September 11, 2023
Mehnaaz Momen, author of Listening to Laredo, tells the story of the largest port in the United States through the voices of its residents. In this L.A. Times Editorial, Momen writes, “The flow of money has shifted from the city itself to the four international bridges tying the local economy to the crumbs of international trade. Homegrown economic growth helped bring prosperity to the city in the 1960s and ’70s. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, however, transformed the beautiful downtown and the mighty Rio Grande into a mere passage for money, merchandise and narcotics.”
She interviewed Alec Martinez, a local resident who has worked in city government. He told her, “Laredo is like the goose that lays the golden eggs. Everyone is interested in the eggs, but no one cares about the goose.”
Momen offers hope for the city, in spite of state and national efforts to militarize the border. She writes, “Laredoans are excitedly awaiting the construction of the River Vega project, a binational park planned to run along the much-maligned Rio Grande for residents of Laredo as well as Nuevo Laredo across the border. This project has grown out of a community-driven master plan, Viva Laredo, focused on reanimating the historic downtown and enhancing quality-of-life features for residents.”
About the book:
Listening to Laredo is an exploration of how the dizzying forces of change have defined this locale, how they continue to be inscribed and celebrated, and how their effects on the physical landscape have shaped the identity of the city and its people.
In contrast to the many studies of border cities defined by the outside—and seldom by the people who live at the border—this volume collects oral histories from seventy-five in-depth interviews that collectively illuminate the evolution of the city’s cultural and economic infrastructure, its interdependence with its sister city across the national boundary, and, above all, the strength of its community as it adapts to and even challenges the national narrative regarding the border.