Brownsville, situated at the southern tip of Texas, is right across the Rio Grande and U.S. border from the city of Matamoros, Mexico. It is a historic area with a pleasing mix of Anglo and Hispanic cultures.
After Texas fought for its independence from Mexico in 1836, and the annexation of Texas by the U.S. in 1845, General Zachary Taylor established an army base (later Fort Brown) here in early 1846 to help establish claim to the disputed territory. The Battle of Palo Alto marked the initial major conflict between opposing forces in the Mexican-American War, a U.S. victory which eventually led to Brownsville and the surrounding countryside being confirmed as American territory.
Today the battlefield is preserved by the National Park Service as a national historic site, which I visited after my exploration of the city itself. My tour guide was the genial and extremely knowledgeable Felix Espinosa, administrative manager of the Brownsville Convention & Visitors Bureau, who appeared to know just about everyone in this city of over 175,000!
Felix led me on a whirlwind adventure including virtually every significant attraction that Brownsville has to offer, all in just a few short hours. We began on foot with the Heritage Trail Tour and downtown historic district, including the authentic Mexican Market, the Heritage Complex and Stillman House Museum, the Old City Hall and Market Square, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, plus numerous other historic buildings. Next we wandered through the historic brick buildings of Fort Brown, now occupied by the University of Texas at Brownsville.
Our tour continued with visits to the Historic Brownsville Museum Depot, the Old Brownsville City Cemetery, Dean Porter Park and finally, the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art. Whew! I though that I was an expert at seeing a lot within a short period of time, but I can’t hold a candle to Felix! I’d suggest that when you are planning your group’s visit here, you allow a couple of full days to include everything. And there is indeed much of interest to see and experience! That will also allow you an opportunity to include meals at a variety of fine Southwestern, Tex-Mex and Mexican eateries. The unspoiled beaches, visitor attractions and resort hotels of South Padre Island are a scant 25 miles away, so you may likely want to diversify your trip to this most visitor-friendly area with an extended stay.
Stillman House Museum, Brownsville Historical Society
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Gladys Porter Zoo