Justo Cárdenas founded Laredo’s El Demócrata Fronterizo (the Democratic Border) in 1896 after his first Spanish-language paper, El Correo de Laredo (the Laredo Courier), folded. Cárdenas was a journalist from Monterrey, Mexico, who came to Laredo in 1883. He became a prominent member of the Mexican-American community and was named an honorary member of the Primer Congreso Mexicanista (First Mexican Congress), held in Laredo in September 1911. The editors of another Laredo Spanish-language paper, La Crónica (the Chronicle), had organized the Congress in an effort to unite the Mexican community after several attacks against Mexicans in Texans.

Cárdenas mainly used the daily El Demócrata Fronterizo to defend the interests of Mexicans in Texas and to comment on political events in Mexico. Although known as being pro-worker, Cárdenas was not afraid, to be honest in his criticism, such as when he condemned Mexican workers in Laredo for going on strike against the Mexican National Railway in 1906. Although it focused predominantly on Mexican issues, El Demócrata Fronterizo did its part to support the American effort during World War I, publishing translated notifications of the Food Administration’s conservation practices and advertisements asking readers to buy war bonds.

About the Collection

At the turn of the century, Laredo had 11 Spanish-language newspapers whose editors had a tendency to debate each other. World War I prompted many disagreements among the papers, including one regarding the United States government’s policy of “Work or Fight,” which required men who were not serving in the military, including non-citizens, to be employed in what was deemed “productive work.” Cardenas criticized these laws, prompting Eduardo Idar, editor of another Laredo newspaper--Evolucion (Evolution), to condemn Cardenas for not appreciating the country that had given him so much. El Demócrata Fronterizo also clashed with El Defensor del Obrero (the Worker’s Advocate) over labor issues, in particular, the Mexican National Railway strike, Cardenas opposing what he saw as the anarchistic sympathies of the other newspaper.

In addition to hard news and editorials, El Demócrata Fronterizo published poetry and short stories, particularly those of prominent Laredo resident Sara Estela Ramírez. With so many Spanish-language papers in competition in Laredo, El Demócrata Fronterizo tried to include many different elements so as to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Although it covered many political topics, the paper was considered to have an independent voice. El Demócrata Fronterizo was four pages long and 13 x 20 inches in size. Costing two dollars, it had a circulation of 800. The paper continued publication until around 1920.

At a Glance

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El Democrata Fronterizo in The Portal to Texas History. University of North Texas Libraries. https://texashistory.unt.edu/explore/collections/EDFRZ/ accessed March 23, 2019.

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