Deep in the Valley of Texas you'll find the peaceful and artistic community of Harlingen, a progressive city of great museums, of public art, and rich musical traditions. This is the city of rock-n-roller Bill Haley. Nearby San Benito is home to Freddie Fender. In Harlingen you'll find a bronzed tribute to the heroes of Iwo Jima, and mural art in the most unexpected places.
Welcome to Harlingen, where flowers line the streets of historic Jackson Street District downtown, which has also become known as the Antiques Capital of the Valley. Here visitors shop for glassware, jewelry, vintage clothing, furniture, crafts and collectibles in dozens of unique shops and buildings restored to their 1930s and 1940s era splendor. The palm-lined business district features old-fashioned street lamps, sidewalk benches, coffee shops, and delis. Jackson Street is the site of many community festivals and events, Market Days on the first Saturday of each month, and the annual Christmas Parade.
Development of the Bottling Industry, another Knight mural, is displayed in Country Cupboard, 113 E. Jackson. It was commissioned by RC Cola Bottling in 1954 to document the production process. The mural shows how people long have used natural carbonated springwater for bathing and drinking.
Other murals with historical references include the Mexican village scene at Bernal Mexican Restaurant, 210 E. Jackson, painted by artist and teacher Nancy Russell. At Cobbleheads, 1601 W. Harrison, a mural incorporates Harlingen landmarks into a cityscape filling the west wall of this popular eatery.
Fountains, statuary, and lush gardens of ancient Italy transport diners at the Sombrero's, 115 E. Harrison. Painted in 1999 when the building played host to an Italian restaurant, this impressive work continues to delight restaurant patrons. The mural on the side of La Malinche Tortilla Factory, 620 S. F Street, shows the business' namesake serving in her traditional role as interpreter between Montezuma and Cortes. The mural was painted by Ramon Claudio of San Benito in 1995. Claudio also painted the mural on the side of the Auto Repair & Muffler Shop at 612 S. F Street. It features images from the Aztec legend of the founding of Tenochtitlan (Old Mexico City).
Several murals in Harlingen portray the beauty and diversity of flora and fauna along the border. The ceiling at Quips & Quotes, 709 S. Coronado Plaza, captures many neotropical migratory birds among the clouds, including Harlingen's official city bird, the Great Kiskadee. The fresco also includes a guardian angel watching over the cash registers. It was painted by Robert (Dan) McBain, art teacher at Harlingen High School, when the store was remodeled in 1998.
Water is the theme of many wall paintings at Clean Scene Laundromat, 819 W. Tyler. Inside, huge military macaws dominate a moonlit scene of a tropical waterfall. Outside two large waterfalls serve as backdrop for a scene of daily life along a riverbank in Mexico.
Smaller paintings of the business' products, including bottled water, ice, and a washing machine appear over the entrances. These murals were painted by a Mexican artist passing through Harlingen in 1998.
With financial support from the city, businesses and community service agencies, several "community murals" were created in the 1990s. The mural on the exterior of Frank's Emporium, 123 E. Jackson, is a montage of Harlingen landmarks. The Literacy Center mural, on the east of the facility at 101 E. Monroe, was a community project. Artist Phil Yeh involved children and adults in producing a whimsical mural of storybook characters to promote reading and beautify the area.
A mural created in early 2000 for the interior of the First National Bank of San Benito, 806 S. 77 Sunshine Strip, pays homage to the Valley's strong religious traditions. Harlingen artist Dan McBain's mural features five historic churches of the San Benito/Harlingen area. The biblical story of the Good Samaritan appears on the side of the old Grande Theatre, 507 W. Harrison.
The first inhabitants of the area were the native Coahuiltecans, who fished and gathered plants for food. Next Spanish explorers and then settlers claimed the land. The flags of Mexico, Texas, the Confederacy and the United States have all flown here in Harlingen. By the time Texas joined the Union in 1845, Harlingen was a thriving community with the Rio Grande River adding much to the local economy.
The community was established by Lon C. Hill, a local lawyer. He named it after a community in Holland where similar canals and irrigation had stimulated that area as he hoped the area of Harlingen would also thrive. Due to its proximity to the railroad and the river, Harlingen did just that and continues today to serve as a major crossroad for business and more.
Harlingen was once known as "Six-shooter Junction." Texas Rangers and Immigration officers had to work hard to maintain order here.
Harlingen was founded in 1910.
Other Attractions include:
Iwo Jim War Memorial
on the Marine Military Academy
Rio Grande Valley Museum
Harlingen, Texas 78550
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge