Laredo became popular in the mid-1960s with the NBC’s TV series about Texas rangers called “Laredo.” The city was also popularized through the famous song “Streets of Laredo,” written by Frank H. Maynard and performed by Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, among others.
The city is a major transportation and trade center between USA and Mexico. It is part of the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo Metropolitan Area. Its residents are called Laredoans.
The first permanent settlement in the area was founded in 1755 and called Villa de San Agustin de Laredo. At the time, the area was part of the Nuevo Santander region of New Spain. The settlement was named after the city of Laredo in Spain and after Saint Augustine of Hippo.
In 1840, Laredo was the capital of the Republic of the Rio Grande, which was eventually restituted to Mexico by military force. Texas Rangers occupied Laredo in 1846, during the Mexican-American War. When the war ended, the city and the surrounding area were ceded to the United States, under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The residents, however, wanted to go back under Mexican rule and held a petition, which was eventually rejected and Laredo remained part of the USA. Still, a number of residents crossed the river to Mexico and founded New Laredo.
Fort McIntosh, a U.S. military base, opened in 1849, although it was originally called Camp Crawford. Laredo was recharted, this time as a city, in 1952.
Laredo is among the oldest border crossings between USA and Mexico. Today, it is the nation’s largest inland port of entry.
The city is located on the north bank of the Rio Grande, in Webb County in South Texas. It lies in the western portion of the Rio Grande Plains, west of the Coastal Plains east of the Mexican Mountains and south of the Edwards Plateau. The terrain is a combination of flat land with grass, mesquite and oak and several medium-sized hills.
There are six major creeks, all draining in the Rio Grande: Chacon Creek, San Ildefonso Creek, San Ygnacio Creek, Santa Isabel Creek, Sombrerillito Creek and Zacate Creek. The largest man-made reservoir is Lake Casa Blanca on Chacok Creek, and there are also two smaller creeks, on Sombrerillito and San Ildefonso creeks.
Laredo has a hot semi-arid climate. Because of its position, the weather in the city may quickly change from long periods of extreme heat to sudden bursts of severe weather, especially thunderstorms. It has colder winters than the majority of south Texas. Snowfall is rare but it does occur occasionally. The city has a white Christmas in 2004.
In 2010, Laredo had a population of 236,091. It was the 81st most populous city in the USA and the tenth-most populous in Texas. In 2000, Laredo was the second-fastest growing city in the nation, behind Las Vegas.
The city is known for its large Hispanic majority. The racial makeup in 2010 was 95.6% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 3.4% non-Hispanic White, 0.6% Asian, 0.2% non-Hispanic Black or African American, 0.1% some other race and 0.1% two or more races.
The median household income in 2010 was $32,019 and the per capita income was $12,269.
Laredo is a major center for the U.S. trade with Mexico. In fact, more than 47% of American international trade for Mexico goes through Laredo and 36% of Mexican international trade goes through Laredo’s port of entry. The port of entry consists of four bridges across the Rio Grande. The economy of Laredo relies heavily on commercial warehouses, export and import.
Retail is another major sector, especially for shoppers from Mexico and South Texas. Laredo has two major shopping malls and a number of smaller shopping centers.
Another important sector is banking. The city is home to the Falcon International Bank, International Bank of Commerce, BBVA Compass and Texas Community Bank.
Top employers in Laredo in 2010 were United Independent School District, Laredo Independent School District, City of Laredo, Laredo Sector Border Patrol, H-E-B, Webb County, Laredo Medical Center, Texas A&M International University, McDonald’s, Walmart, Convergys, Doctors Hospital, International Bank of Commerce, Stripes Convenience Stores, Laredo Entertainment Center and Falcon International Bank.
The largest event in the city, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, is the month-long Washington Birthday Celebration. Other popular events include the Jalapeno Festival, Stockman’s Ball, Princess Pocahontas Pageant and Mr. South Texas Luncheon.
Notable museums in the city include the Laredo Center for the Arts, Republic of the Rio Grande Capitol Building Museum, Imaginarium of South Texas and the Nuevo Santander Museum Complex. The city is also home to the Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center Planetarium, one of the finest in Texas.
The architecture of Laredo is dominated by Spanish Colonial, Mexican and American styles. The city has a number of quite impressive churches, such as San Martin de Porres, San Agustin Cathedral and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Lake Casa Blanca International State Park is the most popular recreation area for the residents of Laredo. It is a man-made lake that offers many recreational possibilities, such as swimming, water-skiing, camping, cooking-out, mountain biking and hiking.
As for the higher education, Laredo is home to the Laredo Community College, Texas A&M International University and a campus of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Major highways in Laredo area include I-35, U.S. Highways 59 and 83, State Highways 255 and 359 and State Loop 20. International bridges to Mexico include Gateway to the Americas, Juarez-Lincoln, World Trade, Colombia-Solidarity and Texas-Mexican railway international bridges.
Mass transit in the area is provided by El Metro, with a fleet of busses, trolleys and vans.
The city is served by Laredo International Airport with service to Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas and Orlando.