OPINION: Washington Celebration holds important local heritage
By Gabrielle A. Prather
Bridge Staff Writer
Published Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021
In the month of February, many special holidays and occasions are noted such as Valentine’s Day and Black History Month but locally, there’s one major event that dominates Laredo culture.
The Washington’s Birthday Celebration is a citywide and month-long extravaganza honoring the first U.S. president George Washington. The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association sponsors the series of events that were created in 1923, which involve numerous organizations. Historically, the inaugural celebration was held in 1898 as a way of encouraging American patriotism along the Texas-Mexican border. This was a way of joining both neighbors as one and celebrating that unity.
This unity between Laredo, Mexico and the U.S. became the reason for the celebration on the border. Traditionally, they were looking for an “American” holiday that provided the best examples of the culture as inspired to make an impact on Laredo’s residents regarding their heritage. This holiday epitomizes the fight for freedom, for their own society and to seek that out on this specific holiday. Meanwhile, Washington garners high regard across the United States as one of its first military leaders and founding fathers.
As the first celebration occurred, it became a success, leading to the WBCA’s charter in 1923. In 1939, the birthday celebration featured the first-ever colonial pageant; they had 13 young girls from Laredo represent the 13 original colonies. One of the major events that takes place in this celebration is the International Bridge Ceremony. This welcome ceremony between the officials and dignitaries from Mexico and the United States includes an exchange of what’s called the abrazo that signify friendship and understanding between two neighboring nations.
Since years past, numerous attractions were added to the celebration that Laredo residents came to know all too well. These events, overall, cover the entire month of February and create an impact on the city.
The festivities are what really attract the community and bring a lot of participation around this time of year. We have the Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball that includes many girls wearing elaborate gowns and reflects the historical fashions. The Princess Pocahontas Council shares similar qualities with the Colonial Pageant and shares the elaborate outfits to symbolize the “lost traditions” passed down for decades.
There are festivals throughout; one, famously known as the Jalapeño Festival, brings in many activities, carnival rides, musical acts and vendors to the community. Some of the most popular events include the Youth Parade and the Grand Parade where Laredo’s history and culture are displayed to the community in a show of local pride. These feature many different creative floats, public school marching bands and major local businesses take part in the event.
Considering we are in the year 2021, since the impact of the coronavirus, life is quite strange in that for the first time in its history, we will not have the continuous celebration of Washington’s Birthday. Most people get excited about the carnival in town, and again the festivals, but the meaning of the celebration is such a liberating standpoint in regards to the amity of American, Mexican and Laredo cultures combined into one. It is always fortunate for Laredo residents to know the history of what we celebrate of our heritage.