South Texas is a vast area of land south of San Antonio that extends from Laredo to Corpus and all the way south to the US border with Mexico. With a population of more than three million, it is rich in history and its culture is highly influenced by its ties with Mexico. I have been a South Texan for more than 40 years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I live in the southernmost area of Texas known as the Rio Grande Valley. Also known as the RGV or “El Valle,” oddly enough, The Valley is not a valley at all but is more of a floodplain.
South Texas is certainly influenced by Mexican heritage. From Tejano music to Tex-Mex cuisine, it’s easy to recognize the influences from south of the border. One thing I enjoy most about South Texas is its small town feel where people have a sense of pride in their community. So if you’re looking to escape the fast-paced city life, South Texas is definitely the place for you.
South Texas is known for a lot of things, such as King Ranch and its many state parks, but the coastal area beaches are one thing that cannot be overlooked. If it’s fun in the sun you’re looking for, you have definitely come to the right place. South Texas has an array of choices for beachgoers. North Beach, Mustang Island, South Padre Island, and the Padre Island National Seashore are all popular destinations throughout the year. Located near Corpus Christi, the Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and is even a nesting place for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. South Padre Island, near Brownsville, is a popular attraction for locals throughout the summer and is invaded by 50,000 college spring breakers annually in March. A short 2½-mile drive across the Queen Isabella Causeway is all it takes to visit the historic Port Isabel lighthouse. This lighthouse, more than 100 years old, served as a supply station during the Mexican-American War.
If there is one thing that sets this area apart from all others, it has to be the wonderful people. South Texans are friendly, caring, and respectful individuals who put family first. As I have traveled throughout Regions 1 and 2 this year, the people have been so welcoming and helpful. Many are old friends who I have known for several years, and some are new friends who I have made this year. They are passionate about education and passionate about ATPE as well. Old or new, the people are what make this job fun and such a rewarding experience.
Though the people of South Texas definitely are top-notch, not too far behind is the phenomenal food that can only be found here. In the coastal areas of South Texas, freshly caught shrimp, oysters, or snapper are served up daily at places like Blackbeards’ and Louie’s Backyard at South Padre Island or Pier 99 in Corpus Christi. Pier 99 not only offers some of the finest seafood in town but also has a great view of the SS Lexington. If you are looking for authentic Mexican-style cuisine, there is no better place than the RGV. Fresh, homemade tortillas, refried beans, and rice made to perfection—talk about comfort food! One of my personal favorites is panchos Mazatlan from El Rancho Grande in Pharr. Whatever you choose, you definitely can’t go wrong with the authentic Mexican food that is only available in South Texas.
South Texans also love to have a good time. Whether it’s the RGV Livestock Show, Buc Days, Border Fest, Fiesta de la Flor, or the Hidalgo Festival of Lights, we love to celebrate. Held in Corpus Christi, Fiesta de la Flor is a celebration of the life of the “Queen of Tejano,” Selena Quintanilla-Perez. A native of Corpus Christi, her impact on Tejano music and her fans reached far beyond South Texas. The Hidalgo Festival of Lights, the largest lighting display in Texas, stretches over three miles and features more than three million lights. In fact, many schools leave their Christmas trees up year-round!
So if you are ever in South Texas area, make sure to take in the historical sites, enjoy the best seafood and authentic Mexican food available, and participate in the local festivities. But most importantly, leave the big city life behind and be prepared to meet the most incredible people around.
Check out Roger's South Texas photo album!
Roger Gutierrez is ATPE’s representative for Regions 1 and 2. Before he started working at ATPE, Roger was an elementary teacher and the Region 1 ATPE director.