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Roma, Texas
08a - ROMA , TX (3) (16632080606).jpg
Location of Roma, Texas
Location of Roma, Texas
Starr County Roma.svg
Country United States
State Texas
County Starr
Incorporated 1936
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Total 6.00 sq mi (15.55 km2)
 • Land 5.87 sq mi (15.19 km2)
 • Water 0.14 sq mi (0.36 km2)
213 ft (65 m)
 • Total 9,765
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,959.08/sq mi (756.44/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 956
FIPS code 48-63020
GNIS feature ID 1388200

Roma is a city in Starr County, Texas, United States. The population was 9,765 at the 2010 census. The city is located along the Rio Grande, across from Ciudad Miguel Alemán in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

The city is also popularly known as Roma-Los Saenz, since the incorporated city also took the area known as Los Saenz.

It serves as a port of entry from Mexico into the U.S. via the Roma–Ciudad Miguel Alemán International Bridge.


The town center has a number of picturesque historic buildings, now collected in the Roma Historic District.

Roma is a popular birding site in the Rio Grande Valley, and a section of the World Birding Center is on Portsheller Street across from the city hall.

The channel of the Rio Grande is less than 200 feet wide at Roma. The bluff adjacent to the town square overlooks the river, and parts of the Ciudad Miguel Aleman crossing are readily visible. Because of the arresting views, this location is frequently used by television journalists, public officials, and others who visit the region as a photo op to visualize the border region.


Roma was established in 1821 in what had been the Spanish province of Nuevo Santander.

Prior to Texas's independence from Mexico in 1836, the town was listed as under the jurisdiction of the town of Mier, Tamaulipas, and prior to Mexican independence existed under Spanish rule. [1]

The site offered a convenient crossing on the Rio Grande, which became known as El Paso de la Mula (Pass of the Mules). The area was notable for a salt trade from the Roma area to Monterrey. The Roma area became the Mexican province of Tamaulipas with Mexican independence, but then became part of Texas with the establishment of the Republic of Texas in 1835.

Although there was a battle at Mier during the Mexican-American War in 1848, the region remained part of Texas. During the American Civil War the region became wealthy on the cotton trade, which was transshipped via Mexico to Europe. While steamboats were able to access Roma through the mid-nineteenth century, lowering water levels as a result of development upstream ended river shipment by the 1880s. Bypassed by railroads, Roma stagnated and inadvertently preserved itself from development.

The Roma National Historic Landmark District contains over 30 structures built before 1900. Some of those buildings include:

  • the Customs House, (Casa de Aduanas, in Spanish) where shippers and brokers came to pay customs fees for imported goods from Europe and Mexico on steam boats,
  • the John Vale/Noah Cox House, built in 1853 by Swedish immigrant John Vale, and whose front elevation has finely carved sandstone with classical details on the cornice,
  • the Leocadia Garcia House, built in the 1840s, which served first as a dwelling for José Maria Garcia, husband of Leocadia, and then as a store and dance hall,
  • Ramirez Hall, two-story home of Lino Ramirez and three generations of the Ramirez family. Built by architect Heinrich Portscheller, who personally laid brick around windows and doors.[2] [3] [4] Used as fictitious "Rosita's Cantina" in the 1950s film Viva Zapata. [5]
  • the Manuel Guerra Building, the crown jewel of restored buildings in Roma,
  • the Néstor Saenz Store, with direct access to the wharf area, just below Juarez street, where steam boats anchored,
  • the Edward Hord Office, built in 1853, for Edward R. Hord, who represented Mexican heirs of original landowners in the area and, during the Civil War, functioned as a military building,
  • the Filomeno Gongora House, built from sandstone blocks, built around the 1830s, the oldest house in Roma,
  • the Our Lady of Refuge Church, built in 1853 by Father Perre Keralum (1817=1872), a carpenter-turned-priest of the Oblates,
  • and the Parish Hall, which housed the convent of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word (1880s-1913) and the Sisters of Mercy (1813-1940).

For more information, see the article for the Roma Historic District.


Roma is located at 26°24′22″N 99°0′20″W / 26.40611°N 99.00556°W / 26.40611; -99.00556 (26.406101, -99.005644).

The city gained area prior to the 2010 census giving it a total area of 4.2 square miles (11.0 km²), of which 4.1 square miles (10.7 km²) is land and 0.1 square mile (0.3 km²) (4.50%) is water.

The City of Roma is located along the Rio Grande, which is the frontier between the United States and Mexico.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1940 1,414
1950 1,576 11.5%
1960 1,496 −5.1%
1970 2,154 44.0%
1980 3,384 57.1%
1990 8,059 138.2%
2000 9,617 19.3%
2010 9,765 1.5%
2019 (est.) 11,490 17.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 9,617 people, 2,678 households, and 2,351 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,490.2 people per square mile (1,345.3/km2). There were 3,141 housing units at an average density of 1,139.9 per square mile (439.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.30% White, 0.15% African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.04% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 7.76% from other races, and 1.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 98.54% of the population.

There were 2,678 households, out of which 50.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.3% were married couples living together, 19.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 12.2% were non-families. 11.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.59 and the average family size was 3.91.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 34.9% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 25.2% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $15,563, and the median income for a family was $16,883. Males had a median income of $16,020 versus $12,656 for females. The per capita income for the city was $7,539. About 48.9% of families and 54.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 64.2% of those under age 18 and 46.3% of those age 65 or over.

Roma in popular culture

The town is the scene identified as the burial site of artifacts from the Library at Alexandria in Clive Cussler's novel Treasure.

Filming for the 1952 film Viva Zapata!, scripted by John Steinbeck and directed by Elia Kazan, took place in Roma. The film and the city are recurring motifs in Larry McMurtry's 1972 novel All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers, and the book's conclusion takes place in and around Roma.


  • Purdy, Andrea R. "Jovita González de Mireles (1908-1983)". American Women Writers, 1900-1945: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Laurie Champion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. 142-146.


Public education in the city of Roma is provided by the Roma Independent School District. Zoned campuses include Anna S. Canavan Elementary School for pre-kindergarten, in grades K–5, the western portion of the city is zoned to Florence J. Scott Elementary and the eastern portion is zoned to Roel and Celia Saenz Elementary School. A small area located near the eastern city limit line lies within the boundaries of Ynes B. Elementary School. Roma is served by both of the district's middle schools—Roma and Ramiro Barrera (grades 6–8), with a majority zoned to Roma Middle. Roma High School serves students in grades 9–12.

Notable people

  • Jovita González de Mireles (1904–1983), Tejana folklorist, schoolteacher, and feminist writer
  • Mariachi Nuevo Santander, Roma High School mariachi group that has won the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza five times in a row since 2013 and has auditioned for America's Got Talent season 12

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Roma (Texas) para niños

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