I have loved
since I was 14 years old, a high-school sophomore, and I drove down there with three seniors. All I knew of Laredo
was the Marty Robbins version of the song, “Streets of Laredo,” so I sort of
half-expected to see gunslingers in the street and a horse-drawn hearse at the
corner. I was studying Spanish in high
school – making a D- only because my Spanish teacher was also my homeroom
teacher and she was being kind – so if there was any trouble across the border,
my language skills weren’t going to help us.
Ricky, Joe, Donna, and I left San Antonio early on the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, driving down old Highway 81 which was originally a “feeder trail” for the
Chisholm Trail. Highway 81 – now overcome by NAFTA’s superhighway
I-35 – passed through small towns where the local sheriffs set up speed traps. If you were stopped for speeding, you went to
see the Justice of the Peace right away to pay your fine. If you didn’t have enough cash, you stayed
with the JP until while you sent for it. Lytle, Texas was particularly known for that.
We reached in
That first visit, there were multitudes of children on the bridge, begging for nickels and we gave away all we had. Adults on the bridge sold Chiclets, puppets, and wildly painted donkeys made of plaster of Paris, hawking to impulse or last-minute buyers.
Mexican culture permeates
and stepping through the border terminal that contribution is distilled, making
clear what Mexico
adds to the Texas mix – language,
of course, but also food, music, designs in clothing and furniture, religion, superstition
and more. Nuevo Laredo
was very animated compared
on that hot, dusty Sunday where retail stores were shut down in accordance with the
Laredo and the rest of Texas Texas Blue Laws.
Ricky and Joe got tired of shopping pretty quickly, and since we were all hungry, we headed for the Cadillac Bar. The Cadillac Bar was famous by the time of my first visit, and it wouldn’t last much longer. Originally opened by a family from
New Orleans during
Prohibition, it had a distinct air of old Mexico
and the old West. It was located on a side
street in an adobe building without air conditioning. A long mahogany bar with
a brass foot-rail ran along the south wall at the entry and there were columns
down the middle of the room. The tables
had white cloths and the heavy wooden chairs were padded. The waiters wore black pants, white shirts, and
ties. The windows were wide open and we
spent some time shooing flies.
The Cadillac Bar was filled with tourists and classy locals. It offered good food, clean restrooms, and a filet mignon meal was $2. When we finished eating, we sat and talked at the table for a long time and nobody tried to rush us out.
That was my introduction to
and I’ve been back many times. I once
drove down from San Antonio with a fellow
who grew up in Nuevo Laredo and saw
different side of town. Every visit, I stopped
by the Cadillac Bar – which became the El Dorado
– for a meal and their famous Ramos Gin Fizz (aka New Orleans Gin Fizz). The best recipe I found on the Internet for
this light drink is ironically from a bartender in Canada
who also gives its history
When I lived in
I had a ritual of driving down with friends (once alone) on New Year’s Day to shop
and have lunch. I always brought back a
The Cadillac Bar aka
Dorado closed in 2010 forever.
Now for a music interlude:
There are over 21,000 versions of the song “Streets of Laredo” on YouTube. I think I listened to about 50 of them and suddenly thought, this sounds like Irish music. I did some research and found out that the melody of "The Streets of Laredo" does come from a 17th century Irish ballad. I chose 3 for your listening pleasure. My favorite is the Michael Martin Murphy version. What’s your favorite?
[Notice “skip the ad” on bottom left of screen in case an ad starts to play]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KaXj9SK1TE Michael Martin Murphy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTajKg46tRE Grannie Jans
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKTj5tAp1mo Tom Roush