Presidio is on the Rio Grande, Farm Road 170, and State Highway 67 eighteen miles south of Shafter in southern Presidio County. The surrounding area is the oldest continuously cultivated area in the United States. Farmers have lived at Presidio since 1500 B.C. By 1400 A.D. the area Indians lived in small, close-together settlements, which the Spaniards later called pueblos (see PUEBLO).
The first Spaniards came to Presidio in 1535, when Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, and his three companions stopped at the Indian pueblo, placed a cross on the mountain side, and called the village La Junta de las Cruces. On December 10, 1582, Antonio de Espejo and his company arrived at the site and called the pueblo San Juan Evangelista. By 1681 the area of Presidio was known as La Junta de los Ríos, or the Junction of the Rivers, for the Río Conchos and the Rio Grande join at the site. In 1683 Juan Sabeata, a Jumano Indian, reported having seen a fiery cross on the mountain at Presidio. The settlement then became known as La Navidad en Las Cruces. About 1760 a penal colony and a military garrison of sixty men were established near Presidio. In 1830 the name of the area around Presidio was changed from La Junta de los Rios to Presidio del Norte. Anglo settlers came to Presidio in 1848 after the Mexican War. Among them was John Spencer, who operated a horse ranch on the United States side of the Rio Grande near Presidio. Ben Leaton and Milton Faver built private forts in the area.
In 1849 a Comanche raid almost destroyed Presidio, and in 1850 Indians drove off most of the cattle in town. A post office was established at Presidio in 1868, and the first public school was opened in 1887. Presidio pioneer Richard Daly was an early postmaster as well as a school teacher. He also apparently operated a store and was a business associate of Milton Favor. In 1930 the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway reached Presidio. The town incorporated in 1981. The population grew from ninety-six in 1925 to 1,671 in 1988, but the number of businesses declined from seventy in 1933 to twenty-two in 1988. At the end of 1988 Presidio experienced a population boom due in part to previously undocumented immigrants enrolled in the amnesty program. The population in 1990 was 3,072. That number had increased to 4,167 in 2000 with a reported 84 businesses.