Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Exploring Del Rio, Texas

Over the weekend, we decide it is high time that we explore, in depth, our new temporary "hometown." We start by visiting a local arts and crafts bazarre, where I find great deals on turquoise jewelry, meet Chamber of Commerce members as well as a Val Verde County judge, and buy the wierdest hat you've ever seen. It's a cowboy hat made of Coors Lite boxes. Yes, a little crazy, but I can't resist and prancing around the bazarre in my new hat, soon find myself the object of a newspaper photographer. Three days later, we make the front page of the Del Rio Herald, under a headline prounouncing "Bazarre Winter." Wasn't exactly how I wanted to present Legends of America to our new diggs, but, had a lot of fun with it. After the bazarre, we begin to make our way around the city.

Prior to any European occupation of the area, the land surrounding Del Rio had been called home by Native Americans for over 10,000 years. The first non-Indian residents were the Spanish who established a small mission complex in 1736 near the site of present Ciudad Acuña, Del Rio’s Mexican sister city. Just a few of these Spaniards would settle north of the Rio Grande River, but, no permanent settlement would be established until after the Civil War.

The town would really get its start after the San Felipe Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Irrigation Company was established in 1868. Building a network of irrigation canals from the water provided from San Felipe Springs, these investors sold small tracts of rich farmland to prospective buyers. Soon, the settlement that began to grow took on the name of San Felipe Del Rio. The name was later shortened to Del Rio when the community gained a post office in 1883.

One of the oldest buildings in the community is the 1870 Perry Mercantile Building, which was one of the largest mercantile establishments between San Antonio and El Paso, Texas. It now houses the Whitehead Memorial Museum. A great stop, the museum, situated on three acres, is actually a complex made up of several structures, including a chapel, a reconstructed Jersey Lilly Saloon, and several other buildings, which feature the area’s Spanish, Mexican, American, and Indian history.

We then roam around town snapping pictures of a number of beautiful churches, the 1887 limestone courthouse, and travel along San Felipe Creek, which runs through Del Rio downstream to its confluence with the Rio Grande River. The clear waters of the creek have long been favorite swimming holes for residents. Fed by San Felipe Springs, the third larget spring in Texas, it feeds over 90 million gallons of pure water into San Felipe Creek each day. The springs have a long recorded history as an oasis for Native Americans, explorers, soldiers, and freighters. 

Continuing to spy a large artificial looking mound in south Del Rio, we find our way to what is called the Hill of the Cross, Round Mountain, Sugar Loaf Mound, and other names. The cross was placed atop the steep hill by the owner of the land, Dona Paula Losoya Taylor to recognize several people who were killed at the hill, fighting Mexican rebels and bandits. This cone-shaped hill has a number of legends including ghosts and hidden treasure. We'll be sure to share those soon.

Near the Hill of the Cross is the old Cementerio Loma de la Cruz. The same lady who placed the cross atop the Hill of the Cross, donated the land for a cemetery in 1872. Buried there are three former U.S. Army Indian Scouts and the Reverend Ramon V. Palomares, first pastor of Del Rio's Mexican American Methodist Church. The last burial here took place in 1933. As we make our way through the historic, we are, at first appalled, at what appears to be serious vandalism. Headstones are toppled and broken, monuments are tilted, ground level vaults are split and some, partially open. However, as we continue to roam through the lives of these distant people, it begins to appear that this area has been badly damaged by floods. We later discover that the old cemetery is located in a flood plane and was diluged by one of Del Rio's worst in 1932, which would explain why the cemetery discontinued use the next year. Later floods have also taken their toll on this sacred ground.

Taking a drive out to the Amistad National Recreation Area at the northern edge of Del Rio, we spy some of bluest water we've ever seen in a lake. This is the United States portion of International Amistad Reservoir, formed on the Rio Grande along the border of the U.S. and Mexico. The dam that created this reservoir on the junction of the Devil’s, Pecos and Rio Grand Rivers was a joint U.S.-Mexico project and takes its name from the Spanish word for friendship. Lake Amistad is known for great fishing, excellent water-based recreation, and a haven for snowbirds and their R.V.'s.

Stay tuned as we continue to explore the area, including Judge Roy Bean and Langtry, Texas; the Devil's River, more of the Pecos Heritage Trail, Fort Davis, and lots more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really like this story, about Del Rio history very much .I wish i can lots more stories about del rio and pictures. Grew up in san felipe in the corner of maximo and taini, taini st and Italian name , mybe like mine Luevano, now i live in cinegas.We need Del Rio to be remember about when in was actully was born the first setllers the first peoples, the first houses evrything.Del Rio should not only celebrate other things.Del Rio should built a park of history and every year remember of the Birth OF DEL RIO TEXAS.it can be done,have plays pictures old pictures the way it once was then change.Lots of people young people from know dont have a clue how it once was.Destoring history sometimes,but their are cities and towns in texas that do celebrate the birth of the town.thats all for right now.my Thank You very much Luevano