Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989 Page: 20
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Sighing about yesteryear like this isn't
just blind nostalgia; nobody wants to recreate
the 1800s, especially with the typhus
and cholera and infant mortality and Indian
raids that made for a perilous life. But
the character of our past, of our heritage, is
an important part of the quality of our life.
And especially in the public architecture of
old Laredo, its churches and its plazas, it
didn't matter and it doesn't matter whether
you are rich or poor, Anglo or Mexican,
mayor or citizen. The heritage of a community
defines its character, and links its
people with a sense of place and culture and
belonging and pride. Especially in a city
whose identity has been fed by a rich mix of
north and south, Indian and Old World.
The historic monuments and buildings and
open public spaces are living testimony to
Besides, it's good business. Tourists are
attracted to places with character. The
Chamber of Commerce in Laredo spends a
half million dollars a year to promote
Laredo's character to potential tourists
around the state and the nation. But the
city of Laredo spends only $3,000 for an
Historic Zones and Landmarks Board to
protect the city's character from the wrecking
ball. And in the last few years that's
been mighty little to protect the city's last
few landmarks. The energy behind historic
preservation in Laredo has come from
people rather than agencies or institutions,
and many dedicated civic-minded people
make up the Webb County Heritage Society,
support the Nuevo Santander Museum,
and serve on the Historic Zones and
One individual in particular has so
whole-heartedly embraced the heritage of
Laredo that she has been named Texas
Steward for South Texas by the Texas
Antiquities Committee; organized the
57th Annual Meeting of the Texas Archeological
Society in Laredo in 1986; was
honored by the Texas House of Representatives
with a resolution citing her accomplishments
in 1987; has served on the
Historic Zones and Landmarks Board for
the City since 1985; has been president of
the Board of Trustees for the Webb County
Heritage Foundation for the past two years;
lectures widely throughout northern Mexico
where she is spearheading efforts to
form sister archeological societies in the
states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and
Tamaulipas; and still finds time to haul
water from the bookstore at Laredo Junior
College to the children's museum and
~0 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1989
Today Laredo continues a long tradition of Mexican culture that has been little disrupted by Texan
governance . Photo courtesy of Nuevo Santander Museum.
archeology lab that she is helping to build
from scratch. Rose Trevifio is also mother
of six children, grandmother of seven
grandchildren, and an active member of
the Texas Nature Conservancy and other
environmental groups. Heritage for Rose
Trevifio is all-encompassing. It includes
the natural as well as the built environment.
It embraces the needs of the poor as
well as the character of a few old buildings
in downtown Laredo. Rose is herself an
institution in Los Dos Laredos.
To be fair about the issue, let's imagine
that nobody sets out on purpose to destroy
the old and the venerable. It just happens,
as an unfortunate by-product of progress.
We all mourn the loss, but respond to
changing needs. The Mercado needs a new
parking lot; the rotted facade of an historic
house on the Saint Augustine Plaza can't
be repaired; universities need space for
growing student bodies at old Fort MacIntosh;
and the state of Nuevo Leon needs a
new bridge and access through the oldest
Spanish fort along the Rfo Grande at
Palafox north of Laredo. The National
Historic Preservation Act, along with
other pieces of federal and state legislation,
protects these areas. Fort MacIntosh, the
Palafox Presidio, and the Plaza de San
Augustin are all National Register Districts.
And the City of Laredo exercised its
sense of responsibility by creating the Historic
Zones and Landmarks Board to protect
these resources and consider the heritage
needs of the city.
It was just a coincidence that Rose
Trevifio was out of town the day that the
City Council issued a permit to wreck an
historic house on the Plaza de San Augustfn
in the National Register District.
And it was just bad luck that workers
started ripping off the roof the very same
day. Trevifio raced back to Laredo to find
the demolition in progress. She called the
permits office at the City. "Yes, Ma'am, we
know nothing about it."
At that point she remembered the
tactics of a Chinese emperor whose army
was on the point of rebellion. He loaded up
several of his concubines and displayed
them to the army, tittering and giggling in
their elegant clothes, and then decapitated
two of them as a signal to the troops. The
army fell in line, and as the emperor
recounted it, he only had to do it once.
Rose Trevifio called out her own troops,
and after the local television and radio and
newspaper folks descended on the controversy,
she had created a furor in the community
that is still felt today. She had
brought Laredo's heritage to public attention,
and while she may be a gadfly to some,
she has firmly established her role as a
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989, periodical, Summer 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45431/m1/20/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.