On Sunday 18 January 2009, Miguel, Margaret and family toured the Hidalgo Irrigation Pumphouse—or more simply put The Pumphouse—a historic site located across the Rio Grande River from Reynosa, Mexico.
Control of water is a centerpiece of borderlands history, and understanding water rights and control of those rights lends insight into the transformation and priorities of the region??s inhabits.? For example, when the lower Rio Grande Valley was primarily based on a ranching economy, the Mexican and Spanish government gave certain settlers long and narrow tracts of land with access to the River so that the cattle had a place to water.?? For Midwestern and Southern farmers who moved to the region around the turn of the 20th century, moving water from the River to their crops became crucial to the success of their farming operation.? Today, you can find approximately 500 miles of canals throughout Hidalgo County.
The Pumphouse, then, built in 1909 stands as a testament to the modernization of Hidalgo County and the shift toward a farming-based economy. The water pumps from The Pumphouse distributed over 300,000 gallons of water per minute across the County, starting in 1909.? In 1983 officials closed The Hidalgo Pumphouse and opened another pumphouse operated by electricity. For the past twenty years, citizens worked to transform The Pumphouse into a museum and birding center and not let it waste away into an eyesore. These efforts bore fruit.
In January, we arrived at a beautiful structure carefully maintained by staff that was surrounding by a lush and blooming green space meant to attract birds and butterflies. We enjoyed sitting underneath the gazebo and watching Zebra and Queen butterflies flutter around us.
Toward the end of our guided tour of The Pumphouse, we were taken outside to view a water canal that also served as habitat for migrating ducks. As the ducks quacked in the distance, we turned to look south and about 100 yards away stood the 18 foot high border wall (or combined levee structure or modified levee). Our tour group primarily consisted of Winter Texans. About eight of them walked over to various portions of the wall and took photos. I visited with a couple from the State of New York who has been living here every winter for the past eight years. They expressed disgust at the wall and said that they never thought that they (our government) would actually build the wall. When our tour guide was asked about the wall, she explained that the wall is half a mile north of the Rio Grande, all land that The Pumphouse owns. She continued explaining that they had bike trails in that area that have been bisected by the wall. They dont know how people will gain access to that portion of Pumphouse property. Since their fairly new bike trail has been bisected, they do not plan on re-opening it, but have more modest goals of opening a walking trail to the public?even though DHS has not told them where their will be openings in the wall. The tour guided expressed dismay when she pointed to what remained of the biking trail?a much less scenic pathway cut by roadways. We ran into a Canadian bicycler (flag mounted on his handlebars) while on our tour, and he was rather disappointed by this lack of access.
Below you will find photos of The Pumphouse and the border wall/modified levee structure that stands within easy view and walking from The Pumphouse. It seems as though water control, once again, is playing a crucial role in the history of the region, defining the perameters of the 18 foot high border wall/modified levee structure that vehicles will be able to drive on top.