Off the Beaten Path: Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle

by Gretchen Losi

You don’t have to look hard to find history in the Rio Grande Valley. A simple walk in most directions and you’ll spot a historical building, street, school, or marker. 

One such place is the world-famous Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, where folks come from all over to pray, worship, and walk. Yes, walk.

The Basilica has meticulous grounds filled with native trees, bushes, and flowers framing a landscape that hosts the 12 Stations of the Cross and a sobering prayer station at Christ’s tomb, where countless believers come to pray each year.

Tucked just off the beaten path of this holy site, directly parallel to U.S. Highway 83 is not one, but two, special historical markers. 

 Visitors in the know typically spot the railroad post first. In the early 1900s, this railway nicknamed “Old Flossie” was a crucial part of the Rio Grande Valley’s development. It transported everything needed for growth and development.

Next to the lone railroad sign is another marker reminding folks that U.S. Highway 83 is, in fact, the Texas Vietnam Veterans highway. The marker proudly reads, “In gratitude to the thousands of men and women who served our country during the Vietnam War, the people of Texas dedicate this highway which runs across our state from the southernmost tip to the northernmost point.”  It is the longest stretch of highway within any state in the U.S., running just over 906 miles, beating out Interstate 10, which boasts 880 miles.

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