Visit Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, TX

By Errol Castens on April 29, 2011 at 3:44 am EST
Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, TX

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Adkins

Quinta Mazatlan is a study in unexpected contrasts.

Historic Mansion

It’s a 10‚000-square-foot mansion whose name means “country estate‚” yet its neighbors include the airport and the mall.

As a 1930s hacienda‚ it’s a piece of south Texas history that serves as a unique conference and events center.

Quinta Mazatlan embodies the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture of arches and beams and carvings‚ set in formal tropical landscaping‚ even while much of its 15-acre setting remains wild.

It’s an island of calm where peo­ple say hello to nature‚ and nature whistles back. It’s a living classroom that disguises education as fun.

Quinta Mazatlan had been the home of just two families during the 60 years before the City of McAllen purchased it. “It’s an urban oasis surrounded by concrete‚” says Manager Colleen Hook.

“It’s a great demonstration site for what we can all do in our backyards to encourage nature.”

Open to the Public

Since 1998‚ city leaders have worked to transform the mansion and its grounds to encourage flora‚ fauna and folks to enjoy one another’s company.

As a result‚ it is now one “link in the pearl necklace” that constitutes the World Birding Center‚ a group of distinct habitats along the Rio Grande bird migration flyway.

The area is so rich with both migrating and resident birds – from laughing gulls to screech owls to black-bellied whistling ducks – that it takes nine pages to print Quinta Mazatlan’s checklist of birds.

Exotic Wildlife

Four cleared acres on the estate host a mix of native and exotic plants‚ from cacti and grasses to the Japanese golden raintree‚ with plans to create even more diverse habitats within the estate.

“We did a native butterfly garden‚” Hook says. “People ask‚‘What are two plants I can plant to attract butter­flies?’ We have 20 for them to see.”

A garden designed especially to attract hummingbirds was next. “Smaller pieces of property‚ even back yards‚ are ideal for attracting hummingbirds‚” she says.

For all its emphasis on nature‚ Quinta Mazatlan is just as welcoming to human visitors. Schoolchildren inspired the transformation of a green­house into a classroom. Water and feeding stations serve almost as spectators’ galleries for those eager to count another rare species among their sightings.

For those with a “hands-on” approach to nature‚ there’s the gallery of backyard birds painstakingly carved from wood.

Nature Store

Quinta Mazatlan’s nature store brings people and nature together with guidebooks‚ binoculars and other appropriate items for observing‚ identifying and appreciating the immense variety of wildlife that can be found here.

“We even have CDs of bird sounds for ‘birding by ear‚’ adds supervisor Gabby Malibran‚ and an on-site gallery offers local artists’ repre­sentations of the area’s wildlife and landscapes.

With bowers of flowers year-round and other interesting landscape elements that change with the seasons‚ Quinta Mazatlan is also a popular setting for weddings‚ confer­ences and other particularly human events. A quick look in almost any direction explains why. As Hooks says‚ “It’s quite a spectacular place.”

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