% of the Valley’s 1.3 million Hispanic Texans were immigrants in 2019. These neighbors contribute to the social and economic fabric of our communities in countless ways, from starting businesses that create jobs for all Texans, to serving in PTAs and churches, and teaching the next generation in K-12 schools. Hispanic immigrants also support the local economy, paying more than $1 billion a year in taxes that help maintain local infrastructure and fund local schools, and maintaining $5 billion in spending power that can flow back into the community. The region’s Hispanic immigrants also contribute to civic life, making up more than 13% of the Valley’s eligible voters.
The Rio Grande Valley has been an agricultural economic engine for Texas, giving us the world’s first mild jalapeño pepper that brought salsa to the masses, as well as Texas’ famous red grapefruit.
Dr. Ben Villon, a retired pepper farmer and professor emeritus at Texas A&M AgriLife Research, says the valley is “one of the richest agricultural areas in Texas; “Scientists have tackled the toughest problems with citrus, fruit, more than 60 different vegetables and many agronomic crops including cotton, maize, sorghum and sugarcane in the state’s only subtropical region.”
New research on the contributions of Hispanic Texans to the Rio Grande Valley further proves that U.S.-born and immigrant Hispanic residents are an integral part of the state’s past, present and future.