Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989 Page: 21
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In 1767 Laredo was laid out with the Plaza de San Augustin at its center. An early photo of San Augustin
Church c. 1927. Both photos courtesy of Nuevo Santander Museum.
The issues of
needs of a
facades in the
player in local politics and as an advocate
of preservation. When Laredo Junior College
considered demolishing the officer's
quarters at Fort MacIntosh to make way for
dormitories, Rose Trevifio was on the
phone to the college. As Texas Steward, it
is her duty to educate the community. She
does it eloquently, persuasively, and with
passion. And local officials roll their eyes
and nod agreeably, apprehensive that if
they don't listen, Rose Trevifio will parade
more concubines before the troops.
Rose Trevifio is well-known in Laredo
as the most visible and energetic advocate
for historic preservation. But she is not
alone. A solid corps of Heritage supporters
have built a strong movement for local
preservation needs. They conduct an
annual Fiesta Caceria, a wild foods banquet,
to support their regional museum, the
Nuevo Santander museum. They give
vocal and financial support to preservation
needs in the community. Volunteer involvement
has been growing on both sides
of the Rio. And even when the arena of
public debate has become charged and
confrontational, the preservation community
has held together in the face of official
diffidence about preservation needs.
One Laredoan shook his head about her
tactics. The issue was getting tiresome, he
commented. "People in Laredo have bigger
fish to fry." Maybe so. But the issues of
preservation in Laredo have grown considerably
beyond the needs of a few historic
facades in the old downtown. The City of
Monterrey is proposing to build a new
bridge a few miles above Laredo where its
state ofNuevo Leon borders on Texas. The
new bridge would need new highways, new
access, new communities. It appears that
the proposed location will threaten the
historical community of Palafox. Of
course, the development will be required to
mitigate the effect on the cultural resource.
But much larger issues are at stake. Recent
history has shown that the border is the last
economic hope for many immigrants from
the interior of Mexico. The twin plants or
maquiladores that provide cheap labor for
the mulinational corporations breed
sprawling communities and colonias with
inadequate sanitation and other essential
community services. Rose Trevifio is concerned
that whole new towns will spring up
at each end of the bridge.
She is concerned from her official position
as guardian of the past, but preservation
has become a bigger issue. How much
can this river support? How much pollution?
How much toxic waste? They had a
hydrologist do a death certificate check for
the Rio and found the highest percent of
liver and pancreatic cancer in the country.
There are already 16 new discharges of raw
sewage from Nuevo Laredo polluting
downstream from Laredo. How much more
will there be? We can survive the new
cities. We've survived the closing of the
base, the devaluation of the peso, but we
can't survive if we lose the Rio. If the world
stops to save a few whales, surely we could
get together to rescue a river?
Preservation in Laredo is not just a cosmetic
issue. Heritage is natural as well as
cultural, it cuts to the quick of the economic
life and the physical health of the
community as well as the people in it. It is
as integral to feeding families as it is to
effecting that vague and controversial
concept, quality of life. Rose Trevifo is
demonstrating through her tireless and
passionate involvement that the issues of
historic preservation are not just limited to
the saving of a few desolate stone walls at
the Presidio of Palafox, but embody vital
economic crises that threaten the future as
well as the past of Laredo. As Rose Trevino
insists, unless there is concern for all the
effects of further development along the
Rio, Laredo itself will be the bigger fish that
John Peterson is an archaeologist and Book
Review Editor for Heritage.
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1989 21
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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/m1/21/: accessed February 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.