Monday, July 22, 2019
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20181128 MOSTH Edinburg GU 9514“One of the best ways for new Winter Texans to learn about the area where they are wintering is to make a visit to the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg,” said museum Executive Director Shan Rankin.

The museum chronicles the Valley’s history from prehistoric times when the Mosasaurus (a sea dinosaur that inhabited the area now known as the Rio Grande Valley when it was under the ocean). In a later period, giant mammoths roamed the area after the land rose out of the water to become vast prairies. Come to the museum to find out where the mammoth bones for the museum’s mammoth exhibit were discovered.

The museum’s prehistoric view continues through the time of the Coahuiltecan Indians, when 50 tribes roamed the area looking for food.

Things changed with the coming of the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. Most of the area’s early development was to the south in Mexico, although there was an unsuccessful attempt to settle along the river in the 1500s. Evidence of Spanish influence can be found in other ways.

20181128 MOSTH Edinburg GU 9519The museum has a replica of the hull of one of the ships used by the Spaniards. It also has another display showing how horses were transported on ships in slings during times of bad weather to keep them from breaking their legs. And there are artifacts from the Spanish galleons that sunk during a hurricane in 1554 near Padre Island. The ships were loaded with bars of silver and gold mined in Mexico being transported back to Spain.

One of the rarest shipments were small bugs, cochineal, that the Spaniards discovered made a bright red dye when crushed. Rankin said red was the royal color and no one else could wear it. No one could create as bright of a red as the Spaniards could with their “secret ingredient” brought back from the New World.

20181128 MOSTH Edinburg GU 9527Jose de Escandon led a successful colonization attempt where 13 colonies were established although not all survived. All but Laredo were on the south side of the Rio Grande because the north side of the river is higher and more difficult to irrigate, making it unsuitable for farming. The north side was designated as ranchland, while farms and cities such as Reynosa, Guerrera, Mier, and others were set up on the south side.

The 1800s brought war to the region. Between 1810 and 1820 Mexico revolted against Spain, eventually winning its freedom. In 1836, Texas revolted against Mexico, claiming much of the land north of the Rio Grande.

After Texas joined the United States in 1845, the United States-Mexican War was fought from 1846-1848. The war started between Port Isabel and Brownsville.

Then came the Civil War from 1860 to 1865. The Rio Grande played an important role in the war when steamships operating under Mexican flags moved Confederate goods out of Texas headed for markets in Europe to generate much-needed money for the Confederacy.

Then came the days of early ranch settlement. People began moving into the area between the Nueces and Rio Grande to claim and settle the land. The era of large ranches like the King Ranch began. It was also a time of bandit raids. The Texas Rangers were sent in to bring order to the area and to protect the settlers from bandit raids. The United States sent 70,000 troops to the Valley to control the borders and protect against the bandits.

The early 1900s was a time of new technology such as irrigation systems that could turn ranchlands into farmland, sparking an agricultural boom in the Rio Grande Valley. This was accompanied by the coming of the railroads to the Valley, making shipping agricultural products north possible.

With these developments, land developers advertised the area to farmers in northern states, arranging excursion trains to bring them down to South Texas to see for themselves the fertile soil and mild climate that made it possible to plant crops year-round.

20181128 MOSTH Edinburg GU 9559During World War II, the Valley became a major provider of food and fiber, taking its place as a major region of Texas contributing to the wellbeing of the state and country.

Rankin invites everyone to come visit the museum to learn more about the area’s history. Entrance fees are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students and $5 for children, ages four to 12. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. MOSTHisory is located at 200 N. Closner in Edinburg. Check out the new exhibit “Edinburg: Then and Now” that opened Nov. 18.

The annual Christmas “Noche Buena” will be held Dec. 9 from 1 to 5 p.m. It is a look at Mexican Christmas traditions including Posada, the reenactment of Joseph and Mary looking for a place to sleep and have their baby. Be sure to enjoy some hot chocolate, posale, tamales and pan dulce while there. Outside there will be vendors in the courtyard holding a Christmas market.

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