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During the 19th century, wars and banditry marked relations between the two communities. Brownsville was established in 1846 as Fort Brown to support the United States' claim to the Rio Grande as its southern border. The two battles at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma successfully defended that claim and started the Mexican War.

During the Civil War, Brownsville prospered as the Confederacy's chief cotton port, shipping materials out of Mexico to dodge the Union blockade. One of the last land battles of the Civil War was fought near Brownsville at Palmito Ranch; the Confederate troops had not heard of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender 1 month earlier. The dissent along the border did not end with the Civil War, however, as plots and counterplots by revolutionaries across the border kept Fort Brown busy during the rest of the 19th century and into the next.

Remnants of Fort Brown can still be seen east of the International Bridge on International Boulevard near Elizabeth Street. Several original fort buildings are part of the campus shared by Texas Southmost College and University of Texas at Brownsville, including the post hospital, guardhouse and post headquarters. Phone (956) 882-8200.

Other local sites and monuments remind visitors of the strife that occurred in Brownsville during the Mexican War. Battle sites include the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, at FM 1847 and FM 511; the Resaca de la Palma Battlefield Marker, on FM 1847 between Price and Coffee Port roads; and the Palmito Hill Battlefield Marker, 12 miles east on SR 4.

The Charro Days Fiesta in February celebrates the charro horsemen of Mexico with a grand ball, street dances, parades and a carnival; phone (956) 542-4245. Air Fiesta, held in late February or March, is an air show featuring dozens of antique and modern military aircraft; phone (956) 541-8585. Latin Jazz Festival tunes fill the air in October; phone (956) 831-9590.

The city is known for its shrimp fleet and its dual-frontier maquiladora manufacturing program, which includes Fortune 500 companies in both Brownsville and Matamoros. Nearby are the wide sandy beaches of South Padre Island, which are reached via SRs 48 and 100 to Port Isabel, then over Laguna Madre Bay via the Queen Isabella Causeway.

Bird-watchers can find a variety of the winged species in the Brownsville area, including wild parrots and Brown Pelicans. More than 470 bird species call the area home.

Visitor Centers

Brownsville Convention and Visitors Bureau 650 Ruben M. Torres Sr. Blvd./FM 802 Brownsville, TX 78523. Phone:(956)546-3721 or (800)626-2639

Self-guiding Tours

A map outlining the Brownsville Heritage Trail , which guides visitors around the historic downtown area, is available from the convention and visitors bureau.

Things to Do

The Brownsville Heritage Complex

Brownsville Museum of Fine Art

Gladys Porter Zoo

Children's Museum of Brownsville

Historic Brownsville Museum

Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

Resaca de la Palma State Park

Rio Grande Valley Wing Flying Museum

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