Laredo: From 275-day national capital to border boomtown

Flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande – now the city flag of Laredo, TX – Source:

Between 1838 and 1841 there was an effort to establish a new nation along the Rio Grande composed of parts of the Northern Frontier of Mexico and disputed portions of the then Republic of Texas located south of the Nueces River. Named the Republic of the Rio Grande by its founders, Laredo was chosen as the capital city. The photo below shows the capitol building located in downtown Laredo, which is now home to the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum.

National Capitol Building – Source:

A dispute with the central government of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in Mexico City had led to the establishment of the republic. Authorities in Mexico City were trending towards a Centralist form of government, while the northern residents bordering the Rio Grande preferred a less-centralized, Federalist system.

Much of the approximate three-year period when efforts were being made to establish this new nation, was spent trying to maintain its newly declared independence from Mexico. Texas, on the other hand generally took a hands-off approach, though some Texans fought on the side of the Republic of the Rio Grande when it clashed with armies of the central government.

Texas portion – light red & Mexico portion – dark red – Source:

The map shown above identifies the boundaries of this short-lived and disputed nation. The Republic of the Rio Grande formally existed for just 275 days – from January 17, 1840 to November 6, 1840. Among the appointed officials who served in office during this brief time period were:

Vice President Carbajal – Source:


1892 map of Laredo – Source:

However, the demise of the Republic of the Rio Grande was not the end of the story for Laredo. Today, Laredo, Texas is known as the Gateway City and it routinely contends with Los Angeles as the busiest trade port city in the United States (land, sea, and/or air). It is also the largest inland port on the U.S./Mexican border, as a huge proportion of the goods and commerce between the two countries passes through the city and its younger sister, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico located just across the Rio Grande. This booming transborder metropolitan agglomeration is now is home to nearly 800,000 residents.


As the most important border crossing with Mexico (best access to Monterrey and Mexico City), Laredo is a critical hub for highways and railroads. Currently, Interstates 35 and 69W intersect here, with Interstate 2 in the process of being extended from the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Interstate 27 planned to be extended to Laredo from Lubbock. Additionally, Laredo/Nuevo Laredo is the busiest rail crossing between the United States and Mexico, with both Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific having major operations here. Four bridges (three road and one rail) provide cross-border access with another railway bridge under development.

Source: via

Needless to say, it appears those who founded the Republic of the Rio Grande understood the importance of the Laredo area as a trade and economic center when they named it their national capital 181 years ago last month. Given its current trajectory, greater Laredo will continue to excel as the most important capital of transborder commerce between the United States and Mexico for many decades to come.

Viva Laredo!

Satellite image of Laredo/Nuevo Laredo – Source:


If you are interested in Laredo and/or the Republic of the Rio Grande, here are a few items (a book, a flag, and a poster) that are available through*




*A small commission is earned from purchases that are made using these links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


This entry was posted in archaeology, cities, commerce, culture, geography, government, highways, historic preservation, history, land use, Latin America, Maps, Mexico, pictures, place names, placemaking, politics, rail, Railroads, rivers/watersheds, shipping, topography, tourism, Trade, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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