Located on the U.S.-Mexico border at the southern tip of Texas lies the Rio Grande Valley, or as Texans call it “the Valley” or “RGV.” While the RGV–made up of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties–most recently made national news during Texas Governor Abbott’s anti-immigrant blockade, there is so much more to the region.
The RGV is home to the Pharr Bridge, the busiest land crossing for produce in the country, 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’s more than just a commercial powerhouse; the RGV is also harnessing people power.
While U.S. Census Bureau data shows the Valley’s population growth was low in some areas and below the statewide average, new research from Texans for Economic Growth —the Council’s Texas business coalition— shows that Hispanic Texans are helping drive population growth. Between 2010 and 2019, the Hispanic population in the Valley grew by nearly 11%, from 89.6% of the overall population in 2010 to 91.5% in 2019.
As the United States celebrates and honors the impact immigrants have on our nation during Immigrant Heritage Month, those contributions are also reflected in the Rio Grande Valley.
More than 25% of the 1.3 million Hispanic Texans in the Valley were immigrants in 2019. These neighbors contribute in countless ways to the social and economic fabric of our communities, from starting businesses that create jobs for all Texans, to serving on the PTA and in churches, and teaching the next generation in K-12 schools. Hispanic immigrants are also supporting the local economy, contributing more than $1 billion in taxes annually that help maintain local infrastructure and fund local schools, and holding $5 billion in spending power that can go right back into the community. The region’s Hispanic immigrants are also contributing 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, which brought salsa to the masses as well as Texas’ famous ruby red grapefruit.
Dr. Ben Villalón, a retired pepper breeder and Texas A&M AgriLife Research professor emeritus, says the Valley is “one of the richest farming areas of Texas; scientists have solved some of the toughest problems with citrus, fruits, over 60 different vegetables, and many agronomic crops, including cotton, corn, sorghum and sugarcane in the state’s only subtropical region.”
The 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.