Del Rio, Texas – Flawed Perception? Texas Border Town Fights Misconceptions, Boasts Safe & Friendly Family Living
I’ll start by saying I was one of those people, when I first received notification of job transfer to Del Rio.
My wife and I came from Tucson, Arizona. Arizona has a lot of problems with the Mexican border and drug smuggling. It’s a great state, but the border is a big problem. We all have heard the stories of cartel wars in Nogales & Juarez, mass graves, kidnappings, stray bullets flying over the fence, murdered border ranchers, and the whole works. I’ve spent most of my life near the border, but not in a border town, per-se. So, Del Rio was our first real exposure to the remote, West Texas border, and initially thought...of all places to go! A previous coworker even asked, “who did you piss off?”
When you research Del Rio, you can’t find much about what people who actually live here think about it. And, actually, the only thing I really heard about it before we moved there was, “it’s only a three-hour drive to San Antonio”, as if Del Rio was a God-forsaken, run-down, dusty border town that everyone couldn’t wait to leave.
To be honest, I know some people feel that way, and my heart aches for them. In most cases, from what I’ve observed, it’s because they arrived close-minded to the opportunities and relationships that Del Rio and the surrounding area offers. I’m not talking about Mexico – although I’ve heard there is fun to be had there as well. I’m talking about a culture, that, if you choose to immerse yourself in it with no strings attached, will welcome and hold you like family.
You see, it’s the uneducated misconception of the town that Del Rio struggles with – one of its worst enemies – and that in itself deters many from ever experiencing it for real. Is Del Rio perfect? Absolutely not! Certainly, not every perception or rumor about the town is flawed. There is plenty that both the town and the townsfolk could do to improve the quality of life, economy, and attractiveness. This discussion is not about community development, however – it’s about the importance of being open-minded.
Listen, one of the first people I met in Del Rio told me that they had relocated here because they just loved the culture and the friendly, safe town. While encouraging to both me and my wife, we can both admit that we both thought this person must be a little crazy or something to want to do that. I tell you what, though – I’ve come to see why more and more folks – many of them transplants – are calling Del Rio home. They aren’t crazy, they have just learned to appreciate the real things in life that the community of Del Rio holds dear – things like faith, family, and community spirit.
But, without going any further, I’d like to address some of the perceptions that both my wife and I had when we were a little less educated about Del Rio before we moved here – and what the reality of the town actually is.
Misconception: Nobody Speaks English
Not true at all. While Spanish will certainly help you understand the local gossip standing in line at the H-E-B grocery store, you don’t have to speak any Spanish to get around. Signs are in English, menus are in English, and we even have English radio stations.
Now, if you are Hispanic, some Del Rioans may speak initially to you in Spanish, assuming that you speak Spanish. If you reply in English, they will be happy to accommodate you in your native tongue. Many Hispanic locals are bilingual, so this is common. I’ve also heard conversions switch languages mid-sentence. You will hear this the first few times and be confused, then just learn that that’s the way it goes.
One foot-note, however – it helps to be bilingual for job opportunities. This is a common “plus” in many places, not just border towns, but it really does make a difference here. No worries, my wife easily got a job upon arrival here and doesn’t speak Spanish.
Misconception: The Low Crime Rate Is Fudged
I suppose that I can’t say for sure that this is false, but I can say that I’ve never really witnessed a crime in Del Rio in the two years that I’ve been here. It is extremely safe. I never worry about my wife and young daughter at night, out on the town by themselves, or even if we left our front door wide open (not that we do that…).
I’ve read the arrest reports for a little mischief here and there – but compared to many other places that I’ve lived, Del Rio does not have me worried about safety and security. I’m actually way more worried about crime in San Antonio than in Del Rio.
I learned quickly that Texas does not tolerate drugs. In California, Oregon, and Arizona – three states that I lived in most of my life – it seemed like drugs just seemed to overwhelm small towns. Not Del Rio, Texas.
Del Rio isn’t drug-free. I’ve heard a few stories of folks getting caught with a little marijuana – and in some cases heavier narcotics or pills. But overall, I don’t see a bunch of people blazed out of their minds walking aimlessly down the street in Del Rio like I would see in many other places that I’ve lived.
A common side-effect of drugs – homelessness – is another thing that Del Rio appears to lack. I can’t remember the last time I saw a homeless family here. Del Rio doesn’t let folks go without a roof over their head.
Misconception: It’s a Barren Wasteland
Google Maps doesn’t help with this misconception. Do yourself a favor and don’t use Google Maps Satellite View to get an impression of Del Rio, sort of like I did originally. Del Rio and the local surrounding area is home to not only the Rio Grande and Amistad Reservoir, but also the Pecos River, the Devils River, the Frio River, the Nueces River, and Hill Country. My favorite local natural beauty is San Felipe Creek, which the city has done a great job developing into a wonderful park.
Del Rio is actually pretty diverse when it comes to nature. West of Del Rio is the Chihuahuan Desert and Big Bend. It’s dry, but serene. North and northeast of Del Rio is Hill Country – the closest Central Texas can come to forested mountains (hills). South and east of Del Rio may seem a bit barren for an hour or so, but is relieved by a bunch of farmland and much more humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. So, whether you want to spend a night under the desert stars, tube down the rivers in Hill Country, or start a garden – Del Rio gives you the opportunity to do so.
In conclusion, I think it’s only appropriate that I thank a number of unnamed people in Del Rio who welcomed my wife and me to this town. I remember telling my mom, when she asked about what I thought of Del Rio, I said, “I haven’t met someone who hasn’t smiled”. It’s a growing community, slowly, but surely. Every day it seems like there is a new organization or initiative in town with a passion for continuing to promote and develop the community, highlighting the pride that Del Rioans take in their city.
If I had never met many of the locals that I have come across if I didn’t have an open mind about Del Rio, I might still be lumped into the category of folks who can’t wait to leave. Fortunately, I’m in the other boat – the group that doesn’t want to leave.
- Dan Schreiber
See More About Del Rio Here
5/19/2017 06:16:59 pm
Thank you for your kind words of my home town. I think about Del Rio everyday and have Del Rio memorabilia at home and office.
5/19/2017 07:45:29 pm
Thanks, Xavier. I agree, great people! That's what makes this town a home.
12/10/2017 01:05:47 pm
I came across this while looking into moving there. Thank you! What is the weather like? My husband lived in El Paso until he was 17 and he doesn't want anything to do with 110 degree summers ever again! I looked up some weather history and it seems to be closer to the upper 90's. Is that correct?
12/10/2017 05:22:11 pm
Jill, similar to El Paso, Del Rio certainly gets a very warm, prolonged summer. El Paso is dry, however - and Del Rio can often be both hot and humid. Our hottest-temperature days are rather dry (not quite as dry as El Paso, though), but the days that really feel the hottest may only be in the high 90's - but feel closer to 105°F. This year, we tallied 37 days of 100+ degree weather. I will say that I enjoy the heat - but many here are ready for Winter when it comes!
5/20/2017 04:20:57 pm
I am proud to have been born in Del Rio,Texas if I don't live there anymore . I come back to my home proud of it heritage and of its people who make our city Queen city of Rio Grande, Our City has grown since I was child and each generation that comes along make our city stronger and proud to be part of Texas. We have been blesses with wonderful community. Viva Del RIo,Texas
5/19/2017 09:19:36 pm
I spent six years at Laughlin AFB. I loved it still come back to visit many friends.
Maria D Rougeau
5/19/2017 10:40:40 pm
I'm originally from there, but moved when I was 8 to Fort Worth, Texas. We still have a lot of family there and love to come back to visit. It has grown a lot, but still has that small town feel.
5/19/2017 11:15:07 pm
We were stationed there for 3 years. Had a beautiful house out by the lake. Some of our happiest memories as we made lifelong friends there. You have to get involved in the community for sure!
5/20/2017 06:44:16 am
I was born and raised in Del Rio, Texas and have 2 of my three siblings still living there. I've lived many places, but you won't find another place like DR anywhere on earth! Thanks for your kind words and "bienvenido" to my hometown.
5/20/2017 07:25:07 am
Dan was spot on...small town living at its best!! Moved to Del Rio a year and a half ago from San Antonio and love it. .
5/20/2017 07:46:58 am
What a great description of Del Río. Moved to Del Río from California and we love living here!! There is nothing to do or lots to do, it's up to you!
5/20/2017 08:14:54 am
Oh, great! Now city people are going to read this and want to move here and then once they are here they are going to want to change their new community to look and act more like the big city that they just fled from.
Carolyn Ann Browder
5/20/2017 09:38:32 am
Thank you for a wonderful article about Del Rio. My son lives there with his wife and two children (the oldest graduates on June 2nd.) Looking forward to being there. I thought in 94' son and wife would be there for a 2 year medical contract for medically under served. They got involved in all aspects of the community, built their home and made it their children's hometown. Son is voluntary youth minister for United Methodist Church, kids went to St. James (pre-school through 6th), he has coached kids soccer, baseball and is present any time his kids are involved. Last night my daughter, his step-mother and I were kept up to the minute progress of the Cubs baseball game by way of text messages, inning by inning.
5/20/2017 03:44:55 pm
I lived for 5 years in Del Rio, and since day one I felt optimistic to its culture, friendly people and beautiful surroundings.
5/20/2017 04:07:59 pm
I was a transplanted Texan myself moved to Del Rio in 1968. My father was military so Del Rio ended up being my Hometown being I lived there longer than anywhere else. I would've returned to Del Rio to raise my kids if my husband would've liked it. But like many took a big dislike to it. However, my kids loved spending summers in Del Rio with my parents and mostly because we knew what to do to have fun! Small towns are great to raise your children in which my kids are now learning since they live in your home area, Tucson. I wished my grandkids knew Del Rio like my kids did. Lake Amistad is one of the most biggest beautiful lakes I've every been to. I live in the White Mountains in Arizona and our lakes are ponds compared to Amistad. Our rivers are like creeks compared to the Rio Grande. I applaud you for writing something nice about Del Rio. It can be a great home if you take what it had to offer and use it!
5/21/2017 10:39:37 am
I grew up in Del Rio. It is still the sweet comfort of home to me in every sense of the word. It is a city that warmly embraces visitors and new residents.
5/21/2017 12:02:34 pm
Thank you for finding that little oasis which is Del Rio. I always long to visit my family even though the drive is long from Angleton. We come in by the base where dad worked more than 30 years. Paying my respects to my dear parents and sister at Oaklawn. Hometowns are just that. San Felipe Creek..the Blue Hole where we spent our summers and Moore Park. I was thrilled to leave in 1975 to find adventure. So grateful to come back
5/21/2017 07:35:00 pm
I am from Del Rio I go back as often as I can my parents and sisters still live there. Growing up there was the best always, something to do and great friends that have lasted 4 decades and will always be cherished. Del Rio is my home town and what molded me to be who I am. I longed for a small town feel like mine for my children and found one in Saginaw, Texas now. Great article for a beautiful city home of the abrazo de la Amistad ( home of the friendly hug) a parade every year is held between. Neighboring cities Acuna, Mexico and Del Rio, Texas
8/29/2018 10:04:50 am
I just went to Del Rio for the first time to visit cousins who have lived there for 17 years, and just fell in-love with Del Rio, specially the San Felipe Creek where we spent quite a bit of time in the water. We visited a lot of places in just two days. I loved the 100 degree weather which felt so dry as opposed to very humid where I come from in the North East. I did feel a sense of security everywhere I went. The main strip has a lot of stores like wal-mart, khols, ross, etc. English was spoken everywhere. Was very impressed with the beautiful town.
2/21/2019 12:24:29 pm
I'm an old retired guy who is alone except for one old cat. I'm considering moving to Del Rio. It's been a long time since I was in Del Rio but I remember how nice it was. I worked for the DPS out of Pecos but I went all over West Texas so I'm familiar with the area. One question. I'm affected by ozone in the air, is the air generally clean and free from pollution most of the time?
JOSEPH A GARCIA
6/11/2019 08:03:28 pm
The best thing to do, is to take a trip and stay there a couple of days, because things change and you really never know how things are until you have actually been there.
JOSEPH A GARCIA
6/11/2019 08:00:31 pm
I was born in Del Rio Texas. My mothers ancesters go back to the 1550's. It was New Spain then and they had the first Catholic mass in Del Rio in 1635.
9/13/2019 08:20:14 pm
My fondest memories of childhood are the times I spent at my grandmother's in Del Rio. I loved interbubing in the creeks, going to the restaurants, and going to Mexico. The food was great. The people were nice. I hope to make it back there one day.
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