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American "colonial dame" and Mexican maiden together
"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 Texas-Mexican border!

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).



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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.

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