Statue of Padre Jose Nocolas Balli, South Padre Island
You will find a statue of Padre Jose Nicholas Balli (for whom Padre Island is named) at the end of the causeway; his arms outstretched as though he is greeting the visitors to his island. Balli's family came here in 1569 from Spain and owned a lot of land in the lower Rio Grande Valley. In 1800, Padre Balli was granted some land on the island and in 1804 he started the first settlement here and the first mission in what became Cameron County. Balli, and his parish, was a major religious influence on early settlers in Southern Texas.
In 1804, Padre Jose Nicolas Balli, a Catholic Missionary/Priest, founded a settlement on South Padre Island called Rancho Santa Cruz, where he raised cattle and horses. This bronze statue of the Padre shows him clad in a cassock and clasping a crucifix in his right hand. In 1829, the year he died, Balli was awarded title to the island by the Mexican government. His nephew, Juan Juse Balli, lived on the island until 1853. Many of Balli's descendents still live in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.