It may sound strange, but sometimes it’s conflict that brings economic resources to a region. Such was the case during the U.S. Civil War, when the Confederacy transported southern cotton through Brownsville to Matamoros in order to avoid the Union blockade. Merchants and others profited and prospered from that commerce. After the war, however, both cities slowly slid into decline, especially after they were by-passed by new railroad lines crossing the border at Laredo and El Paso. The 19th Century ended in stagnation for Brownsville.
Economic revival was just around the corner! Giant machines to pump huge amounts of river water were set up on the Rio Grande, enabling the production of great quantities of fruits and vegetables. But this production would have been pointless without a means of shipping to distant markets. That “means” arrived in the form of the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railroad, which reached Brownsville in 1904. With the addition of a railroad bridge connection to Matamoros and the interior of Mexico in 1909, the door was open to a new era of prosperity for the border cities.
Brownsville has been experiencing substantial prosperity and expansion in recent years, much of it based on NAFTA, maquiladora growth in Matamoros, and accompanying services in Brownsville, plus diversification. Then the Coronavirus arrived in early 2020, shutting down Brownsville economic activity and closing the international bridges to most citizens of both nations.
As the economy reopens in the U.S. and Brownsville, the City is preparing for a new and even more powerful resurgence than the boom that began at the beginning of the 20th Century. It’s already underway now!