Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back in the Valley Again ...the Rio Grande Valley that is

The lively supermarket announcer is going on and on in Spanish about what I can only assume is a store special.  The store is filled with Hispanic families with overstuffed carts interspersed with white haired grandparent types going about their shopping duties.  

The local Jack in the Box has at least a hundred grackles whistling and chattering away.  I have to stop as a stray dog crosses the road in front of me but I notice that there are large grapefruits already in the local propane companies grove.  Another month and grapefruits will be dropping off trees everywhere here.   As I head down the palm lined street the sun is just starting to set.  The palms waving in the breeze against the deep red sky are just beautiful and I know that I am back in the Rio Grande Valley again... my home the past 4 winters.

The Valley is like no place else I have ever been.  It is a poor area.  A border town, where Mexican nationals come to shop and retirees come to winter.  The local population is over 95% Hispanic and Spanish is the most predominate language spoken even though it seems most locals are solidly bi-lingual.   It all makes for an interesting & rare mix of cultures.

Thousands of northerners come here to 'winter' every year.  The attraction being the tropical weather, cheap prices and the fact that the locals are so welcoming.   In Florida & Arizona the northerners are called Snowbirds and they are not always welcomed with open arms.  In Texas the northerners are called Winter Texans and the folks of the Valley always seem happy to have us here.  The different townships have Winter Texan welcomes with food, entertainment and free give-aways.  There are Winter Texan Health Fairs. Two Winter Texan newspapers offer specials on everything from dining to eyeglasses.  The restaurants of the area love us.  Branson entertainers come through our parks to entertain us as do the local entertainers, especially cool are the Folkloric dancers with their colorful outfits.

The flora and fauna of the area is colorful as well.  Flowers, bushes and plants bloom all winter. Through November and come spring the bushes are teeming with colorful butterflies.  The birds here are more colorful than most places too.  Among them are bright yellow Kisskadees, Green jays, Altimira Orioles and Cardinals but the Cardinals here are a much more vibrant red than I have ever seen up north.

There are at least a hundred RV & Mobile Home parks in the Valley which stretches from Brownsville at least 70 miles west past Mission, Texas.  Life in the parks takes on a 'summer camp' type feel.   Most parks have Activity Directors and offer something for everyone from dancing classes, card playing, quilting get-togethers, pool tournaments, water aerobics and on and on.  Some parks have whole booklets they publish every month with there activities.  At my park people like to bike ride, bird watch, kayak and just hang out.  There are local places catering mainly to Winter Texans such as Pepe's on the River, that is a pub type place under a palm thatched roof with a deck along the Rio Grande river.  They have entertainment daily with dancing, cheap drinks and they are extremely popular even though the service leaves a bit to be desired.  Their dirt lot is packed on weekends with big trucks and tow cars from just about every state and province in North America.  There is also the DonWest Fleamarket in Donna, TX that caters to Winter Texans, has entertainment on weekends and carries just about any accessory you would need for RV or Mobile Home.  After a few years, it seems that many people buy mobile, modular or park model homes in the park of their choice and make themselves more permanent residents.

The Valley has much to offer .. I could probably write a book but I will just say .. if you are retired and tired of holing up in your home all winter .. why not come check out the South Texas Tropics.   Whether just passing through, staying a season or retiring here, there really is something for everyone is this unique little tucked away place down in the tip of Texas!

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