George & Martha go Tex-Mex

Laredo, Texas, hosts the country's oldest, biggest and most fantasmagórica Washington's birthday celebration.

photographs by Janjaap Dekker
text by Julia Reynolds


“I never lost the sense of wonder… of the spectacle … I love to listen to the national anthem of Mexico and of the U.S. And the wonder was that it all worked… even though I was scared to death that something would go terribly wrong.”

— Pepe González, chair of International Bridge Ceremony, 1961-1990

The 103rd Washington’s Birthday Celebration on the Mexican border

This has to be the only binational U.S. George Washington’s Birthday celebration in the Americas. And it certainly is the wildest, most extravagant and most Mexican recreation of George and Martha’s heyday during the U.S. colonial era. Throw in a few historical extravagances like Princess Pocahontas and the Caballeros of the República del Río Grande — a border republic that actually did secede form the U.S. and Mexico in the 1800s— and you have history re-invented, Laredo-style.

The ten days of partying are attended by the crema y nata of Laredoans from both sides of the border: Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. High-level politicians from both countries and dozens of debutantes come out for the Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball. The final Sunday parade, held after a binational “abrazo” on the International Bridge, is the only occasion when the Mexican army is allowed to march on U.S. soil.

George Edward Macdonald, a member of the receiving line for the Caballero de la República del Río Grande.

Lowrider car, representing “Brown Impressions” in the parade.

San Antonio Shriners, who participate in fifteen parades a year, say Laredo is by far the best.

George Edward Macdonald III escorting debutante Jaqueline Renee Hammond.



“The highlight of the annual Washington’s birthday week was always the parade. My stomach would fill with a certain mixture of fear and pride as the soldiers marched in cadence together with the flags of all colors. I have always marveled at the fact that Laredo is the only place in the USA where foreign march on American soil.”

— Francisco Raúl Canseco, this year’s George Washington.




© 2000 El Andar Magazine