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Brownsville, Texas
City of Brownsville
Top to bottom, left to right: Cameron County Courthouse, a statue from the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts, Resaca de la Palma Battlefield, a giraffe from the Gladys Porter Zoo, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, and the McNair House
Top to bottom, left to right: Cameron County Courthouse, a statue from the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts, Resaca de la Palma Battlefield, a giraffe from the Gladys Porter Zoo, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, and the McNair House
Flag of Brownsville, Texas
Chess Capital of Texas
"On the Border, By the Sea!"
Location in Texas
Location in Texas
Brownsville, Texas is located in Texas
Brownsville, Texas
Brownsville, Texas
Location in Texas
Brownsville, Texas is located in the United States
Brownsville, Texas
Brownsville, Texas
Location in the United States
Brownsville, Texas is located in North America
Brownsville, Texas
Brownsville, Texas
Location in North America
Country  United States
State  Texas
County Cameron
Founded 1848
Incorporated February 7, 1853
Named for Fort Brown, named for Jacob Brown
 • Type Council-manager
 • City 145.19 sq mi (376.03 km2)
 • Land 131.53 sq mi (340.66 km2)
 • Water 13.66 sq mi (35.37 km2)  4%
 • Metro
370.58 sq mi (905.76 km2)
33 ft (10 m)
 • City 186,738
 • Density 1,420/sq mi (548.2/km2)
 • Urban
217,585 (US: 145th)
 • Urban density 2,668.8/sq mi (1,030.4/km2)
 • Metro
421,017 (US: 130th)
 • Metro density 472.5/sq mi (182.4/km2)
 • CSA
441,181 (US: 94th)
Demonym(s) Brownsvillian
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
78520–78523, 78526
Area code(s) 956
FIPS code 48-10768
GNIS feature ID 1372749
Airport Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport KBRO (BRO)
α. ^ Area, city density, metro population/density and CSA population/density as of the 2017 estimate.
β. Urban population/density as of the 2010 Census.

Brownsville is a city in Cameron County in the U.S. state of Texas. It is on the western Gulf Coast in South Texas, adjacent to the border with Matamoros, Mexico. The city covers 145.2 sq mi (376.066 km2), and has a population of 186,738 as of the 2020 census. It is the 139th-largest city in the United States and 18th-largest in Texas. It is part of the Matamoros–Brownsville metropolitan area. The city is known for its year-round subtropical climate, deep-water seaport, and Hispanic culture.

The city was founded in 1848 by American entrepreneur Charles Stillman after he developed a successful river-boat company nearby. It was named for Fort Brown, itself named after Major Jacob Brown, who fought and died while serving as a U.S. Army soldier during the Mexican–American War (1846–1848). As a county seat, the city and county governments are major employers. Other primary employers fall within the service, trade, and manufacturing industries, including a growing aerospace and space transportation sector. It operates international trading through the Port of Brownsville. The city experienced a population increase in the early 1900s, when steel production flourished. It is frequently cited as having one of the highest poverty rates in the United States.

Due to significant historical events, the city has multiple houses and battle sites listed under the National Register of Historic Places. It was the scene of several key events of the American Civil War, such as the Battle of Brownsville and the Battle of Palmito Ranch. The city was also involved in the Texas Revolution, as well as the Mexican–American War. Brownsville's idiosyncratic geographic location has made it a wildlife refuge center. Several state parks and historical sites are protected by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Brownsville is notable for its high Hispanic proportion, which at 93.9%, is the third-highest proportion of Hispanic Americans out of any city in the United States outside of Puerto Rico.


Brownsville in 1857

In April 1846, construction of a fort on the Mexican border by was begun by American forces due to increased instability in the region on the eve of the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848. Before the completion of the construction, the Mexican Army began the Siege of Fort Texas, during the first active campaign in the Mexican–American War, from May 3–9, 1846. The first battle of the war occurred on May 8, when General Zachary Taylor received word of the siege of the fort. Taylor's forces rushed to help, but Mexican troops intercepted them, resulting in the Battle of Palo Alto, approximately 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 took place within the present city limits. When Taylor finally arrived at the besieged Fort Texas, it was found that two soldiers had died, one of them 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 received his fatal wound.

Nebel Mexican War 01 Battle of Palo Alto
Battle of Palo Alto fought on May 8, 1846.

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 January 13, 1849. The state originally incorporated the city on January 24, 1850. This was repealed on April 1, 1852, due to a land-ownership dispute between Stillman and the former owners. The state reincorporated the city on February 7, 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.

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.

During the American Civil War, Brownsville served as a smuggling point for Confederate goods into Mexico, most importantly cotton smuggled to European ships waiting at the Mexican port of Bagdad. Initially the Confederates controlled Fort Brown. 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, Confederate forces commanded by John Salmon 'Rip' Ford reoccupied the town. On May 15, 1865, a month after the surrender had been signed at Appomattox Court House, the Battle of Palmito Ranch (generally accepted as the war's last battle) 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.


Brownsville is located on the U.S.–Mexico border (marked here by the Rio Grande) opposite Matamoros, Tamaulipas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 146.3 square miles (378.9 km2), making it the largest American city by land area in the lower Rio Grande Valley and the third largest American city by land area along the U.S.-Mexico border, after San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas. A total of 132.3 square miles (342.7 km2) of Brownsville's area is land, and 13.9 square miles (36.1 km2) is water.

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 exactly the same latitude as North Miami Beach in northern Miami-Dade County.

In its efforts to become a cleaner, greener city, Brownsville became one of the first cities in the U.S. and Texas to require stores to charge a fee for single-use plastic shopping bags. In its first five years, approximately $3.8 million was collected. Funds have been used for city beautification and maintenance projects. This has led other cities in the area to also consider such a fee. Forbes has identified Brownsville as one of 12 metropolitan areas in the U.S. with the cleanest air; Laredo was the only other Texas metropolitan area to be among the 12.


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 McAllen. 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.


Weather chart for Brownsville
temperatures in °F
precipitation totals in inches

Brownsville has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), just outside a hot semi-arid climate. Yet the nearby ocean waters and winds 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. Average monthly rainfall demonstrates a strong September maximum; the next-wettest month is October, with a slight May–June peak across the rest of the year. Generally, November through April represents a marked drier season, and Brownsville can go for weeks with minimal, even negligible, rainfall, especially over the cooler season. Despite this, Brownsville's rain totals fluctuate and can experience several years of above average precipitation. 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. The coolest month is January and the warmest month is August.

Brownsville's proximity to the Gulf Coast has made it a target for hurricanes. Throughout its history, the area has been impacted by several major hurricanes, most notably the 1933 Cuba-Brownsville hurricane, Beulah, Allen, Bret and Dolly. While the area has been struck by major hurricanes, it is more prone to impacts by weak cyclones, tropical storms and depressions. In addition, the city has seen an increase in tropical storm impacts in the 2010s, most likely due to the El Niño phenomenon.

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.

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 (1981−2010 normals, extremes 1878−present)
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
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.27
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.3 5.5 4.4 4.0 4.9 5.9 5.3 6.6 10.0 7.5 6.0 7.0 74.4
Average relative humidity (%) 79.3 77.4 74.6 75.1 76.5 75.0 73.2 73.8 76.3 75.3 76.1 78.2 75.9
Mean monthly sunshine hours 130.6 151.3 206.8 232.7 266.4 306.5 334.4 306.4 252.0 228.3 166.2 130.7 2,712.3
Percent possible sunshine 39 48 56 61 64 74 79 76 68 64 51 40 61
Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961−1990)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 2,734
1860 2,734 0.0%
1870 4,905 79.4%
1880 4,938 0.7%
1890 6,134 24.2%
1900 6,305 2.8%
1910 10,517 66.8%
1920 11,791 12.1%
1930 22,021 86.8%
1940 22,083 0.3%
1950 35,086 58.9%
1960 48,040 36.9%
1970 52,522 9.3%
1980 84,997 61.8%
1990 98,962 16.4%
2000 139,722 41.2%
2010 175,023 25.3%
2020 186,738 6.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

Brownsville is the 18th-most populous city in Texas. It ranks as one of the top U.S. cities in terms of the percentage of Hispanic residents. According to the Pew Research Center, its metropolitan area holds the 26th-largest Hispanic population with roughly 373,000 (88.7%) sharing this distinction. Of that percentage, 96.7% are Mexican and 0.8% are Puerto Rican.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, 175,023 people, 49,871 households, and 41,047 families were residing in the city. The population density was 1,207.1 people/sq mi (466.0/km2). The 53,936 housing units averaged 372.0/sq mi (143.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88% White, 0.4% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 9.1% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 93.2% of the population.

Of the 38,174 households, 50.1% had children under 18 living with them, 59.3% were married couples living together, 20.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 15.7% were not families. About 13.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.7% had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 3.62, and the average family size was 3.99.

In the city, the age distribution was 34.6% under 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 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.

Income and employment

Despite a fast-growing economy, Brownsville has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. 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. The per capita income for the city is $9,762. It is frequently cited as having the highest percentage of residents in the nation below the federal poverty level. About 31.6% of families and 35.7% of the population were below the federal poverty line, including 48.4% of those under 18 and 31.5% of those 65 or over.

Based on data collected from the United States Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the Brownsville metropolitan area ranked as the second-poorest urban area in the country, behind the McAllen metropolitan area. In 2017, the city's unemployment rate was 6.2% with 18.1% adults holding a bachelor's degree. It reported a 5.8% jobless rate the following year. Despite high unemployment rates, the urban area is also one of the fastest growing in the United States.

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, Alex Dominguez (D). (since 2014)
  • 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 Pete Sepulveda, Jr. (N/A) (since 2015)

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

  • Precinct 1: 2016
  • Precinct 2: 2018
  • Precinct 3: 2016
  • Judge: 2018

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 incumbent 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
  • Resaca de la Palma, is a 1,200-acre (4.9 km2) State Park and World Birding Center site located to the northwest of Brownsville, Texas.
  • Texas Department of Public Safety TxDPS located at 2901 Paredes Line Rd
  • Texas Attorney General's Office, Child Support Division 1900 North Expressway, Ste, K

Federal representation

All of Brownsville is represented by U.S. Congressional District 34, the incumbent 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. Downtown Brownsville is served by the Downtown Brownsville Post Office at 1001 East Elizabeth Street.

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

Military installations

National parks



Major highways

Brownsville is served by Interstate 69E, sharing its alignment with U.S. Route 77. The highway connects to the cities of Kingsville and Corpus Christi. U.S. Route 77 was a proposed part of the North American Free Trade Agreement's completed Interstate 69 corridor. Other highways that serve the Brownsville area are U.S. Route 83, U.S. Route 281, SH 4 and SH 48. Interstate 169/SH 550 is a toll road that connects North Brownsville to the Port of Brownsville; it forms a loop around the outer city limits of Brownsville. An interchange in nearby Olmito carries traffic from Interstate 69E onto the highway.

Mass transit

Established in mid-Brownsville in 1978, the Brownsville Urban System (BUS), currently known as the Brownsville Metro, consists of three hubs that run 13 routes covering a large portion of Brownsville. The system provides 11 paratransit vans to disabled passengers, complying with the standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is the only mass transit system in its county and one of the largest in the Rio Grande Valley. Annual ridership for 2015 was 1,384,474.

Intercity transit

The Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport (BRO) provides passengers with daily nonstop service to American Eagle hubs Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, United Express to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, and World Atlantic Airlines, which operates charter and on-demand flights to Miami International Airport. The airport received a $12.7 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for the construction of a new 85,000 sq ft (7,900 m2) terminal facility. The project is expected to commence construction by late 2018.

Bike share and trails

The City of Brownsville currently has 64 mi (103 km) of hike and bike trails and on-street bike lanes. In 2016, a bike-share program was established in Brownsville in collaboration with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Six bike stations were installed. The contract was renewed with another company to provide a "dockless ride-share program" in late 2018.


Several attempts were made to attract a railroad, but the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway did not reach Brownsville until 1904. In 1910, a railroad bridge was constructed between Brownsville and Matamoros (Mexico), and regular service between the two towns began. The introduction of the rail link to Brownsville opened the area for settlement by northern farmers, who subsequently arrived in the lower Rio Grande Valley in large numbers.

The new settlers cleared the land of brush, built extensive irrigation systems and roads, and introduced large-scale truck farming. In 1904, H. G. Stillwell, Sr., planted the first commercial citrus orchard in the area, thus opening the way for citrus fruit culture, one of the valley's leading industries. The expansion of farming in the area, and the railroad link to the north, brought new prosperity to Brownsville and spurred a host of civic improvements.

Brownsville was served by the Missouri Pacific Railroad night train from Houston, the Pioneer (#315/316) until 1964, and a daily train from Houston, the Valley Eagle (#321/322), until 1962. Today, the Brownsville and Rio Grande International Railroad (reporting mark BRG) is a terminal switching railroad headquartered in Brownsville. It operates 45 mi (72 km) of line at the Port of Brownsville, and interchanges with Union Pacific Railroad and TFM. BRG traffic includes steel, agricultural products, food products, and general commodities.

International bridges

Brownsville & Matamoros Bridge office
A view of the Brownsville and Matamoros Bridge office

Brownsville has three international bridges that connect to Mexico. These include the Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge (B&M), Gateway International Bridge and the Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates.


Electricity, water, and wastewater services in Brownsville are provided by the Brownsville Public Utilities Board. Since it is a public utility, the city commission appoints six members of the utilities board with the mayor serving as the seventh member (ex-officio). As of 2016, it is the 68th-largest public power utility in the country by number of customers served (48,232). Its power generation was ranked 51st in the US with 1,638,579 megawatt-hours. Renewable resources were projected to increase with partial help from the proposed addition of a 400-megawatt Tenaska combined-cycle electric generating plant in 2015.

A series of wind turbines was also built in the northeast part of Cameron County. The board operates three treatment plants in Brownsville; it also owns 92.91% of the Southmost Regional Water Authority groundwater treatment facility. Several liquefied natural gas companies are currently in the process of establishing pipelines in the city; however, two companies were denied a review of their application after missing several deadlines.


Festivals and parades

During mid to late February, Charro Days takes place in Brownsville. The holiday is a two-nation fiesta celebrating the friendship between Brownsville and its sister city and border town, Matamoros. The celebration attracts around 50,000 guests per year. It is accompanied with El Grito, a joyous shout originating in Mexican culture as well as a visit from the Mr. Amigo Association. Honorees who have attended previous events include Vicente Fernandez and Mexican actors Arath de la Torre and Eduardo Yanez. Sombrero Festival is another celebration taking place around the same time as Charro Days. The festival is a three-day event consisting of performances from rock, tejano and corrido artists as well as a variety of contests.

AirFiesta is an air show hosted in mid-February in Brownsville. The event consists of professional aerobatics performers as well as militia from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. The event takes place at the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport. An arts and craft show is also hosted along with the event.

The Latin Jazz Festival is an annual musical event hosted around early October in Downtown Brownsville. The event is a 3-day celebration of Latin Jazz performers, art and dance. The first festival took place in 1997 and was founded by Tito Puente, a composer from New York City known as the "King of Latin Jazz". Local artists and bands perform songs by Latin Jazz artists.

The city hosts two different parades throughout the year. The Fourth of July Parade is an annual parade hosted in the Fourth of July in Downtown Brownsville. The event has the same route as Charro Days and was created in 2000. The Winter Break Parade is an annual parade also hosted in Downtown Brownsville around early December. The parade consists of floats made by different schools around the city.

St. Mary, Mother of the Church Fall Festival is a Catholic festival held in 1914 Barnard Rd. The event features live music and auction. It is hosted by the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville. The organizations also holds festivals in nearby areas such as McAllen, Edinburg and Mission.


Children's Museum of Brownsville is a museum for young children consisting of educational exhibits and learning centers. Building efforts commenced in 2000 with the museum opening in 2005. It is located next to the Camille Lightner Playhouse in the center of Dean Porter Park in 501 E. Ringgold Street.

Founded in 1935, the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts is an arts museum featuring exhibitions on Egyptian and Astronomical art. The museum was formerly known as the Brownsville Art League, formed by a group of eight women. The museum underwent a renovation in 1960, featuring a 4,000 sq ft studio and in 2002, it changed its name to its current name also receiving a 17,000 sq foot renovation. It is located in Downtown Brownsville at 660 East Ringgold Street.

The Historic Brownsville Museum is a historic museum opened to the public in 1986. The building was used as a Spanish Colonial Revival passenger depot and was later abandoned. The museum features Spanish architecture and education programs. It also hosts meeting for various organizations including City and State officials. Several renovations were made to give the museum a more "present" look such as the addition of a Spanish-style fountain, a courtyard and an engine building.

Built in 1850 by Henry Miller, owner of the Miller Hotel in downtown Brownsville, the Stillman House Museum was owned by city founder Charles Stillman and Mexican consul Manuel Pérez Treviño. It was the site of meetings with Mexican president Porfirio Diaz. The great grandson of Stillman bought the house after the previous homeowners sold it and was donated to the city after renovations. It opened to the public in 1960. The home experienced damage from Hurricane Dolly in 2008 and reopened to the public the next year after renovations were made.

Costumes of the Americas Museum is an indigenous clothing museum located in 501 Ringgold Street. Inspired by Bessie Kirkland Johnson, the museum was opened in 1997, featuring clothing from indigenous people in several Mexican states and other Latin American countries.

The Commemorative Air Force Museum is an aircraft museum located in 955 Minnesota Ave., next to the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport. The museum features World War II aircraft and also holds tours on the early events leading to wars in Asia and Europe. It also features the stories of aviation pilots who were part of the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron and hosts the annual AirFiesta in February.


Jacob Brown Auditorium is an performing arts auditorium located in Downtown Brownsville. The venue has a 1,593 person capacity and has a variety of functions including banquet ceremonies, conference meetings and being a reception hall. It is part of the University of Texas at Brownsville campus, now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The Arts Center is a performing arts and concert venue in conjunction with Texas Southmost College. It is associated with several theater organizations including Chamber Music America and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. The center is strictly used for theater shows, while only using the lobby for meetings. It is currently the only Arts Center currently operating south of San Antonio.

Camille Lightner Playhouse is a performing arts auditorium founded in 1964 and located on 500 E Ringgold Street. The venue hosts auditions for local and Broadway plays, as well as hosting the Henri Awards, an awards show honoring the best in the venue's staff. It also holds a summer workshop for younger children and holds a reception hall at the DeStefano Room.


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.

Films made or inspired by Brownsville

Year Title Lead actor(s)
1981 Back Roads Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones
2000 The President's Man Chuck Norris, Dylan Neal
2004 Pink Punch Adal Ramones, Omar Chaparro
2011 The Big Year* Jack Black, Owen Wilson
2012 Get the Gringo Mel Gibson
2013 A Night in Old Mexico Robert Duvall
2015 Endgame Efren Ramirez, Rico Rodriguez
2017 The Green Ghost Danny Trejo

* The Big Year featured a scene where Brownsville, Texas was written in front of the screen. Film draws inspiration from wildlife in the Rio Grande Valley.

TV shows made or inspired by Brownsville

Year Title Lead actor(s)
2007 Friday Night Lights Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton
2011 Border Wars N/A


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.

In 2011 and 2013, University of Texas at Brownsville Ocelots team captured the NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa at the Tyson Events Center.

These are the golf courses operating within the Brownsville city limit:

  • Fort Brown Memorial Golf Course
  • Valley International Country Club
  • Rancho Viejo Resort and Country Club
  • River Bend Country Club
  • Brownsville Golf Center
  • Brownsville Municipal Golf Course

Points of interest

A picture of the Brownsville Masonic Temple Rio Grande Masonic Lodge No. 81, constructed in 1882. It was the original Cameron County Courthouse.

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 2015 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 (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) after many of its tenants moved from Amigoland to Sunrise.


  • Sabal Palm Sanctuary

Sister cities


Brownsville-Harlingen, TX, TX, USA - panoramio (6)
The Port of Brownsville constructed the Ocean Onyx deepwater rig in 2013.

Brownsville's economic activity is derived from the service and manufacturing industries. Government and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley are both large contributors to the local economy. Other prominent industries in Brownsville include education and aerospace and space transportation. During the first decade of the 1900s, the city's population increased after a boom in the agriculture industry. Brownsville's subtropical climate has made it a commercial hub for the citrus industry.

The Port of Brownsville produces significant revenue for the city of Brownsville. The port, located 2 mi (3.2 km) from the city, provides a link between the road networks of nearby Mexico and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway of Texas. The port has become an important economic hub for South Texas, where shipments arrive from other parts of the United States, Mexico, and other foreign countries. The port also participates in ship recycling; it has five of the country's eight ship-recycling companies. It received a $1.8 million grant from the United States Department of Commerce to support business and infrastructure development. The grant is expected to create 700 jobs and generate $3 million in private investments.

International trade

Brownsville's economy is based mainly on its international trade with Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Due to Matamoros' maquiladora (English: textile factory) boom, Brownsville experienced growth in the air cargo industry during the late 1980s. It is home to one of the fastest-growing manufacturing sectors in the United States. Brownsville has been recognized as having one of the best pro-business climates in the United States, and the city has been ranked among the least expensive places to live in the country. President Barack Obama signed a bill in 2016 allowing for the deepening of the Brownsville Ship Channel from 42 ft (13 m) to 52 ft (16 m).


20170102 satellite tracking antenna 02JAN2017
A tracking station antenna (pictured) installed at the SpaceX South Texas launch site

Entrepreneur Elon Musk announced the construction of SpaceX South Texas Launch Site, a private space launch facility east of Brownsville on the Gulf Coast in 2014. The launch facility is estimated to produce US$85 million for the city of Brownsville and generate approximately US$51 million in annual salaries from the roughly 500 jobs to be created by 2024. The facility itself is projected to employ 75–100 full-time workers in the early years with up to 150 full-time employees/contractors by 2019.

As of October 2014, the University of Texas at Brownsville and the Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC), in collaboration with SpaceX, are building radio-frequency (RF) technology facilities for STARGATE (Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Gigahertz Astrophysical Transient Emission). The facility is intended to provide students and faculty access to radio frequency technologies used in spaceflight operations, and will include satellite and spacecraft tracking.

The city's economic development council also purchased five lots in Boca Chica Village totaling 2.3 acres (0.93 ha) near the SpaceX launch site and renamed it as the Stargate subdivision. The beach location will include a 12,000 sq ft (1,100 m2) tracking center. Stargate received several startup grants including US$1.2 million from the United States Economic Development Administration.

Principal employers

According to the BEDC, the top employers in the city as of May 2015 were:

# Employer Employees
1 Brownsville Independent School District 7,670
2 Cameron County 1,950
3 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 1,734
4 Keppel AmFELS 1,650
5 Walmart 1,413
6 Abundant Life Home Health 1,300
7 City of Brownsville 1,227
8 Caring For You Home Health 1,200
9 H-E-B Grocery 975
10 Maximus 950


Primary and secondary education

Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) serves most of the city. Enrollment in the 2018–2019 school year was 44,402 students, 95% of whom are economically disadvantaged. Enrollment at BISD reached a high of 49,991 students in 2010–2011, and has declined an average of 1,000 students per year since 2014–2015. It is the 17th largest school district in Texas. There are seven high schools within the district: James Pace, Lopez, Gladys Porter, Simon Rivera, Homer Hanna, Veterans Memorial and Brownsville Early College.

A portion of northern Brownsville is served by the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District. South Texas Independent School District, a magnet school district, operates a medical academy in northern Brownsville. There are several private parochial elementary and middle schools located throughout the community. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville operates Catholic schools in the Rio Grande Valley, including Brownsville.

Colleges and universities

The UT SPH Bronwsville Regional Campus
UT School of Public Health

Six colleges and universities are located within the Brownsville boundaries. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, part of the University of Texas system, was founded in 2014 after the merger of the University of Texas at Brownsville and University of Texas–Pan American. It is the 10th-largest university in Texas, having 25,137 undergraduates, 3,068 graduate students, and 439 professionals enrolled in 2018. In 2017, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education ranked the university third in the country in awarding bachelor's degrees to Hispanic students.

Texas Southmost College is a community college located near the southern border of Brownsville. As of 2018, it had a total enrollment of 7,132. Students usually transfer to the neighboring University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The city operates three vocational schools. These include the South Texas Vocational Technical Institute, Brightwood College campus (formerly known as Kaplan College), and Southern Careers Institute.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health (UTSPH), is one of five regional campuses established by the Regional Academic Health Center program in 2001; it is located on the Brownsville campus of the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley. The campus offers a PhD program in epidemiology and a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) in health promotion, the only program of its kind available in South Texas. The campus directs its attention to health concerns in the Rio Grande Valley, including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. It also centers its concerns on genetics and its relationship to infectious and chronic disease.

Notable people

  • James Carlos Blake, novelist, received his elementary education at Saint Joseph Academy
  • José Tomás Canales, lawyer, writer, politician
  • Shelbie Bruce, actress
  • Oscar Casares, author and professor the University of Texas at Austin; published two books about Brownsville, including Amigoland (2009)
  • Buddy Garcia, 2012 member of the Texas Railroad Commission
  • Reynaldo G. Garza (1915–2004), Judge appointed to the United States District Court in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, and to the United States Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter in 1978
  • Tony Garza, former United States Ambassador to Mexico
  • Gilberto Hinojosa, county judge of Cameron County from 1995 to 2007; Texas Democratic Party chairman since 2012
  • Mifflin Kenedy (1818–1895), South Texas rancher and steamboat businessman
  • Pierre Yves Kéralum (1817–1872), priest and architect who designed the Immaculate Conception Cathedral
  • Bernard L. Kowalski (1929–2007), film and television director
  • Kris Kristofferson, country singer, songwriter and actor, 2004 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee
  • Eddie Lucio III, member of the Texas House of Representatives
  • Eddie Lucio Jr., member of the Texas State Senate
  • Bianca Marroquín, theater and television actress
  • Grace Napolitano, United States Representative for California's 32nd congressional district
  • Jose Rolando Olvera Jr., United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015
  • Américo Paredes (1915–1999), author of George Washington Gómez
  • Rudy Ruiz, author, entrepreneur and advocate; attended Saint Joseph Academy
  • Ramón Saldívar, scholar of Chicano literature and culture, awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2011; professor at Stanford University
  • Julian Schnabel, neo-expressionism painter and Academy Award-nominated, Golden Globe winner and director of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Bruce Sterling, author of the Mirrorshades anthology and one of the pioneers of the cyberpunk genre
  • Emeraude Toubia, actress (Shadowhunters)
  • Benjamin D. Wood (1894–1986), one of the pioneers of learning technologies and automated testing methods
  • Jaime Zapata (1979–2011), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Brownsville para niños

Black History Month on Kiddle
Influential African-American Artists:
James Van Der Zee
Alma Thomas
Ellis Wilson
Margaret Taylor-Burroughs
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