One of our favorite things to do every month is go to the Texas Tropical Trail Partner Events, including tours and educational presentations, that celebrate the heritage of south Texas. The public is invited to these events and we wholeheartedly recommend them.
The first thing on the agenda was a welcome coffee at the La Feria, Texas fire station at 115 East Commercial Avenue.
From there we proceeded south to the Longoria Family Cemetery located in a rural section at the junction of Hwy. 281 and FM 506. The Longoria family was among the first Spanish settlers to arrive in the mid-1770s. Juan Rosas Longoria and Maria Solome Cruz were among the men and women who introduced ranching into the area with techniques brought from southern Spain. The Longoria Ranch stretched from what became Sebastian to the Rio Grande. They also farmed the land and participated in the early development of irrigation systems in the Rio Grande Valley. The Longoria Cemetery holds the remains of an estimated 371 family members and is today maintained by Longoria descendants.
Eduardo Longoria, one of the descendants, met us at the cemetery. He makes sure that the cemetery stays well cared for. We would have loved to spend hours poking around in it because that’s one of my favorite things to do. But we had to move on with the tour. We’ll go back someday when it’s not so hot.
Just a little ways down the road we stopped at Our Lady of Visitation Catholic Church, established December 29, 1880.
Next we went to the Aloe King Farm and Processing Plant at 1947 Mile 6 North, Mercedes. Established in 1979, this family-owned business is one of the oldest commercial aloe farms in the Rio Grande Valley. The current owner, John Segrist, took over the business from his parents who started it. The elder Segrists are still very active in the business, primarily running the gift shop and giving tours, and Mrs. Audrey Segrist gave us a very interesting lecture about the healing aspects of aloe vera and how they started their business. She also mentioned that her husband just turned 90 years old and he was out conducting a tour while she talked to us in the gift shop. Amazing!
After leaving the aloe farm, we headed to 1800 South Rabb Road to visit the new La Feria Nature Center, a lovely park that includes numerous walking paths, a children’s playground, and wetland areas to attract birds. It was very peaceful. And we saw a roseate spoonbill!
We returned to the firehouse for a lunch catered by Los Amigos Restaurant. Afterwards we had a presentation on the history of La Feria by Betty Jo Dunlap, Town Historian. I find it fascinating to learn about places and the people who started them. Most of the time we zip through towns in our closed up cars and never give a thought to the people who are living out their lives behind the houses and shops we see flying by the window.
The board meeting followed and it is open to anyone who chooses to attend. The next monthly events will be on October 18, 2011, in Rockport and November 15, 2011 in Donna.
When you drive across what seems like the endless miles of Texas, it’s so easy to make assumptions about it, especially the less scenic parts. But every acre has an interesting history just waiting for us to open the door and peek in for a preview. Then if you like the previews, you can “set a spell” and dig backwards in time for the long version. Every one of these little towns, as well as the big cities, have great museums that tell their story. I urge you to give them a try.