SAN BENITO, TEXAS
San Benito is known as the "Resaca City." A picturesque resaca, four hundred feet wide, flows through the city. Adjacent to Harlingen, San Benito is a favorite Rio Grande Valley destination for Winter Texans, and the community embraces the annual arrival of the many seasonal residents that flock back each year.
San Benito was at first named "Diaz" in honor of Porfirio Diaz, president of México at that time. The people in the San Benito area were predominantly of Mexican ancestry. The Anglo settlers came after the completion of the first irrigation system in 1906. Prior to that time this region was an arid, mesquite-cactus-brush covered wilderness.
On July 4, 1904, the first passenger train arrived at Diaz. Overjoyed with the coming of the new railroad, the community leaders renamed the railroad station "Bessie," in honor of Bessie Yoakum. Her father, B.F. Yoakum, was instrumental in the construction of the railroad.
Some time later, when the town site was surveyed, the name was changed to "San Benito" in honor of Benjamin Hicks. He was a pioneer ranchman whose charitable attitude endeared him to the population.
The mild winter climate in southmost section of the United States has played a dominant role in the growth of San Benito and the other cities of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Crops grow and flowers bloom the year round. The city has become a mecca for winter tourists and retired people, providing a substantial percentage of the buying power of this community.
In recent years, San Benito has become a regional medical center serving all of the Rio Grande Valley. There are multiple hospitals, clinics, health care facilities and professionals located in the city, and ample support industry for the patients that travel here for treatment.
San Benito is also the home of noted singer-performer Freddy Fender, a former member of the Texas Tornadoes, and a local hero. The city of San Benito honors their favorite son with an image of the star on the local water tower.
Located just 14 miles northeast of San Benito is the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge, the largest protected area of natural habitat left in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The refuge's 45,000 acres is an oasis for birds and wildlife found nowhere else. Birding tours are available on the weekends from November to April with a visitor's center offering exhibits and informational videos. The refuge also provides two tour roads for driving or biking and five hiking trails with an alligator pond. In addition, sites within the refuge are designated for camping, fishing, boating and hunting. Daily vehicle entry permits are $3.00. For more information call 956-748-3607.
A short 8 mile trip south of San Benito lies Mexico, where shopping for bargains has become a major tourist attraction just south of the Rio Grande. Whether it's the bustling Matamoros to the east or the laid back Nuevo Progresso to the west, the shops and markets provide a variety of cultural items and the specialties of leather goods, arts, crafts, silver jewelry, woven fabrics, pottery and wood products.