By Karla Reyna and Selena Borjas
Laredo is mostly known for having the biggest in-land export-import bridge, and port of entry, however there is a rich history behind this city of seven flags, each one representing a different facet of its heritage, and the least known of them is the one representing the Republic of Rio Grande.
It is an often forgotten part of the city’s past, but at one point in time Laredo served as the capital to the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande. When we think of Laredo, one often thinks of the unique bilingual culture, the food, or even its music, but rarely does the Republic of Rio Grande come up. However, the Republic is where the city’s mark began long before Texas was annexed to the United States.
The museum of the Republic of Rio Grande showcases Laredo’s history as it was established to be the capital of the republic. The museum was established in 1980 by the Webb County Heritage Foundation to conserve the house and the rich history behind it. Located in the downtown San Agustin Historical District, the capitol building still stands—it has since been restored and it is open to the public. An interesting bridge to the past, there are not only restored rooms to walk through, but also books and pictures; they are is a peek into the Laredo of the 19th Century.
All photos by Selena Borjas
Andrea Ordonez, a Republic of Rio Grande museum assistant explains how “a lot of people in Laredo don’t know about their history. Like with anything it is important to know where we come from and what we have done.” When asked what made the museum so important, she went on to say “a lot of people know how important this city is, the things that have happened, that makes us unique as a city.
For example, the Republic of Rio Grande, that we were part of this independent republic, and that Laredo was the actual capital. It was short lived, but it is important, it shows how unique people of Laredo are.” Ordonez also wanted to add how “this building was the capital building from that republic, so it is a piece of history they can come look at.”
The historic museum does not only attract a local crowd, however; it is an interesting piece of history for many travelers. When asked who exactly was going to the museum, Ordonez explained, “We get a little bit of everything. We do get a lot of people from out of town. We get people from in and out of the state, from many different countries. This month we had some people from Italy, which was exciting.” The museum is not only a tourist attraction, but also a source of learning; Ordonez also mentioned how they “get lots of locals as well, and from LISD schools, students from all different ages.”
The museum serves various functions—it preserves the city’s proud past, it reminds its people of their roots, and it brings in commerce through tourism. It serves as a reminder of what once was, and it educates the city’s youth in an engaging manner. Laredo is not a city under six flags, it is one under seven, and it is worth remembering why.
Be it for knowledge, tourism, or as a way to connect to one’s heritage, you can visit the Republic of Rio Grande Museum year-round from Tuesday to Thursday, from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon. There is also a two-dollar admission fee. They can be reached by phone (956) 727-0977 or through their website at webbheritage.org/museums/republic-of-the-rio-grande-museum.