Day Trips: Quinta Mazatlan
McAllen home to diverse ecosystem
Quinta Mazatlan, in McAllen, is an island of green in a sea of shopping malls, highways, homes, and fields. On a map of the Rio Grande Valley from Brownsville to Mission, barely 4% of the land remains unmolested.
The Tamaulipan Thornforest was one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Part desert scrub and part riparian forest, the natural cover harbored hundreds of species of animals and plants. Then came the railroad, followed by highways to turn the area into an economic garden.
In 1935, Jason and Marcia Matthews arrived at the tropical paradise just in time to save a small portion of the original landscape. Jason spent seven years building the house at Quinta Mazatlan with his own hands. He was followed by two more families who added to the house, but kept the grounds in its native state.
The city purchased the 17-acre plot in 1998. Since 2006, the adobe mansion's gardens have become an outdoor classroom for area schools, a museum, and a world-class birding site. The inexpensive tours are worth the money, if for no other reason than the fun of walking the grounds with the resident ornithologist.
Quinta Mazatlan, which roughly translates as "villa in the land of the deer," is at 600 Sunset Dr. near the McAllen airport. For a nominal fee, the house and grounds are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 8am to 5pm. For information, call 956/681-3370 or go to www.quintamazatlan.com.
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