Mission - Falcon State Park and Roma
12 Apr 2011
|Today we thought we’d head off in a totally different direction than our past explorations have taken us. So, instead, we headed due west to enjoy a picnic lunch at Falcon State Park and then stop by the small town of Roma-Los Saenz on the way home.
We were really lucky today with the weather, temps in the high 50s earlier in the morning with the humidity in the low 40 percentile and breezes at 6 mph – for this area; sheer heaven! We put the top back on the Jeep and headed out of here around 1000 to begin our explorations. We were consistent with our usual trip outings by going to the furthest place first and work our way back. So, first destination was Falcon State Park.
Unfortunately, this park has been in the news quite a bit recently due to a murder/shooting of a young man out on the Lake when he and his wife were out jet skiing approximately six months ago. But one certainly would never know any of this in visiting the park today with its very tranquil, serene setting. Falcon State Park is located deep in the dry brush country of South Texas and located next to Falcon Lake, a large reservoir fed by the Rio Grande and secondarily by the Rio Salado of Mexico.
When the five mile long dam was completed in 1953, the lake began to fill, eventually flooding 87,000 acres and extended 60 miles upstream. The reservoir was created jointly by the United States and Mexico for flood control, power generation, irrigation, and recreation purposes. The State Park is located on the east shore of the lake near the dam and provides excellent access to the enormous lake. The landscape of the park is mostly brushy thickets of mesquite, huisache, wild olive, hibiscus, wild oregano, prickly pear cactus, palo verde, ebony, and other plants providing cover to birds such as the chachalaca, the groove-billed ani, the ringed Kingfisher, roadrunners, and the green jay. A bit surprising to read was that the area also has tropical cats such as the spotted ocelot and especially unusual is the dark, thin jaguarondi – very rare in South Texas and a member of the jaguar family. And of course not to overlook the lake’s importance to fishermen, they come from all over to fish the world-class bass fishing; striped, white and largemouth bass, crappie and catfish are found here.
The state park lies in an area with an extensive human history – nearby Roma (where we are headed next) was founded by the Spaniards in about 1767. It later became a trading center for steamboats that traveled up the Rio Grande from the Gulf of Mexico. Across the river and upstream from Roma is the Mexican town of Mier, founded in the 1750s and is most famous as the site of the “black bean” incident.
In 1842, during hostilities between Mexico and the newly formed Republic of Texas, a group of defeated Texans escaped from captivity with most of them later recaptured by Santa Anna and taken to Mier. As punishment, Santa Anna ordered that one-tenth of the recaptured escapees be shot. To determine which of them would be executed, 17 black beans were put in a pot with 159 white beans. Those who drew the black beans were summarily executed and the others were jailed until September, 1844! Bet that was NOT a fun line to be waiting in to see what color bean you pulled from the pot!
We drove throughout the whole park, had a nice picnic lunch in a lovely area, drove out to the dam and thoroughly enjoyed the setting. The campgrounds were nice and clean with large pull through, full hook-up sites. Next stop was to visit Roma and Los Saenz.
The origin of the name of Roma is traced to two different legends. The city either honors a military officer named Roman or recalls its resemblance to Rome and the arid rolling hills as described by visiting priests. And later I read the Oblates of Mary Immaculate founded a mission in the mid 1850s and it was they who suggested the name Roma. The town became the site of a busy steamboat landing. Until river traffic halted in the early 1880s, Roma’s economy benefited from being a major entry port for goods bound to Mexico’s interior. Roma’s residents claimed French, Hispanic, German and Texan heritages which are evident today in the city’s architecture, food and family names.
The Mexican American War, settled by the treaty in 1848 separated the City of Roma from Mier, Mexico, legally, if not culturally, economically or socially. Roma became part of Starr County, formed in 1850 named after Dr. James Starr, treasurer of the short-lived Republic of Texas. We were fortunate enough to get a brochure from the Chamber of Commerce in the historic plaza to help us recognize many of the buildings and their function from so many years ago.
In 1928, a steel suspension bridge connecting Roma and Ciudad Miguel Aleman allowed a freer flow of trade and people between the two sides of the river which had never been a barrier to legal or illegal commerce. Plans are underway to restore this last surviving suspension bridge over the Rio Grande as a pedestrian and bicycle crossing.
In 1951, Roma had a moment of glory when the movie “Viva Zapata” starring Marlon Brando, Anthony Quinn and Jean Peters was filmed here. The city celebrates the event with an annual “Viva Zapata” festival in November. And in October, a festival honors the architectural and pastoral work of Father Keralum, the noted Gothic style architect who designed all that remains of the original church erected in 1854.
Roma and Los Saenz have incorporated jointly and so they are listed together. Corrales de Saenz was founded in the 1760s by a ranching family named Saenz. In 1848, Roma-Los Saenz became part of the U.S. and these two cities are considered the gem cities on the “Los Caminos del Rio” (River Road). Roma has been designated a national historic district in the 1970s. Many of the downtown buildings were built in the 1880s (including the 1880s post office) were designed by noted German brickmaker and architect Heinrich Portscheller!
Another thing on our minds today is the difference in gasoline prices and how they are changing DAILY. On 1 Apr, it was $3.39, today’s prices ranged from $3.79 to $3.89, so up forty to fifty cents in less than two weeks! Certainly an attention getter, but nothing compared to what we saw as we were driving through Roma – am sure you will agree and included this as our first picture; am sure you’ll enjoy!
And thank you for those of you who wrote and pointed out that I neglected to add the promised Texas tidbit of information while here in “the valley” – so here’s the Texas tidbit for today’s post:
Did you know that there is an official salute to the Texas State flag? It goes like this:
Honor the Texas Flag.
I pledge allegiance to thee,
Texas, one state under God,
One and indivisible.
Till the next time . . .