Religious and Social Life
Religious and Social Life
Religious institutions played a major role in the development of Laredo. The first church of San Agustín, on the oldest congregations in Texas, was conducted in a jacal (hut) in 1767. Built of stone in 1778, the second church faced the river. The present Gothic Revival church was completed in 1872, and served as a cathedral under bishop Peter Verdaguer at the turn of the century.
Founded in 1868, the Ursuline Academy provided Catholic education to girls. Saint Augustine Parochial School was built in 1927, serving 500 youths in its first year. Laredo’s first hospital, operated by the Sisters of Mercy, opened in 1894 at the Flynn residence in the Heights. In 1899, the hospital moved to the Steffan residence on Jarvis Plaza. During a 1903 yellow fever epidemic, the hospital staff nursed more than 1,000 patients in a 36-hour period.
German and Anglo-American immigrants established Protestant and Jewish congregations in the 1880s. The Laredo Seminary was founded in 1882 by Methodist Episcopal church, South. It was later renamed the Holding Institute for Nannie E. Holding, who served as school superintendent for more than 30 years.
Mexican holidays such as Cinco de Mayo and Dieciséis de Septiembre traditionally were celebrated in Laredo. The George Washington’s Birthday Celebration originated in the 1860s and was revived by civic leaders in the Yaqui Tribe of the Improved Order of the Red Men to promote American Patriotism. The Order, dressed in Indian costume, presented plays and performed wild dances at the Market Hall. In 1923, the George Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association formed to produce a night pageant depicting a colonial ball. A Fiesta Noche Mexicana was added in 1925.
Community organizations provided avenues for socializing, political achievement, mutual aid, and service. Two Laredo mutualistas (mutual societies) include the Hijos de Juárez and the Mariano Ecobedo Lodge. National fraternal groups such as the Sons of Hermann, Woodmen of the World, Masonic Lodge, Knight of Pythias, Knight Templar and Miriam Chapter were present in Laredo at the turn of the century. Chartered in 1922, the Knight of Columbus Council 2304 promoted education and charity and provided burial insurance to its members.
Other social activities such as dances, band concerts in the plazas, shows at the opera house, and sports were popular. Bullfights and horse races were held on weekends in Nuevo Laredo. Picnics and barbecues were regular family activities.
Webb County Heritage Foundation
500 Flores Avenue, Laredo, Texas
Post Office Box 446
Laredo, TX 78042-0446
Phone: 956-727-0977 | Fax: 956-727-0577 | e-mail: email@example.com