TwHP Lessons

Castolon: A Meeting Place of
Two Cultures

[Cover photo] Castolon with Cerro Castellan in the background.
(Big Bend National Park)


et below the towering cliffs of the Sierra Ponce, Castolon is a small trading and farming community in far southwest Texas. While the muddy Rio Grande brings a constant supply of water to the area, the lack of steady rain makes the landscape harsh. White and yellow soils lie open to the southern sun, woody vegetation is sparse and stunted, and turkey vultures soar overhead. Yet Castolon offers more than severity: its history includes a harmonious mixing of the people along the United States-Mexico border.

The first inhabitants of this section of the Rio Grande flood plain were American Indians, who farmed and hunted. By 1900, the area began to attract American and Mexican farmers and ranchers interested in establishing homesteads and raising families. As the rest of the U.S. entered the industrial age, the section of West Texas along the Rio Grande remained a frontier society. The 1910 Mexican Revolution brought unrest and danger to people on both sides of the river, as bandits and raiders invaded the area. The U.S. Army responded by commissioning permanent and temporary camps along the Rio Grande. One such post was Camp Santa Helena, located in the southwest corner of today’s Big Bend National Park. Just after the Mexican Revolution ended, two men created a farming, ranching, and storekeeping partnership at Camp Santa Helena, now known as Castolon. They named their business La Harmonia Enterprises, a name they hoped would accurately reflect a continuing condition of the area--harmony between peoples.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Texas
 2. Southern part of Big Bend

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. Settling the Big Bend
 2. Captain Lafferty's Report
 3. Colonel Hornbrook's Recruiting

 4. A Frontier Border Trading Post

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. La Harmonia store, 1961
 2. Cotton fields with the Sierra Ponce
 in the background

 3. Old cotton gin at Castolon
 4. La Harmonia store, garage, shop,
 and water tower, 1955

 5. Castolon, Texas
 6. Cerro Castellan, from Castolon

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Growing up in Castolon
 2. Learning Some Spanish
 3. Comparing Castolon to the Local Community

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Big Bend National Park

This lesson is based on the Castolon Historic District, one of the thousands of properties and districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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