The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) or the Lower Rio Grande Valley (when referring to the eight county region), informally called The Valley, is an area located in the southernmost tip of South Texas. It lies along the northern bank of the Rio Grande river, which separates Mexico from the United States.
The Rio Grande Valley is not a true valley, but a floodplain, containing many oxbow lakes or resacas formed from pinched-off meanders in earlier courses of the Rio Grande. Early 20th-century land developers, attempting to capitalize on unclaimed land, utilized the name "Magic Valley" to attract settlers and appeal to investors. The Rio Grande Valley is also called El Valle, the Spanish translation of "the valley", by those who live there. The residents of the Rio Grande Valley occasionally refer to the area as "El Mágico Valle del Río Grande" ("The Magical Valley of the Rio Grande"), and also simply by the initials R.G.V.
The Valley is historically reliant on agribusiness and tourism. Cotton, grapefruit, sorghum, maize, and sugarcane are its leading crops, and the region is the center of citrus production and the most important area of vegetable production in the State of Texas. Over the last several decades, the emergence of maquiladoras (factories or fabrication plants) has caused a surge of industrial development along the border, while international bridges have allowed Mexican nationals to shop, sell, and do business in the border cities along the Rio Grande. The geographic inclusion of South Padre Island also drives tourism, particularly during the Spring Break season, during which South Padre Island becomes reminiscent of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. During the winter months, many retirees arrive to enjoy the warm weather, access to pharmaceuticals and health care in Mexican border crossings such as Nuevo Progreso. There is a substantial health-care industry with major hospitals and many clinics and private practices in Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen.
Box of Oranges, from the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas (postcard, c. 1912-1924)
Texas is the third largest producer of citrus fruit in United States, the majority of which is grown in the Rio Grande Valley. Grapefruit make up over 70% of the Valley citrus crop, which also includes orange, tangerine, tangelo and Meyer lemon production each Winter.
One of the Valley's major tourist attractions is the semi-tropical wildlife. Birds and butterflies attract a large amount of visitors every year all throughout the entire valley. Ecotourism is a major economic force in the Rio Grande Valley.