Many Brownsville Residents may commonly know of Las Prietas as a residential part of southern Brownsville.
It’s an area next to the border wall that divides the United States and Mexico.
But the common name has a deeper meaning.
Images of African American History such as slavery and harsh field labor come to mind.
Brownsville has a rich history in the civil war. Slavery was not common in the region at around the mid 1800’s. And experts believe Brownsville residents chose sides on their own terms.
Unknown to many is a colony of Blacks that settled in what is now Brownsville decades before the civil war, long before Brownsville or the Rio Grande Valley was formed.
The term ‘Las Prietas’ translates to the ‘Dark Ones.’ Historian with the Brownsville Historical Association Eugene Fernandez tells us the name refers to early colony.
“It was formed on the basis of there being a colony of blacks that were here around the time of Texas independence.” Says Fernandez.
Fernandez believes these colonists came from Veracruz, Mexico. He claims they were runaway slaves or free slaves from Mexico.
“The old timers stated as they were farming the fields out here they would find evidence of existence,” says Fernandez. “They would find weapons and that type of thing.”
The colony was an agricultural community. The land was fertile then and it’s fertile now.
However, their time in what is now Brownsville was brief.
“The reason it’s not there… is that there was a flood,” says Fernandez.
After the flood, Fernandez believes the group moved to east Texas.
Today what was once the colony of Las Prietas is used for farming. There is accounts of a cemetery somewhere deep underground but it’s exact location is unknown.
“The period time these people were here was so brief that… they were not formative in the history of Brownsville.” Says Fernandez.
The colony of Las Prietas was a part of Brownsville.
Their impact wasn’t large, but the name remains.