Brownsville Texas (Culture and Heritage)

Have you been searching for one of the best places to enjoy the Hispanic culture and Tex-Mex food? Then look no further than Brownsville, Texas, with its unique geography and cultural heritage. With a rich history, wildlife reserves, and festivals, Brownsville has something for everyone.

The southernmost city in the U.S. has a rich history and shares its cultural heritage with its sister city Matamoros, just across the border. Roughly 94% of the population is Latino or Hispanic, and the food and culture reflect this heritage. With vast parklands and wildlife refuges, it has many hiking and biking trails, while fishing and hunting are popular.

Brownsville Texas City Hall - Texas News, Places, Food, Recreation, And Life.
Brownsville Texas City Hall - Texas News, Places, Food, Recreation, And Life.

About Brownsville Texas

In 1781, Brownsville was little more than a ranch with a few settlers, but after American troops moved further south, it became the site of Fort Texas. Brownsville became a city in 1848 when Charles Stillman established it. Today this southernmost city in the U.S. is a thriving manufacturing center known for shipbreaking and international trade with Mexico.

From shipbreaking to spaceships—Brownsville boasts five out of the U.S.’s eight ship recycling centers and is the proposed site for the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site. Brownsville is close to the Gulf Coast and has many excellent hiking and biking trails.

Brownsville offers visitors plenty of things to do—from local culture to historical battlefields, art galleries, museums, and wildlife refuges.

Facts About Brownsville Texas

  • Location: The southernmost part of Texas, on the Mexican border. It is close to the Gulf Coast, about 164 miles south of Corpus Christi.
  • County: Cameron County
  • Towns: Brownsville is part of the Brownsville–Harlingen–Raymondville metropolitan area, and nearby towns include Stardust Colonia, Stewart Colonia, and Cameron Park. Across the border, the nearest Mexican town is Matamoros.
  • Land Area: Brownsville covers 145.19 square miles
  • Zipcodes: 78520–78523, 78526
  • Population: as of 2020, The Brownsville population was 186,738
  • Crime rate: High—murder rate 1.4, robbery 58.1 (per 100,000 residents.)
  • Average Temperature June: 86 F, usually hot and muggy
  • Average Temperature January: 63 F, mild
  • Universities: Texas Southmost College, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Southern Careers Institute Brownsville
  • Airports: Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport
  • Best hotels: Homewood Suites Hilton, Hampton Inn, La Quinta Inn, Holiday Inn
  • Best Restaurants: The Vermillion, Texas Roadhouse, Madeira, Dirty Al’s Seafood Market & Cajun Kitchen, Taqueria El Ultima Taco

What’s Brownsville Texas Known For?

As the leading center for ship recycling, Brownsville is known for its deep-water seaport. It’s a major city along the Mexican-U.S. border and is the southernmost city in the States. Thanks to its subtropical climate, it also makes a great outdoor destination, with South Padre Island and the beaches proving very popular.

  • Cultural heritage – Brownsville is twinned with the Mexican city of Matamoros. The two cities often have cross-cultural influence and festivals celebrating their shared heritage. Many view the two towns as one large city divided by a border.
  • Hispanic and Mexican culture – Brownsville has a very high Hispanic population. If you’re visiting this friendly city, learning some Spanish is handy.
  • Fishing – if you’re a keen fisherman, Brownsville has tons to offer in the way of surf fishing, bay fishing, or even deep sea fishing.
  • Historical sites – With a rich and close history with Mexico, Brownsville boasts many historic homes and places of interest, such as battlefields.
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People From Brownsville, Texas

  • Kris Kristofferson – A singer and songwriter who famously wrote ‘Me and Bobby McGee.’
  • Shelbie Bruce – A TV actress with the lead role in Spanglish.
  • Ventura Alonzo – She was called ‘The Queen of the Accordion and was a well-known American-Mexican musician
  • Oscar Caseres – An American writer who wrote ‘Brownsville: Stories,’ ‘Amigoland’ and the novel ‘Where We Come From.’
  • John Lee – An American thriller writer
  • Julian Schnabel – An American painter famous for his ‘plate painings’ made with broken plates. He is also an art film director.
Brownsville Texas Downtown - Texas News, Places, Food, Recreation, And Life.
Brownsville Texas Downtown - Texas News, Places, Food, Recreation, And Life.

Where is Brownsville, Texas?

Located on the western Gulf Coast, Brownsville sits on the border of Texas and Mexico and is currently the most southerly American city. It lies on the Rio Grande, approximately 22 miles inland from the river mouth.

Nearby Locations

  • Matamoros, Mexico, lies opposite it, and the two cities share their heritage.
  • Corpus Christi lies about 164 miles to the north along the coast.
  • Northwest along the Mexican border, you will reach Laredo, about 209 miles away.
  • Harlingen

With the coast on the east, and Mexico to the south, Brownsville sits on the very southernmost tip of Texas and has many parks and waterways. The Rio Grande sits to the south, forming the border with Mexico and bisecting Brownsville and Matamoros.

Three bridges join the cities: The Brownsville & Matamoros Express International Bridge, the Veterans International Bridge, and the International Boulevard.

Layout of Brownsville Texas

The sixteenth largest city in Texas, Brownsville, is laid out in a grid system of roads. The main city center is to the south, near the border. Northwards the roads become less grid-like, and waterways and bodies of water separate many areas. The city is served by Interstate 69 E and routes 550 and 48, which lead to Route 83.

Areas in Brownsville Texas

  • Rancho Viejo
  • Palm Valley
  • Cameron Park
  • Haciende Gardens Colonia

Because Brownsville has a reasonably high crime rate, certain suburbs are more popular because of their safety. Rancho Viejo is rated one of the finest places to buy a home in Brownsville. It lies to the city’s north and has a sparse suburban feel. It’s a family-friendly community that offers shops, restaurants, and walking and biking opportunities.

Getting About Brownsville Texas

Brownsville is served by major highways that loop around and through the city. It has a mass transit system and intercity transport with daily services to surrounding airports. It currently has 64 miles of on-street bike lanes and bike trails. Unfortunately, rail service is limited to a terminal twitching railroad and services goods and products.

On Foot

It is easy to get around the city center on foot, but there are also many popular walking trails around the city and the state parks. The trails range from short ones, such as the Montebello Park loop, to longer excursions, such as the Brownsville Historic Battlefield Trail.

Public Transport

The Brownsville Metro is a city bus service with sixteen routes. Most of the routes begin at the La Plaza terminal in downtown Brownsville. Metro Connect is a service connecting the upper and lower Valley regions. Other intercity bus services can be accessed from La Plaza terminal.

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Driving

Driving in Brownsville is safe and accessible, and the city is well-connected to other towns. In 2019, Brownsville was at the top of America’s fifteen safest driving cities.

Market Square Brownsville - Texas News, Places, Food, Recreation, And Life.
Market Square Brownsville - Texas News, Places, Food, Recreation, And Life.

What to do in Brownsville Texas

Brownsville offers festivals, outdoor excitement, historic sites, boat tours, and many other activities. There are also galleries, museums, great food, and fishing. What was once a Mexican War Military post is now an important historic site and the largest city in the Rio Grande valley.

  • Palo Alto Battle Field National Historical Park
  • Stillman House Museum
  • Brownsville Market Square
  • Gladys Porter Zoo
  • Boca Chica State Park

For those who love history, Brownsville offers entry to several historic sites and guided tours of the area. The Gladys porter zoo is a well-loved family excursion, while there’s plenty to buy and eat at the Market Square.

Palo Alto Battle Field National Historical Park

Palo Alto is the site of the first battle in the Mexican-American war, which happened in 1846. The history park is filled with signposted trails with a visitors center. Expect to spend about 1-2 hours walking about and learning the history of the war.

Stillman House Museum

Stillman House is a historic home with a neighboring museum filled with well-presented information and period-appropriate antiques. It will give visitors an excellent idea of life in the 1800s in Brownsville, Texas.

Brownsville Market Square

This historical market square has been revitalized and is a great place to immerse yourself in the town’s culture. Grab a bite to eat or wander the local shops to get an idea of Brownsville’s Hispanic and Mexican heritage.

Gladys Porter Zoo

A well-known wildlife preserve that also contains a botanical garden. This gem in the heart of Brownsville is a fantastic family attraction that takes full advantage of the area’s subtropical climate.

Boca Chica State Park

A state park covering over 1,055 acres, Boca Chica offers plenty to do, from camping and fishing to surfing and swimming. An excellent place for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the area’s natural beauty.

Where To Eat

  • The Vermillion – a restaurant and bar offering local cuisine with Mexican, American, and Southwestern meals.
  • Taqueria El Ultimo Taco – Looking to eat amazing tacos outdoors or indoors? Head here for Mexican, Latin, and Apnich food.
  • Russo’s New York Pizzeria – Offering Italian and American meals and bar service.
  • Dirty Al’s Seafood Market and Cajun Kitchen – For sit-down or takeout, with an excellent selection of fresh seafood
  • Mariscos de la Rosa – This Padre Island restaurant offers authentic Mexican seafood.

Where To Stay

  • La Quinta Inn & Suites – an excellent hotel with comfortable, spacious rooms and amenities for more extended stays
  • Hampton Inn & Suites – Centrally located near restaurants and shopping centers, and offer a daily hot buffet breakfast
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites – Spacious, comfortable suites and rooms with a pool, tennis court, and fitness center.
  • OYO Cameron Historic Hotel Brownsville – a budget hotel only a seven-minute walk from the Historic Brownsville Museum

Brownsville Texas FAQs

Is Brownsville Texas A Great Place To Live?

While crime in parts of Brownsville is high, some suburbs are much safer and have regular police patrols to keep them friendly communities for families. Consider suburbs on the northern end of Brownsville.

Is Brownsville Texas Worth Visiting?

Brownsville, Texas, is an excellent place for spring break vacations, especially if you are interested in Mexican-American history. Other great reasons to visit are if you love Tex-Mex food and are keen to head to the beach in hot weather.

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