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Life in Laredo

A Documentary History from the Laredo Archives

Robert D. Wood

Publication Year: 2004

Based on documents from the Laredo Archives, Life in Laredo shows the evolution and development of daily life in a town under the flags of Spain, Mexico, and the United States. Isolated on the northern frontier of New Spain and often forgotten by authorities far away, the people of Laredo became as grand as the river that flowed by their town and left an enduring legacy in a world of challenges and changes. Because of its documentary nature, Life in Laredo offers insights into the nitty-gritty of the comings and goings of its early citizens not to be found elsewhere. Robert D. Wood, S.M., presents the first one hundred years of history and culture in Laredo up to the mid-nineteenth century, illuminating--with primary source evidence--the citizens’ beliefs, cultural values, efforts to make a living, political seesawing, petty quarreling, and constant struggles against local Indians. He also details rebellious military and invading foreigners among the early settlers and later townspeople. Scholars and students of Texas and Mexican American history, as well as the Laredoans celebrating the 250th anniversary (in 2005) of Laredo’s founding, will welcome this volume. “Although there have been a number of books on the history of Laredo, this particular study is far more thorough than any previous work. Life in Laredo is imaginatively organized, exceptionally well researched, and well written. No individual knows the Laredo Archives as well as Robert Wood, and his knowledge and understanding are readily evident. This book will be of interest to anyone studying the history of the Texas-Mexico border, Texas colonial history, or just Texas history in general.”--Jerry D. Thompson, author of A Wild and Vivid Land: An Illustrated History of the South Texas Border and Laredo: A Pictorial History

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Al Filo: Mexican American Studies Series

Life in Laredo

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List of Illustrations

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pp. vi

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pp. vii-viii

For several years I toyed with the idea of writing a history of Laredo, but meanwhile decided to publish a few volumes of the documents that I thought might be more useful. I am grateful to the Webb County Heritage Foundation for their award recognizing these efforts. The present history is the result of some stimulation sparked by Dr. Roberto Calder

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I. Background Factors: The Source, the Laredo Archives

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pp. 1-12

In singing “The Cowboy’s Lament” (“As I walked out on the streets of Laredo . . .”) one could easily forget that this intriguing city was once a part of Spain. In a way this was fortunate because the preservation of papers and records dealing with national, municipal, legal, commercial, religious and social affairs was one of the ongoing and important requirements of Spain from her colonies...

II. Life in Laredo

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1. Beginnings and Consolidation: 1747–1767

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pp. 15-27

The Six Flags entertainment parks in various states that were once part of the Louisiana Territory remind us of the “ownership” of these lands by various governments, and while it was never part of the Louisiana Territory, the history of Laredo has to begin with the desire of Spain to protect the possessions it had had in America for over two centuries.1 Ambitious, adventurous, and courageous explorers...

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2. Laredo’s Leaders

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pp. 28-55

Politics and the weather are probably the most talked about topics everywhere. While we can not do much about the second, we consistently try not to let the first interfere with our lives too much, or else we try to figure out ways in which we can use the current political situation to our advantage. A civilized society can not really exist without...

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3. Changing Allegiances

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pp. 56-76

By the very fact that a person is born in a given place, that individual knowingly or unknowingly assumes an obligation of loyalty to the government and of responsibility to observe its laws, which are meant to protect the people and keep things functioning smoothly. How people view a government is often based on how effectively they think it is serving them. Sometimes citizens will feel that the government...

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4. A World of Enemies

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pp. 77-109

Laredo had been in existence for twenty-eight years before the rebellion of the English colonies in North America resulted in the Treaty of Paris and the recognition of the new nation of the United States of America. Even before this, however, the English colonists had begun to look westward for land, impervious to the fact that this “wilderness”...

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5. Sociological Aspects

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pp. 110-135

Every October 12 when the United States is commemorating Columbus Day, Mexico is celebrating “Día de la Raza,” the day on which a new “race” was born, a new people created from a mixture of those who came from Europe and those who were native to America. The term used to define this mixture is mestizo. Spain was extremely class conscious, and this was only one of a whole catalogue of new terms that were used to define the blood mixtures of the Spanish...

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6. Faith and Culture

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pp. 136-163

Even in the most primitive of cultures, religious belief has always been central to the way of life. The major feasts and celebrations were times of petition and appeasement to the god or gods who were believed to control things. Prayer and ritual accompanied the most mundane of activities, changes in status, sowing and harvesting, healing and health. Often, ways of doing things, the components of culture, were determined by belief. Faith and culture have always been closely...

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7. Making a Living

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pp. 164-178

Wordsworth wrote, “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” 1 Most people have no trouble with spending. Getting is another matter. According to the reports from city officials over the years, it would seem that the Laredoans had a hard time earning a living and “wealth” was not a word applicable to most of them. Like anywhere else in the world, there were the few who were well off and had even abundant...

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8. Communications

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pp. 179-188

The history of Laredo found in the archives exists first of all because there were continuous efforts to preserve the documents, including those mentioned at the beginning of this book. Secondly, it exists because there was reasonably good communication between the various towns and particularly with the capital of the department or province...

Photo Gallery

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III. Conditions in Laredo

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1. 1789

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p. 191-191

Note: This town has a recently built church and sacristy of stone and a minister, the priest and vicar Bachelor Don Juan Josef de la Garza who has no income except from the alms given by the residents and the aforementioned Indians. This town has 48 residents with weapons, that is guns and some leather shields, 4 stone houses and 2 of adobe, 19 thatched huts (jacales) enclosed with stone walls, 18 enclosed with adobe, 5 with cut branches and 37 with plants, making a total of 85 dwellings, not counting those in which the soldiers live...

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2. 1819

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pp. 192-193

Note: Of the forty-four ranches mentioned, thirty-seven of them are deserted because of the devastating war that the barbarian nations to the north wage on us, and the seven remaining have people only at great cost and risk at the times of sowing, cleaning, and harvesting, which are unpredictable since the fields are on the banks of the Rio Grande whose unforeseen and excessive floods can ruin them, and this is one of the main occupations of most of the inhabitants who live...

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3. 1824

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pp. 194-195

Notes: The type of business in which these residents are engaged is from products of the earth since their capital, which is no more than 400 to 600 pesos, does not permit them to do any more than sell wine, piloncillo, soap, and other such things, and this does not bring in more...

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4. 1828

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pp. 196-198

The town of San Agust

Appendix I. Names of the original settlers of the town of Laredo

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p. 199-199

Appendix II. Land grants (sections) allotted during the Visit of 1767

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pp. 200-202


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pp. 203-211

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414196
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411737

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 12 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Al Filo: Mexican American Studies Series