If you have never heard of Brownsville Texas the next chance you get google it. It is in the southernmost tip of Texas on the border of Mexico, an area referred to as the Rio Grande Valley. When visiting, it may feel you are in Mexico due to the majority population of Mexican Americans and limited English speaking restaurants, stores and hospitals. You must visit with an open mind and taste for great food!
I was there on a travel nurse assignment. During the interview process for this job the manager informed me that 90% of the patient population did not speak English. That’s great! That will give me a chance to practice my Spanish I remember thinking. However, I was not prepared to use my Spanish while ordering food, while finding things at Walmart nor trying to get my car washed. It was a bit of a culture shock to be there for 3 months. I think by the time I adjusted it was time to move on to the next exciting place. I often think about going back.
People always ask me about the Tex-Mex and I tell them I tried Tex-Mex in Austin. Brownsville has authentic Mexican food. My husband (then fiancé) and I fell head over heels for real tacos pastor, barbacoa & pollo. We will be honest and tell you Menudo is not our thing no matter what everyone swears up and down about in Brownsville. I encourage you to try for yourself. You can find Menudo everywhere even at gas stations.
In Brownsville I tried Ceviche for the first time ever. Ceviche is white fish that is “cooked” by lime juice. When it is done properly it is delicious. The margaritas could be ordered rimmed with candied chili powder and were great for washing down Ceviche.
At first glance Brownsville looks like nothing more than your average suburbia. It has every chain store and restaurant that you can think of but mixed in are hidden gems. For a little more culture, you must head downtown (like in most cities). If you don’t have your passport stay clear of customs and the border. Downtown you will find old buildings, plaques full of Mexican & American history, museums and the zoo. Then surprise, there are more restaurants, cafes, and bars. Don’t be surprised if you gain weight during your visit.
In Brownsville Texas is Palo Alto Battlefield. It is a National Historical Park that is worth a visit. It is the site where the first battle of the Mexican-American war took place. At the time, Texas, or Tejas was part of Mexico. This war changed the borders of the United States and Mexico. Palo Alto Park is a lush combination of desert and prairie and is home to many different species of animals in the Rio Grande Valley. I’d like to revisit the park again one day.
One last thing I will leave you with, be sure to bring your tote bags. This was the first experience I had living near coastal waters where stores charge for plastic bags. Some stores charged as much as $1 a bag. Brownsville is close to the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Every effort to keep plastic away from our waters is necessary.
There you have it! Brownsville was quite the experience and I hope one day I will have the opportunity to go back!