She was stunning. The young girl glanced up at me, doe-eyed and with a deceptive air of innocence. As I went about my business, the head-over-heels-in-love 14-year-old boy excitedly leapt for joy; then they embraced. They were still in lip-lock when I came back around, with another load of stuff for my night’s stay.
I have often wondered about the real state of Texas border towns. Horror stories sometimes make their way onto my news feed. While I was in Austin recently, a young man told me he was from Laredo, and that many of the stories were true.
Naturally, within the reasonable bounds of caution, I decided to check out Laredo for myself- during the day. I did stay the night at a raucous and down-at-the-heels place called Monterey Inn, but the characters were just partying, and posed no threat to me. The police sirens were constant, but also distant.
Laredo, by day, at least on Saturday morning (5/26), is as vibrant and happy a place as I’ve seen anywhere. When I first parked at the Public Library, so as to check my e-mails (Wi-fi at places like the Monterey is nonexistent.), two men across the street made note of my presence. When I left and put the laptop back in the trunk, they stood and watched as I briefly pondered walking downtown from there. Seeing their interest, I decided to drive off and park closer to the Plaza San Agustin.
St. Augustine is the patron of Laredo, and his cathedral stands vibrantly on the east end of the Plaza.
La Posada Hotel sits on the south end of the Plaza. It is Laredo’s grand hotel, and is on the site where the Republic of Rio Grande was declared, briefly, in January, 1840, by opponents of Mexican President Antonio de Santa Anna. They did not meet a good end.
Now, as then, there are many jockeying for position along the border, and in Mexico itself. I chose not to approach the river area this time, having satisfied my curiosity on Friday (5/25), at Boca Chica.
Here a few other shots around downtown and midtown Laredo.
This is the County Courthouse, in midtown.
Here is some of Laredo’s lovely tile and wrought iron work. Below are a couple of other samples of the city’s exquisite Castilian architecture.
I headed northwest, towards the southern edge of Texas Hill Country, and briefly said farewell to Laredo at the Texas Visitors’ Center, a grand place by itself.
There are several gardens- and koi.
So it is that life on the mid-border is not as sketchy as some see it- but as with anywhere there is conflict, prudence works.
Next: Day 9, Part 2- Carrizo Springs to the Southern Hill Country