South of Laredo, US-83 passes through one of the fastest-growing and most Hispanic areas in the United States, following a route parallel to the Rio Grande. The construction from 1950 to 1954 of Falcon International Reservoir altered the look and feel of the riverside landscape, but there are still a few places that evoke the past. The surviving 19th-century Spanish- and Creole-style architecture in Roma, 40 miles southeast of Zapata, hasn’t changed much since it inspired director Elia Kazan to use the town as a film location for the 1952 movie Viva Zapata! starring Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn. Many of the town’s buildings have been quietly restored, and the town is so quiet you can sometimes hear roosters crowing across the river in the Mexican town of Ciudad Miguel Alemán, where the narrow sandstone streets, old churches, and plazas haven’t changed in centuries.
Farther south along US-83 comes Rio Grande City, where among the historic buildings downtown the La Borde House (601 E. Main St., 956/487-5101, $81 and up) is a Creole-style inn designed by Parisian architects in 1893, with construction completed in 1899.