In the late 1970s, inspired by the land, culture, and resources of Texas and Mexico, artist Michael Tracy took up residence in a three-room sandstone house in the historic village of San Ygnacio in the borderlands along the Rio Grande near Laredo. In this crucible of heat and cold, Tracy’s work flourished and he became a part of the fabric of the community. Over the years, students of border and Texas ranch culture, architecture and ornithology came away from San Ygnacio with a sense of the remote and generous beauty of the area and the original settlement with its scenic overlooks and farmlands. Over the years Tracy has helped nourish the legacy of San Ygnacio, and accepted a degree of responsibility for its care and preservation. In 1989, the River Pierce Foundation was formed to give voice to these perceived needs, introducing a guiding concept for San Ygnacio: crossing borders of awareness by bringing awareness to the border.
In the mid 18th century, the Spanish explorer José de Escandón colonized the region of northern Mexico and southern Texas, creating more than twenty villas, or ranching outposts that made up the province of Nuevo Santander. San Ygnacio was established by royal Spanish land grant and settled by ranchers from the prosperous town of Revilla on the far side of the river now known as Guerrero Viejo, Mexico. In the years that followed, the founders of San Ygnacio, Jesús Treviño and Blas María Uribe, constructed a fortified stone complex, providing protection from Native American raiders. Sited on a bluff above the Rio Grande, the town became a strategic river crossing point with a customs house and post station. San Ygnacio grew, and the community welcomed ranchers seeking shelter and the expansion of their interests as they warded off claims made by land speculators.
In the 1940s the United States and Mexican governments agreed to build what is now the Falcon Dam and reservoir, an initiative that has changed the increasingly agricultural topography of the area. Inspired by their own past, the people of San Ygnacio united against the destruction of their homes. While the people of neighboring towns were relocated, San Ygnacio remains one of the few ranching outposts to have survived. In recent years historians and archeologists of both nations have expressed a greater appreciation for these sites. Contributing to this renewed appreciation, the River Pierce Foundation seeks to preserve and share with the 1000 inhabitants of San Ygnacio a rekindled esteem for their community.