Brownsville, Texas

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Brownsville is a city located in Cameron County, Texas, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 139,722. It is the county seat of Cameron County6.




Brownsville is located at 25°55'49" North, 97°29'4" West (25.930307, -97.484424)1, on the U.S.-Mexico border (marked here by the Rio Grande or Río Bravo del Norte) from Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 215.0 km² (83.0 mi²). 208.2 km² (80.4 mi²) of it is land and 6.8 km² (2.6 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 3.16% water.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 139,722 people, 38,174 households, and 32,180 families residing in the city. The population density is 671.0/km² (1,737.8/mi²). There are 42,323 housing units at an average density of 203.2/km² (526.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 81.65% White, 0.41% African American, 0.42% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 14.66% from other races, and 2.29% from two or more races. 91.28% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 38,174 households out of which 50.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.3% are married couples living together, 20.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 15.7% are non-families. 13.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 6.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 3.62 and the average family size is 3.99.

In the city the population is spread out with 34.6% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 17.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females there are 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 82.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $24,468, and the median income for a family is $26,186. Males have a median income of $21,739 versus $17,116 for females. The per capita income for the city is $9,762. 36.0% of the population and 32.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 45.0% of those under the age of 18 and 31.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Brownsville, Texas in 1857.
Brownsville, Texas in 1857.

Pre-Brownsville History

Brownsville History

Main article: Cortina Troubles
  • During the Civil War Brownsville was used as a smuggling point for Confederate goods into Mexico.
  • On May 15, 1865 a month after the surrender had been signed at Appomattox Court House the Battle of Palmito Ranch was fought.
  • On Valentine's day, 1895, 2 inches of snow fell in Brownsville. This was the first recorded instance of snow in recorded history of the region.
  • On August 13, and 14th 1906 Brownsville was the site of the Brownsville Raid.
  • On December 8, 1911 Brownsville's first international bridge was opened, which was called the Brownsville & Matamoros Bridge.
  • On September 8, 1926 The Junior College of the Lower Rio Grande Valley now known as Texas Southmost College as in the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College admitted its first class.
  • In 1945 Fort Brown was decommissioned and in 1948 the City and College acquired the land.
  • From 1945 to 1970 Brownsville population doubled from 25,000 to 52,000 people.
  • In 1991 Brownsville receives a University via the partnership between the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
  • Brownsville was declared an All-America City in the year 2001.
  • On December 25, 2004, Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley had their first instance of measurable snow in 109 years, with 1 1/2 inches, and with this their very first White Christmas. This was part of the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm.
  • Brownsville Independent School District, at current, is the 17th. largest school district in Texas.

City Government

Brownsville has a Council-Manager style of Government. The Mayor and six City Commissioners, two At-Large and four District, serve staggered four year terms. Every two years, three Commission seats are voted for, one At-Large and two Districts. General elections are held on the first Saturday of May in odd numbered years. The City Secretary's Office conducts the city elections. This involves administering the appropriate papers for a candidate to be included on the ballot. The City Secretary is also responsible for keeping records on the candidates, mainly their Campaign Finance Reports. The City Secretary's Office counts the votes and declares a winner. In Texas, local elections are non-partisan, meaning candidates don't run with a party affiliation but independently. It is not uncommon though for groups of candidates with similar political ideologies to support each other. In non-partisan elections a potential candidate for any city elected office will self-nominate themselves by going to the City Secretary's Office and filing the appropriate paperwork to be placed on the ballot. The City Secretary's Office will then check if the candidate meets residency requirements to run for a particular office. A candidate for local office must receive a majority of the vote in order to avoid a runoff. If a runoff election is needed the City Secretary's Office will set the date as needed. In the event that a Commissioner or the Mayor vacates his/her seat a special election will be held to fill the vacancy.

At current Brownsville's elected officials are:

  • Mayor: Eddie Treviño Jr. (Since 2003)
  • Commissioner At-Large "A": Sally Arroyo (Since 2003)
  • Commissioner At-Large "B": Ernie Hernandez (Since 2005)
  • Commissioner District 1: Ricardo Longoria Jr. (Since 2003)
  • Commissioner District 2: David Betancourt (Since 2003)
  • Commissioner District 3: Carlos Cisneros (Since 2002)
  • Commissioner District 4: Edward Camarillo (Since 2005)

The next regular elections for the City will occur in the following years:

  • Mayor: 2007
  • At-Large "A": 2007
  • At-Large "B": 2009
  • District 1: 2007
  • District 2: 2007
  • District 3: 2009
  • District 4: 2009

Brownsville also has officials that are appointed by the City Commission among those are the:

  • City Manager: Charlie Cabler
  • Assistant City Manager: Carlos Ayala

Public Utilities Board

The City Commission also appoints a six member Public Utilities Board. The Board members are nominated and elected by the City Commission and must receive a majority of votes to be put on the board. Since there are six voting City Commissioners a nominee must receive four votes to be appointed to the Public Utilities Board. Each Board member's term is four years. According to the Brownsville City Charter a nominee for the Public Utilities Board cannot be related to any commissioner within the second degree by blood or marriage. In addition to this, after a Board member has served one term they can only be elected to serve only one more term, whether or not it is a consecutive or non-consecutive term. The Mayor of Brownsville, by virtue of being the Mayor, is an Ex-officio member of the Board.

The Current Public Utilities Board Members are:

  • Oscar E. Garcia, Chairman
  • Cristobal M. Valadez, Jr., Vice-Chairman
  • Robert A. Sanchez, Secretary
  • Billy R. Bradford, Jr., Member
  • Pat M. Ahumada, Jr., Member
  • Eddie Treviño, Jr., Ex-Officio Member

Interesting Facts

Because of its proximity to Mexico, English and Spanish have equal status in Brownsville.

The motto of Brownsville is "On the Border by the Sea".

Brownsville has 3 international bridges:

  • The Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge, known locally as the "Old Bridge".
  • Gateway International Bridge, known locally as the "new bridge".
  • The Veteran's Bridge at Los Tomates, or locally simply known as the "Veteran's Bridge".

Brownsville is home to 50 public schools ranging from Pre Kindergarten to 12th Grade. See Education in Brownsville, Texas for more details on the education available.

Local attractions include the Gladys Porter Zoo, Camille Lightner Playhouse, a historical downtown with buildings over 150 years old, The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, The Brownsville & South Padre Island International Airport (BRO), a port known as the Port of Brownsville and the Children's Museum of Brownsville. There is also easy access to South Padre Island and Matamoros, Mexico.

A number of the famous historical homes in downtown Brownsville are becoming the homes of local Law Offices.

Brownsville is the hometown of the heroine in the song "Delta Dawn". Bob Dylan performed a song called "Brownsville Girl" (co-written with Robert Hunter of Grateful Dead fame). Brownsville is mentioned in the song "Matamoros Banks" by Bruce Springsteen, and in the song "Texas Women" by Hank Williams Jr.

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