Photo from "Brownsville, A Pictorial History" by Wooldridge & Vezzetti

Spanish Conquest

For hundreds of years or more these Indians went about their business undisturbed. But in 1519 there were new arrivals to contend with. That year, four ships under the comand of Captain Alonso Alverez de Pineda put in at the mouth of the river on an expedition from Cuba. The newcomers repaired their ships, traded with the natives and left.

The Pineda voyage was the first of several European efforts at colonization over the next two centuries. All were disasters. Then there were those who were just passing through. Cabeza de Vaca has long been thought to have gone through the Valley during his trek across the Southwest. But a detailed study of his route shows he probably crossed the Rio Grande hundreds of miles to the west and never came near the area.

If Cabeza de Vaca's route is vague, that of Alonso de Leon, in the 1680s, is definite. De Leon had been dispatched to find a French settlement in Texas (LaSalle's Fort St.Louis) and evict the foreigners from Spanish territory. By the time his expedition entered the Valley enough of the surrounding area had been traversed to plot the route with some accuracy. A historical marker at San Benito, indicates the path de Leon traveled, as do several markers on US 77 leading north of the Valley.

Though La Salle's settlers had been massacred by Indians, the fact that the French had established at all frightened the Spanish Government into greater vigilance on its unsettled lands to the north. A second French attempt in 1721 stirred them into action, and colonization of Texas north of the Nueces began in earnest. This left a void of settlement between that river and Monterrey. That void was slashed down the middle by the Rio Grande. The stage was set for the final thrust of civilzation into the Valley.