The annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas is unlike any other in the country. The festival lasts an entire month and coincides with George Washington's birthday. For more than a century the city's coming-out celebrations have involved intricate paeans to America's colonial past.
In 1939, the Society of Martha Washington was founded to usher each year's debutantes (called "Marthas") into proper society at the Colonial Pageant and Ball. The girls' attendants also dress as figures from America's colonial history and participate in traditional ceremonies.
The centerpiece of the festivities is the Martha Washington Pageant and Ball, when the girls are presented in elaborate dresses that take up to a year to create.
The festival celebration — which dates from the aftermath of the US-Mexican War and was shaped by the tensions following the influx of Anglo migrants to the newly American state of Texas — resonates anew in a time of economic uncertainty and political tension over immigration.
Still, the Washington Celebration has managed to persevere and even flourish, thanks in large part to the Mexican American girls who carry this gilded tradition on their young shoulders.
- Cristina IbarraProducer/Director
- Erin Ploss-CampoamorProducer