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“Spinach Capital of the World”

Zavala County Seat, South Texas

US 83 and FM 65
40 miles S of Uvalde
120 miles SW of San Antonio
10 miles N of Carrizo Springs
43 miles E of Eagle Pass
Population: 7,233 (2010) 7,190 (2000)

Crystal City Area Hotels > Uvalde Hotels | Eagle Pass Hotels
Popeye statue in Crystal City, Texas
The statue of Popeye in front of Crystal City City Hall
TE photo, November 2001
History in a Spinach Can

The counties of this region (other than the border counties) have similar histories. Most towns were born with the arrival of the railroad or when irrigation technology took advantage of the numerous wells and springs.

Carl F. Groos and E. J. Buckingham, were developers who opened the town in the early 1900s. They bought a 10,000-acre ranch in 1905, platted the townsite of Crystal City and sold off land in smaller parcels for farms.

In 1908 Crystal City was granted a post office and the Crystal City and Uvalde Railway provided the first rail service.

In 1910 with a healthy population of 350 – the town incorporated.

An election held in 1928 made Crystal City the county seat.

The arrival of the railroad meant a market for produce and especially winter vegetables for northern markets. Onions were the first crop introduced, but spinach replaced the onion crop and now Crystal City is “Spinach Capital of the World”

The first annual spinach festival took place in 1936 and the Spinach Festival maintains an office in downtown Crystal City. The Spinach Festival was resumed in 1982 after being suspended during World War II.

A statue of Popeye was erected with the blessing of the sailorman’s creator in 1937. It ranks high in the pantheon of less-than-serious statues in Texas. Today the pipe-smoking sailor stands in front of city hall – sharing the same banishment of other tobacco users.

Zavala County Courthouse >

Crystal City Chronicles

  • Popeye by Mike Cox (From "Texas Tales")
    The Sailor Man is a native Texan.
  • Sailors in Limestone, The Crystal City Statue That Might’ve Been by Johnny Stucco (From "They Shoe Horses, Don't They?")
  • Alien Camp by Mike Cox (From "Texas Tales")

  • Crystal City Texas Japanese Interment Camp
    Remains of the U.S. Family Internment Camp. "This camp was used for the internment German American, Italian American, and Japanese American families during World War II. The camp consisted of 649 buildings on 100 acres." - Arthur Jacobs
    TE photo, 2005
    Historical Marker:

    Crystal City Family Internment Camp,
    World War II

    When the U.S. entered the war in 1941, an immediate fear was the possibility of enemy agents in the country and the Western Hemisphere. As one response, thousands of Japanese-Americans were moved away from the West Coast. Lesser-known was an internment camp system operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The government built these camps to hold Japanese, German and Italian nationals arrested in the U.S. and Hawaii, and in Peru and other Latin American countries until they could be exchanged for American detainees. Three of these camps were in Texas at Kenedy, Seagoville and Crystal City.

    The Crystal City camp, converted from an existing migratory labor camp, was the largest internment facility in the U.S. and the only one built exclusively for families. The original 240-acre camp later expanded to 290 acres, with agricultural areas and support facilities. The primary living area was a 100-acre compound enclosed by a 10-foot barbed wire fence, complete with guard towers and spotlights. Like a small town, the compound had 700 buildings and included family housing, schools, a hospital, shops, warehouses, markets and recreation areas. Although intended for Japanese, the Crystal City camp also held Germans and a few Italians. The population averaged 2800 throughout the war. It reached a peak of almost 3400 in December 1944, two-thirds of whom were Japanese. At the end of the war, the government paroled internees throughout the U.S. or sent them to their home countries. The Crystal City camp was the only one still in operation by June 30,1947. It officially closed February 27, 1948, and the property transferred to the city and school district.
    Texas in World War II, V+60

    TE Webmaster's Note:
    Above numbers in red indicates corrections by Mr. Werner Ulrich - past internee, and manage/administrator of facebook’s U.S. Family Internment Camp, Crystal City, Texas

    (See also Alien Camp by Mike Cox)

    Mosaic mural in Crystal City
    TE photo 2001
    Another of the murals in Crystal City
    TE photo 2001
    Mosaic mural detail
    TE photo 2001

    The Green Economy

    The Del Monte Corporation is the county’s largest employee and has been since it opened a canning plant in 1945 when it was operating as the California Packing Corporation.

    In the 1940s – an astounding 97% of Crystal City’s citizens were migrant workers who followed the crops.

    Del Monte’s operations and several expansions have helped increase the town’s size. In 1950 the population that once left town to follow the crops rose to over 7,000 and then to over 9,000 in 1960.

    The “Crystal City Revolts” of the 1960s
    In the 1960s the Hispanic majority asserted their dominant voting power to win key city and school offices. The exaggerated "Crystal City Revolts"- which were peaceful – helped form the Raza Unida party in 1970. The party dominated the town politically until the late 70s when it dissolved into splinter groups.

    Theater in Crystal City, Texas

    The theatre in downtown Crystal City

    TE photo 2001
    Theater at night in Crystal City, Texas

    The theatre at night

    TE photo 2001

    Crystal City Texas Forum
  • Ted Hood of San Antonio defends the Spinach Capital of the World - November 15, 2006
  • Subject: Crystal City Texas
    Dear TE, A local Little Rock newspaper has an article about Alma, Arkansas putting up it's second Popeye statue. And they claim Alma is "The Spinach Capital of the World." Now you and I know that isn't so. May I use some of your Web-site material in rebutting their article? If this is not permitted, I may write them, using my personal knowledge, having been born at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, September 12, 1922. My wife was born in Crystal City, in 1923, and participated in two Spinach Festivals. - Ted Hood Sr., Little Rock, Arkansas, November 07, 2006
  • Crystal City ,Texas
    Area Destinations:

    Carrizo Springs
    Eagle Pass
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