"Martha Washington" and Mexican Maiden, n.d. Photo: Washington Birthday Celebration
Washington's Birthday Celebration
Every February the Texas-Mexico border town of Laredo takes on a
strange look. Leading citizens deck themselves in the dress of
colonial Virginia and take part in a series of events celebrating
the birth of the First President of the United States. The scene is
made more curious by the fact that many of these citizens in knee
britches and colonial gowns can be heard conversing in Spanish.
Why? In the 1890s members of the Society of Red Men, most of them
recent immigrants from points north, resolved to bring
American-style holidays to a largely Mexican community. They
settled on the birthday of George Washington, a symbol they hoped
would have the additional advantage of bringing together warring
political factions in Laredo. The first Washington's Birthday
Celebration (WBC) took place in 1898, as the town was poised to
leave behind its rough and tumble frontier ways and capitalize on
the commercial potential made possible by the recently completed
rail connections with Mexico, and emerging mining and farming
industries. Today the WBC has evolved into a two-week regional mega
festival, including a parade, carnival, fireworks, musical
attractions, plus something unique in American festivals: honoring
our Founding Father with a seemingly contradictory mix of
traditions from two nations -- but perfectly normal on the
Project documentation includes a videotape and book,
A History of the Washington Birthday Celebration, by Dr.
Stan Green of Texas A&M University.
Originally submitted by: Henry Bonilla, Representative (23rd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.