A reader writes:
I live in Laredo, and when I heard the news, my first thought was, "typical." This is just the sort of backwards, inexplicable crap that happens in Laredo every day. I wish I could explain to you why this city of a quarter of a million people has 2 major hospitals, but no 24-hour pharmacy. Or how our only Outback Steakhouse just went bankrupt a few weeks ago. Or why there are "eight liner" gambling establishments on every corner, along with our rampant poverty. Or how Laredo has three colleges campuses, but now, no bookstore.
There's an odd mix of politics and xenophobia at work on Laredo. It's the biggest inland port in America, but it's also a closed culture, two hours from any other major population area. In Laredo, you're either a paisano or you're not, and people like it that way. Laredoans sometimes joke that Laredo is "occupied territory" -- it's not quite Texas, and not quite Mexico.
As you might expect, the drug trade is big here too.
While certainly most cities have a criminal underground, in Laredo, it's practically out in the open. An estimated 20% of Laredo's population are somehow connected to trafficking. It's reasonable to suspect that the drug culture is at the root of the vast majority of Laredo's problems.
Our literacy rate is 47%, compared to the national average of about 80%. Most kids here grow up learning both English and Spanish, but never really master either language, and when they speak, they unconsciously switch back and forth between languages. We have a library system, but the selections are sparse compared to libraries in other similarly-sized cities.
I realize this sounds like nothing more than a disjointed rant against Laredo. I wish I could give you something more profound, but even having lived here 5 years, I still don't understand this place. I can tell you that, for native Laredoans and those that choose to spend their lives here, most of them love the city the way it is and wouldn't want to live anywhere else. They don't want it to change, even when it's changing for the better.
For myself, the closing of the B.Dalton won't affect me too much, since I've been using Amazon Prime to buy all my books ever since moving here. Perhaps I'm the reason the bookstore went under? ;-)
That 47% figure, in fact, is the lowest of any American city surveyed in the last census. And ABC News called the US-Mexican border at Laredo "the most lucrative drug corridor in North America." More on the city here.