Friday, January 25, 2013

Roma, Texas

Brochures advertising this town tout it as having an outstanding birding center, great views of the Rio Grande River, and impressive 19th century architecture in its historic district.  Once we arrived in the town on Friday, we immediately headed to the river bluff area for a view of the river.  As we looked out of the river the loud noise of a swamp boat caught our attention.  It was a Mexican Border Patrol boat cruising at a fast clip on the Rio Grande.  Looking across the river we noticed a couple of trucks with machine guns loaded on them, as well as a large number of soldiers toting other guns.  They were observing a yellow raft being pulled by a couple of men who were wading in from an island not far from the Mexican shore.  The raft was loaded with cardboard boxes, which, upon reaching the shore, were loaded onto the trucks.  It looked like all of the men were Mexican military troops, and a lot of their attention was directed toward the mysterious boxes.
We assumed that maybe the boxes contained illegal drugs.  It seems that frequently in the local news recently there are reports of numerous drug busts on our side of the border, on one of those occasions tons of marijuana was recovered.   A local man standing near us on the river overlook commented that just about a month ago some kind of shoot-out occurred on that same Mexican shore, with hand grenades being lobbed.  In the course of our day Friday, in border towns along the Rio Grande, we were frequently warned by the Border Patrol and local police to stay away from any land near the river, that it is just not safe.  The town pictured above, a Mexican sister city of Roma, is Miguel Aleman.  Roma was founded in 1765 by Mexican families.  Many residents of the town still have their land grants from that time, which was the Spanish Colonial era.  While John and I were exploring the historic area around Roma Plaza, we were approached by one of its residents who seemed eager to share with us the history of the town.  He said he was the eighth generation of his family to still be living in the town.  He also pointed out to us a building across from his residence.  It was where, in 1952, the movie Viva Zapata! was filmed, starring Marlon Brando.  Anthony Quinn supposedly rode a white stallion on the balcony.  The house is pictured below, it is pretty run down and in need of some major repairs.
Another old building, which I found interesting, was Rosita's Cantina.   Built in 1880, it was where local residents would arrive on horseback to drink and have a good time.
 The word "Beer" still appears on the side of the building.  It is a good example of the 19th century architecture found in the historical area of the town.  The buildings back then were either built of local sandstone or ornate molded brick, designed by a Prussian immigrant by the name of Heinrich Portsheller.  After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848 many Anglo American entrepreneurs flocked to Roma because of the thriving riverboat commerce.  After the Civil War the number of those Americans decreased and currently it is mainly Hispanic people who reside in Roma.

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