The word ramadero comes from the Spanish ramada, which means a place or shelter with interlaced branches overhead. Ramaderos are heavily vegetated drainage routes coursing between the low hills of Starr and Zapata Counties in deep south Texas. From above they appear like sinuous emerald ribbons winding through the dry brushlands. Choked with tall mesquites, huisache, and ebony, they are only a few yards wide and can be many miles long. They serve as migrating corridors for monarch butterflies and other insect and mammal species. A unique feature of a ramadero is that water diffuses beneath its sandy and clayey soils and does not begin to flow on top until the ramadero merges with an arroyo. The ramadero’s expansive shade drops summer temperatures by as much as ten degrees. Extensive brush clearing has reduced ramaderos to less than ten percent of their historic acreage. What few existed in western Hidalgo County have been bulldozed out.

Arturo Longoria