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Timeline of Laredo, Texas
Laredo Center for the Arts in the downtown square
Though the facility has been closed since 1999, the marquee of the Plaza Theater in downtown Laredo has been renovated A citizens committee, including the restaurateur
Danny Lopez, Jr., of the Danny's Restaurant chain, sought without success to establish a private-public partnership to reopen the Plaza as a live entertainment venue.
In 2018, the city council sought private entities, non-profit organizations
, and an architect to make the facility useful again.
The European colonial settlement of Villa de San Agustin de Laredo was founded in 1755 by Don Tomás Sánchez while the area was part of the Nuevo Santander region in the Spanish colony of New Spain. Villa de San Agustin de Laredo was named after Laredo, Cantabria, Spain and in honor of Saint Augustine of Hippo. In 1840, Laredo was the capital of the independent Republic of the Rio Grande, set up in opposition to Antonio López de Santa Anna; it was brought back into Mexico by military force.
In 1846 during the Mexican–American War, the town was occupied by the Texas Rangers. After the war, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ceded the land to the United States. A referendum was taken in the town, which voted to petition the American military government in charge of the area to return the town to Mexico. When this petition was rejected, most of the population, who were Tejano and had been in the area for generations, moved across the river into Mexican territory, where they founded Nuevo Laredo. In 1849, the United States Army set up Fort McIntosh (originally Camp Crawford). Laredo was rechartered as a city in 1852.
Laredo is one of the oldest crossing points along the Mexico–United States border, and the nation's largest inland port of entry. In 2005, Laredo celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding.
The origin of name of the original Spanish town of Laredo is unclear. Some scholars say the name stems from
Glaretum which means "sandy, rocky place". Others state Laredo stems from a Basque word meaning "beautiful pastures". Laredo might also stem from the Latin Larida which means gull.
In 1946, the Plaza Theater opened in downtown Laredo, but it closed in 1999, when the municipal government purchased the property from United Artists. In 2001, the Laredo City Council authorized a feasibility study to determine what use the old theater might yet have. In 2003, a consultant recommended converting the Plaza into a multi-purpose performing arts center, with dance recitals, concerts, live theater, and occasional films. In 2006, the city received an economic development grant for renovation of the Plaza. By 2008, renovations were made to the theater marquee and blade design. In 2011, a public-private partnership was attempted by two Laredo businessmen, Danny Lopez, Jr., and Victor Trevino, Jr., but that initiative never materialized. In 2018, the city council authorized the solicitation of private entities and non-profit organizations to operate the theater. The council is also seeking input from architects for the concept and design of renovations to the structure.
In 1954, Laredo faced a devastating Rio Grande flood, when the water reached 61.35 feet (18.70 m), more than 10 feet (3.05 m) higher than in the previous 1932 flood, which had also caused great damage. According to Laredo historian Jerry D. Thompson of Texas A&M International University, the 1954 flood was "the largest in ninety-one years and the second largest according to archeological records in the last three hundred years." Many were left homeless for a time because of the calamity. Former Webb County administrative Judge Mercurio Martinez, Jr., recalls his father surveyed the depth of the water and advised residents to evacuate. Several downtown businesses had to remove their merchandise inventory or risk losing it to the rising waters. The flood caused the relocation of the Holding Institute. The international bridge was destroyed when it was struck by the floating railroad bridge, which had been hit by the debris of another bridge in Eagle Pass up the river. Photos of the flood by Teofilo Esquivel, Sr., are on the wall of a Danny's Restaurant on McPherson Avenue in Laredo.
In 2016, the violent crime rate in Laredo dropped to 379 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to www.areavibes.com. The violent crime rate in Dallas was 694 per 100,000 inhabitants. In Houston it was 967 per 100,000 inhabitants.