Missouri Pacific Lines Brochure

Citrus farming changed the Lower Rio Grande Valley

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Lands along the Rio Grande had been owned by Mexican families for centuries when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo moved the border over them. In the decades that followed, Mexican land owners were slowly pushed out as Anglo ranchers and farmers came to dominate the region.

Articles in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo successfully protected Mexican land ownership along the Rio Grande for decades following the war. Many Mexican families thrived, as they reaped the benefits of abundant land and a low population density. That all changed with the arrival of the railroad in the early 1900s. Brought to the region by Anglo ranchers whose influence and dominance had been growing since the 1850s, the new railroads linked border communities to the rest of Texas and the U.S., bringing more Anglo settlers and speculators to the region.

Soon, railroads and real estate developers were marketing South Texas to farmers across the country. They hoped to lure investors to the Rio Grande Valley with the promise of warm weather, favorable crop conditions, and inexpensive labor provided by Tejanos and Mexicans. Land prices rose from $5–$50 an acre to $100–$300 an acre. Land grants were complicated and poorly recorded, and many Tejanos were forced by legal challenges, fraud, or physical threats to sell their lands to Anglo settlers. More and more Tejanos were reduced to working for the farmers who displaced them.

This 1929 booklet produced by the Missouri Pacific Railroad shows how Anglo railroads and farmers altered the Rio Grande Valley. The book’s cover promotes the abundant opportunity of citrus farming alongside a sunny lifestyle of golfing, fishing, and swimming. Mexican influence is reduced to one small image of a charro and charra. “From a cactus covered desert it has been converted into an evergreen garden,” the opening page declares. “Now definitely established as a farming community of almost unexcelled productivity,” the introduction continues, “this booklet … can give only a faint idea of what transportation, rich soil, ideal weather and unlimited irrigation facilities have done to convert a wilderness into what its residents know as a veritable fairyland.”

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Missouri Pacific Lines Brochure Artifact from Raymondville, TX
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