CABEZA DE VACA, ALVAR NUNEZ
CABEZA DE VACA, ÁLVAR NÚÑEZ (ca. 1490–ca. 1559). Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, an early explorer and first historian of Texas, was born in Jerez de la Frontera, an Andalusian province in the south of Spain near Cádiz. The origin of his surname (“Cow’s Head” in Spanish).
The hostility of shoreline Indians, which hardly seemed necessary given the Castaways’ experiences, the four men altered their course from down the inner coast toward Santiesteban del Puerto by turning west toward the Pacific Ocean. They crossed northern Mexico en route to La Junta de los Ríos, the junction of the Río Conchos with the Río Grande at present-day Presidio, Texas, and Ojinaga, Chihuahua. Their journey was safe for the Castaways and uneventful save for a remarkable surgery performed by Cabeza de Vaca. He removed an arrowhead that had struck an Indian in the chest and lodged above his heart. In medical terminology, the procedure is a sagittectomy, and it earned Cabeza de Vaca lasting fame as the “Patron Saint” of the Texas Surgical Society. This remarkable excision is the subject of a brief article appearing in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
After resting for a time among Indians who lived in fixed houses at La Junta, the Castaways crossed the Río Grande and ascended the Texas side of the river for seventeen days. Perhaps some seventy-five miles downstream from modern-day El Paso, Texas, they re-crossed the Great River and left Texas soil for the last time.
For more information about Presidio’s 1st Spanish Explorer… http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fca06
Presidio, Texas was established in 1683 A.D. but has been inhabited since 1500 B.C. because of it’s location at the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos.
An In Depth Book is Available About Presidio’s History @
The is a book about the La Junta de los Rios region that became known as, Presidio del Norte which includes a large portion of West Texas as well as Northeastern Chihuahua and Northwestern Coahuila, Mexico. The book includes notations of an archaic Spanish document that was translated in 1936. It provides insight into the events and lives of people who lived in the region. The translated chronicle includes information from between 1775 and 1859 during the years surrounding Mexico’s independence from Spain and when West Texas officially became a part of the rest of Texas and the United States. Very little is known about West Texas during these times, which alone makes this book historically significant.
INCREDIBLE WONDERS LIKE NO OTHER PLACE ON EARTH AWAIT YOU IN PRESIDIO, TEXAS
It’s a breathtaking landscape filled with the rugged wonder of the Old West and the scenic beauty of majestic mountains, roaring waterfalls, and spectacular canyons. Explore a past full of mystery and intrigue, as archeologists have found traces of dinosaurs roaming the region over 100 million years ago and thriving human settlements more than 1,500 years before Christ. A visit to Presidio is a journey that transcends time and space, putting you in the middle of a picturesque desert wonderland that has inspired hundreds of books, movies, TV shows, paintings, and other artistic endeavors. “Getting away from it all” has never been so amazing and so full of excitement. This remarkable area, only lightly touched by modern civilization, is truly like no other place in the world.
While artists find rugged, colorful landscapes that cause their imaginations to soar, other visitors enjoy simply spending time admiring, photographing, and touring the majesty of the vast outdoors. The “view from here” is so magnificent that no film or photograph can possibly do it justice, and one must experience it firsthand. Marvels abound, from the ghostly Chinati Mountains, where strange, unexplained lights have been appearing almost every night since the 1800s, to the unbounded panoramic vistas of the Big Bend Ranch State Park, whose 300,000 acres unveil spectacular sights, including the state’s two tallest waterfalls.
All of us occasionally need to unplug from the unrelenting stress of our modern, electronics-saturated existence. There is, within us, a longing for the awe of watching the sun set behind a majestic mountain peak or the serenity of sitting beside a mountain stream and contemplating the remarkable desert landscape that stretches out for miles before us. Such a deep communion with nature and with our planet’s past is not possible in crowded cities.
Every night, the wonders of the universe unfold themselves to those who visit this colorful and historic area. Boasting some of the darkest skies in the world and among the most spectacular star watching, the Presidio area beckons us to consider the nature of the universe and the meaning of existence. With scarce nighttime lighting, this is the ideal place to gaze into the heavens just as the scientists have done for decades at the nearby McDonald Observatory.
Even fans of the unexplained will find a treasure trove of paranormal activity in the area, including the reported crash of a flying saucer northwest of Presidio in 1974, the recovery of a non-human skull called the “Star Child” in nearby Chihuahua, the enigmatic Marfa Lights, a mysterious area of psychic energy referred to as Mexico’s “Bermuda Triangle,” a historic silver mine “ghost town,” strange prehistoric fossils and rock art – plus many other astonishing tales and legends of the region.
History buffs will find that the Presidio area is deeply rooted in the history of not only the region but also the world. There were humans living in what is now Presidio during the time of the Biblical Exodus and at the dusk of Egypt’s age of the pyramids. Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca arrived in 1535 AD, and the late 19th century featured occasional Comanche raids and the threat of Mexican bandits, including the notorious Pancho Villa, who headquartered just across the Rio Grande from Presidio.
In addition to the history and natural features, many visitors simply enjoy the magnificence and freedom of exploring the great outdoors in cars, on motorcycles, on mountain bikes, in river rafts, or using other forms of transportation. For years, the area has been a treasured gem for motorcycle enthusiasts from throughout the country. They tell us that there’s no feeling quite like riding their machines, enjoying the fresh air and abundant sunshine, while surrounded by the splendor and majesty of the area’s soaring mountains and rugged beauty. Those who prefer to ride the waves rather than motorcycles will find abundant river rafting opportunities on the Rio Grande, as the scenic river winds its way slowly past rugged canyons and lofty mountains. Jeep tours and mountain biking also serve to bring visitors up close and personal with wonders that words fail to describe.
When visiting the Presidio area, concerns about safety should be checked in at the door, as this is one of the safest areas in the United States. The crime rate is miniscule (less than 10% of the national average), and the neighboring town of Ojinaga is also among the safest in Mexico. You can travel these beautiful, wide-open spaces without the worries associated with visiting other, larger border towns.
Sitting right in the middle of this immense natural playground is the city of Presidio, your gateway to a fun-filled Big Bend vacation. With a population of about 5,000, Presidio offers comfortable hotel rooms, delightful restaurants, and outstanding shopping opportunities on both sides of the international bridge. Additional tourism and shopping options are located a short walk across the bridge in Ojinaga, which has about 22,000 residents. As you embark on an immersive journey of relaxation, discovery, and wide-eyed wonder, let Presidio serve as your base of operations. Make your plans now to visit one of the country’s best-kept secrets!
PRESIDIO COUNTY HISTORY IN TEXAS
PRESIDIO COUNTY. Presidio County (K-5) is in the Trans-Pecos region of southwest Texas and is named for the ancient border settlement of Presidio del Norte. Presidio County is triangular in shape and is bounded on the east by Brewster County, on the north by Jeff Davis County, and on the south and west for 135 miles by the Rio Grande and Mexico. Marfa, the county seat, is 190 miles southeast of El Paso and 150 miles southwest of Odessa. The center of the county lies at 30°30′ north latitude and 104°15′ west longitude. Presidio County comprises 3,857 square miles of contrasting topography, geology, and vegetation. In the north and west clay and sandy loams cover the rolling plains known as the Marfa Plateau and the Highland Country, providing good ranges of grama grasses for the widely acclaimed Highland Herefords. In the central, far western, and southeastern areas of the county some of the highest mountain ranges in Texas are found. These peaks are formed of volcanic rock and covered with loose surface rubble. They support desert shrubs and cacti and dominate a landscape of rugged canyons and numerous springs. The spring-fed Capote Falls, with a drop of 175 feet the highest in Texas, is located in western Presidio County. In the southern and western parts of the county the volcanic cliffs of the Candelaria Rimrock (also called the Sierra Vieja) rise perpendicular and run parallel to the river, separating the highland prairies from the desert floor hundreds of feet below them. The gravel pediment, which allows only the growth of desert shrubs and cacti, extends from the Rimrock to the flood plain of the river. Along the river irrigation allows the farming of vegetables, grains, and cottons. There are no permanent streams in the county, although many dry arroyos become raging torrents during heavy rainfalls. Major ones are Alamito Creek, Cibolo Creek, Capote Creek, and Pinto Canyon. San Esteban Dam was built across Alamito Creek and on the site of a historic spring-fed tinaja in 1911 as an irrigation and land promotion project. The prairies, mountains, desert, and river give Presidio County an unusual beauty. Altitudes in the county vary from 2,518 to 7,728 feet above sea level. Temperatures, moderated by the mountains, vary from 33° F in January to 100° F in July. Average rainfall is only twelve inches per year, but it comes mainly in June, July, and August. The growing season extends for 238 days. Natural resources under production in 1982 were perlite, crushed rhyolite, sand, and gravel. Silver mining contributed greatly to the economy of the county from the 1880s to the 1940s. Presidio County has no oil or gas production.
The area around the present town of Presidio on the Rio Grande, known as La Junta de los Ríos, is believed to be the oldest continuously cultivated farmland in Texas. About 1500 B.C. corn farmers of the Cochise culture settled there to use the abundant water, fertile farmland, and bountiful game. Since La Junta was located on an ancient and heavily traveled north-south trade route, its settlers absorbed the cultures of passersby. By A.D. 900 the Cochise culture was replaced by the Mogollón, which later merged with the Anasazi culture. Before the Spaniards appeared in La Junta the natives formed two main tribes, the Julimes and the Jumanos. The first Spaniards probably reached La Junta in December 1535 when Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca crossed on his trek across Texas. They found the Indians living in pueblos and raising large crops of corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and melons. Both the Julimes and Jumanos later succumbed to Spanish influence. The Julimes vanished in an attempt to remain aloof from the Spaniards. The Jumanos lost their identity and self-sufficiency by becoming good subjects of the Spanish crown. After Cabeza de Vaca’s visit a number of Spanish expeditions came to present Presidio County, the first in 1581. The entrada of Juan Domínguez de Mendoza and Father Nicolás López in 1683–84 established seven missions at seven pueblos along the river in the La Junta area. In 1683 Father López celebrated the first Christmas Mass ever observed in Texas at La Junta, now modern day Presidio.
Although Spaniards explored the area of present Presidio County, they established no settlements there because they could not control the Apache and Comanche Indians. Indian depredations continued under the Mexican government, but the first white settlement in the area of present Presidio County was established on Cibolo Creek three miles north of the site of Presidio in January 1832 by the family of Lt. Col. José Ygnacio Ronquillo, his soldiers, and laborers. Located on the Ronquillo Land Grant and called El Cíbolo, the settlement was abandoned in November 1832 when the soldiers were called away to fight Indians.
Amid Indian danger, the Chihuahua Trail opened in 1839 as a trade route from Chihuahua City, Mexico, across the future Presidio County to the Red River and on to Missouri. With the annexation of Texas to the Union in 1846, Americans recognized the economic potential of the frontier along the Rio Grande. By 1848 Ben Leaton built Fort Leaton on the river as his home, trading post, and private bastion. Milton Faver was the first American to move away from the safety of the river, becoming the first large-scale rancher in the area of present Presidio County. He built two private forts-Fort Cibolo and Fort Cienega-to protect his family, workers, and livestock from Indian raids. Several other Americans irrigated crops and grazed herds on the Rio Grande in the 1850s and 1860s. Although the United States census of 1850 reported no population for Presidio County, a sufficient number lived there to establish the county from Bexar Land District on January 3, 1850. Fort Leaton was the as the county seat. In 1854 the army built Fort Davis in northern Presidio County to protect travelers and settlers. By 1860 Indian attacks declined, and the census of that year recorded 574 whites, two free blacks, and four slaves. As in most frontier areas men outnumbered women 436 to 144. With the outbreak of the Civil War Fort Davis closed, and Indian attacks resumed. The fort was reopened in 1867, and the population of the county increased threefold by 1870, when 1,636 people were listed as residents, 494 of them were women and 772 were Mexican emigrants. The black population increased to 489 when buffalo soldiers were stationed at Fort Davis. Presidio County was organized in 1875 as the largest county in the United States, with 12,000 square miles. Fort Davis was named the county seat.
The 1880s brought Presidio County a larger population and improvements in the economy and in transportation. The census of 1880 reported 2,873 inhabitants, a total increase of 1,237 and 823 more Mexican immigrants than in 1870. John W. Spencer, a local rancher and trader, found a silver deposit in the Chinati Mountains in 1880 that resulted in the opening of Presidio Mine and the beginning of the company town of Shafter. From 1883 until 1942 the mine produced over 32.6 million ounces of silver, employed from 300 to 400 workers, and paid the largest tax assessments in the county . Also in 1880 the twenty-eight small grain farms of the county were valued at just over $47,000, but its nearly $54,000 worth of livestock proved more important to its economy. The railroad reached Presidio County in 1882 when the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway laid tracks through its northeastern corner. With the railroad to move livestock and the Indian threat over, a new generation of cattlemen came into the county and started large ranches in 1884 and 1885. W. F. Mitchell built the first barbed wire fence in the county at Antelope Springs in 1888. The widespread use of barbed wire resulted in the refinement of cattle breeds, improvement of ranges, and innovative use of water supplies. Windmills, water wells, and earthen tanks were introduced on Presidio County ranches in the late 1880s.
The first sighting of the phenomenal Marfa Lights was recorded in 1883 when Robert Reed Ellison came through Paisano Pass and saw the mysterious lights. On any clear night they are still visible between Marfa and Paisano Pass. The lights at times appear colored as they twinkle in the distance. They move about, split apart, melt together, disappear, and reappear. The source of the lights and the reason for their movements have not been explained. The boundaries and seat of Presidio County were changed in the 1880s. Marfa was established in 1883, and the county seat was moved there from Fort Davis in 1885. Two years later Fort Davis became the seat of Jeff Davis County, which was established from Presidio County lands. That same year Brewster, Buchel, and Foley counties were also carved from Presidio, reducing the county to its present size as the fourth largest in the state. These changes were reflected in the census of 1890, when the population of Presidio County dropped to 1,698. Only twenty-six blacks remained in the county after the buffalo soldiers of Fort Davis were lost to Jeff Davis County. The census of the reduced county also showed only 912 Mexican immigrants. By 1890 the number of Presidio County farms grew to forty and were valued at $103,000. Farms produced hay, vegetables, and peaches, as well as grains. Although the number of farms, the acreage under cultivation, and the volume of production continued to increase steadily through the 1910 census, the real change in Presidio County agriculture came after 1914 when farmers began growing cotton. With the completion that year of Elephant Butte Dam on the Rio Grande a large and reliable irrigation source was available for the new crop. In 1919 four bales of cotton were grown on twelve acres of land, but in 1929 production climbed to over 3,800 bales on 6,587 acres. By 1939 Presidio County had 1,024 cotton farms that produced nearly 7,000 bales on more than 18,500 acres of land. That same year the now famous Presidio County cantaloupes were grown on twenty acres of land. Like farming, Presidio County ranching changed drastically with the new century. Milton Faver and other early ranchers raised both cattle and sheep from the 1850s through the 1880s, an unusual operation for that day. The 1880 census reported a far larger number of sheep than cattle in Presidio County, 9,030 sheep to 2,496 cattle. The 1890 census counted 3,160 cattle, but gave no number for sheep. By the 1900 census cattle dominated the range with over 41,500, while the number of sheep had declined to 236. Cattle increased to nearly 49,000 by 1910, and sheep neared extinction with 109. By 1920 cattle declined to just over 37,500, and sheep increased to 5,312. The trend continued in 1930 with cattle at over 33,500 and sheep above 16,000. The 1940 census indicated a more even distribution of the livestock and substantial gains for both cattle, at nearly 63,000, and sheep at less than 41,000. The value of Presidio County livestock continued to increase from $2.6 million at the end of the 1950s to $15.3 million in 1982.
As long as the small population of Presidio County lived in scattered isolation, church attendance was impracticable. But with the clustering of the population around Fort Davis, Marfa, and Shafter in the 1880s, the need for churches was evident. Although Catholic missions were established in southern Presidio County in the seventeenth century, no priest was permanently assigned to the county until 1875, when Dan Murphy donated land for a church and school in Fort Davis. Father Joseph Hoban came to the church at Fort Davis, but he also said Mass at the Faver ranch, in John Davis’s chapel at Alamito, and at Presidio. While the early settlers at Fort Davis and around Presidio were Catholic, the new settlers around Marfa in the 1880s were mostly Protestant. A Protestant church building was erected in Marfa in 1886. Although the building was used by missionaries of various denominations and by a union Sunday School, it was called a Methodist church because the Methodists paid part of the construction costs. In 1888 William B. Bloys, founder of Bloys Camp Meeting at Skillman’s Grove, organized a Presbyterian church in Fort Davis. In 1895 St. Mary’s Catholic Church was built in Marfa, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was organized there in 1896. The First Christian Church was founded in Marfa in 1897, and the Baptists organized a church in 1902. Bloys also organized a church in Shafter in 1903 that joined with the Marfa Presbyterian Church at its founding in 1910. In 1982 Presidio County had sixteen churches with 4,047 members. Like churches, schools were needed by the 1880s. Since neither the Spanish nor the Mexicans had permanent settlements in the area of present Presidio County, no schools were organized under their governments. The early American settlers in the southern edge of the county sent their children to Austin and San Antonio for schooling. The first schools in the county were established at Fort Davis. The army operated a school for soldier’s children with a noncommissioned officer as the teacher after 1867. Father Hoban’s school opened there in 1875, and the first public school of the county was organized at Fort Davis in 1883. Between 1885 and 1902 public schools were built at Marfa, Polvo, Presidio, Shafter, Ruidosa, and Candelaria. By 1930 the county had five districts-Marfa, Shafter, Presidio, Porvenir, and Ochoa. In 1982 the county maintained two school districts with four elementary, one middle, and two high schools and a daily average attendance of 1,163. In 1983, 85 percent of the students were Hispanic and 15 percent were white. The population of Presidio County continued to increase with the census of 1900 to 3,673. Included in that number were 1,463 Mexican immigrants, fifty-three blacks, and twenty-eight natives of the British Isles who lived at the Presidio Mine. By 1910 the population reached 5,218, and the 1920 census reported the largest population ever recorded for the county, a total of 12,202 with 4,524 Mexican natives. The growth of Presidio County’s population in the 1910s reflected the impact of the Mexican Revolution on border life. Refugees migrated to the county from Chihuahua as the fighting moved into northern Mexico. The United States Army established several posts in the county to watch for border incursions. Marfa became the headquarters for the Big Bend Military District, and in 1917 the Army established Camp Marfa, later called Fort D. A. Russell, at Marfa to protect the border. Cavalry posts were established at Shafter, Candelaria, Redford, Presidio, Indio, Ruidosa, and Camp Holland. Raids by Mexican bandits and paramilitary forces invited fierce and sometimes excessive retaliation by the United States military and by the Texas Rangersqv. Incidents like the Brite Ranch Raid, the Neville Ranch Raid, and the Porvenir Massacre spread insecurity and racial hatred throughout the county and the border region.
As Presidio County entered the 1930s the people faced a drought and a population decline. The county was not greatly affected by the Great Depression until the summer of 1932. Although low silver prices closed Presidio Mine at Shafter with a loss of 300 jobs in 1930, the two banks in Marfa remained stable. The county reported eight manufacturing establishments with twenty-seven employees, a payroll of nearly $22,000, and products valued at slightly under $200,000. Throughout 1930 and 1931 Marfa continued construction of a new hotel, a clinic, and several shops. In 1930 the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway of Texas reached Presidio and built a bridge across the Rio Grande there to provide rail connections into Mexico. By the summer of 1932 the drought, unemployment, and closing of Fort Russell left the economy of the county depressed. Economic recovery began by 1936, as new businesses opened, postal receipts increased 32 percent over 1930, and Fort Russell and Presidio Mine reopened. By 1940 the population of the county rose slightly to 10,925, and five manufacturing businesses employed nineteen workers with a payroll of $12,000, producing products worth more than $160,000. During World War II Presidio County enjoyed economic prosperity as the home for two military installations-Fort Russell and Marfa Army Air Field. After the war Presidio County’s population went into a thirty-year decline, falling to 7,354 in 1950, 5,460 in 1960 and 4,842 in 1970. In 1980 the county witnessed an increase in population to 5,188. The educational level of the population has increased steadily from 1950, when only 10.7 percent had completed high school, to 1980, when almost 30 percent had. In 1982 Presidio County had an estimated population of 5,500 and, with 77 percent of that number listed as Hispanic in origin, ranked seventeenth highest among all United States counties with Hispanic populations. Most of the residents lived in rural areas. In the 1982 primary the voters of Presidio County went 100 percent for the Democratic party. Presidio County has historically supported Democrats over Republicans. The people voted for a Republican president only five times between 1872 and 1992-Grant in 1872, McKinley in 1900, Roosevelt in 1904, Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, and Nixon in 1972.
The economy of the county in 1982 was based primarily on agriculture with 83 percent of the land in farms and ranches. Sixty-eight percent of agricultural receipts were from cattle, sheep, wool, angora goats, and mohair. Primary crops under cultivation were wheat, hay, and sorghum. Vegetables grown were onions, cantaloupes, honeydews, and watermelons. The number of retail businesses in the county in 1984 was 117, with a sales receipts increase of 17 percent over the previous period. In 1983 the county had two commercial banks. At the end of the 1980s Presidio County remained sparsely populated with 6,637 inhabitants, of whom 81.6 percent were Hispanic. The main communities included Marfa (2,424) and Presidio (3,072). The county economy was still devoted to large-scale ranching and vegetable farming. Over the years droughts and overgrazing damaged the range land. Parts of the prairies supported only one animal per 48 hectares. Powerful pumps, drawing water for irrigation and livestock use, lowered the groundwater levels and depleted many springs. However, in contrast to the more populous areas of the state, Presidio County offered clean air, rugged scenery, and historic sites. Among the attractions that contributed to the county’s growing tourist industry were the Marfa Lights, hunting leases, and the nearby Big Bend National Park.
Russell Gardinier, “The Physical Geography of a Significant Border Region, La Junta de los Rios,” Journal of Big Bend Studies 1 (January 1989). John Ernest Gregg, History of Presidio County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1933). Cecilia Thompson, History of Marfa and Presidio County, 1535–1946 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1985).
Julia Cauble Smith
Julia Cauble Smith, “PRESIDIO COUNTY,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcp08), accessed April 11, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
The surrounding area is the oldest continuously cultivated area in the United States. Farmers have lived at Presidio since 1500 B.C. By 1400 A.D. the area Indians lived in small, close-together settlements, which the Spaniards later called pueblos.
The first Spaniards came to Presidio in 1535, when Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions stopped at the Indian pueblo, placed a cross on the mountainside, and called the village La Junta de las Cruces. On December 10, 1582, Antonio de Espejo and his company arrived at the site and called the pueblo San Juan Evangelista. By 1681 the area of Presidio was known as La Junta de los Ríos, or the Junction of the Rivers, for the Río Conchos and the Rio Grande join at the site. In 1683, Juan Sabeata, the chief of the Jumano Indian nation, reported having seen a fiery cross on the mountain at Presidio. The settlement in 1684 became known as La Navidad en Las Cruces.
About 1760 a penal colony and a military garrison of sixty men were established near Presidio. In 1830 the name of the area around Presidio was changed from La Junta de los Rios to Presidio del Norte. White American settlers came to Presidio in 1848 after the Mexican War. Among them was John Spencer, who operated a horse ranch on the United States side of the Rio Grande near Presidio. Ben Leaton and Milton Faver, former scalp hunters for the Mexican government, built private forts in the area. The Anglo settlers were assimilated into the Hispanic population and their descendants are primarily Spanish speakers today.
During the Mexican Revolution, General Pancho Villa often used Ojinaga as his headquarters for operations and visited Presidio on numerous occasions.
In 1849 a Comanche raid almost destroyed Presidio, and in 1850 Indians drove off most of the cattle in town. A post office was established at Presidio in 1868, and the first public school was opened in 1887. In 1930 the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway reached Presidio, and the town incorporated. The population grew from ninety-six in 1925 to 1,671 in 1988, but the number of businesses declined from seventy in 1933 to twenty-two in 1988. At the end of 1988 Presidio experienced a population boom due in part to previously undocumented aliens enrolled in the amnesty program. The population in 1990 was 3,422. Population reached 4,877 by 1998, and is expected to top 10,000 by the year 2013 at present growth rates.
As of 2007, Presidio’s local economy is based largely upon employment at Presidio Independent School District, United States Customs and Border Protection, and local retail businesses. Formerly, Presidio was home to several truck-farming operations, focused mainly on onions and cantaloupes. Those operations ceased in the late 1990s.
In 2010, Presidio built the world’s largest sodium-sulfur battery to provide power when the city’s lone line to the United States power grid goes down.
Presidio is located at 29°33′41″N 104°21′59″W (29.561272, -104.366522).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.6 square miles (6.7 km²), all of it land. Presidio is located near the confluence of the Rio Conchos and Rio Grande rivers. The Rio Conchos flows in a northeasterly direction from its source in the Sierra Madre in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Commonly referred to as “La Junta” (the joining), the two rivers resulted in plentiful water, creating a flood plain that is ideal for farming.
There were 1,285 households out of which 49.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.6% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 19.6% were non-families. 18.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.24 and the average family size was 3.73.
In the city the population was spread out with 37.2% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 25.5% from 25 to 44, 17.4% from 45 to 64, and 11.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $18,031, and the median income for a family was $19,601. Males had a median income of $20,469 versus $15,000 for females. The per capita income for the city was $7,098. About 40.4% of families and 43.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 48.3% of those under age 18 and 64.5% of those age 65 or over.
Learn more about the Presidio Independent School District by visiting their website at www.presidio-isd.net.