Saturday, December 19, 2009

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #12): Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas

The 12th leg of our Road Trip takes us north from Monclova on Highway 57 to the town of Sabinas (a Mexican League city in the early 1970’s), where we’ll then head east on Highway 22 to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, home of the Tecolotes. Nuevo Laredo sits directly across from Laredo, Texas on the Mexico-USA border, where only the fabled Rio Grande separates the two cities (and countries).

The Laredo region’s history dates back to 1755, when Spaniard Don Tomas Sanchez founded the original settlement. The territory and its population remain united for nearly a century until the war between Mexico and the United States resulted in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which partitioned Laredo between the two countries via the Rio Grande. Present-day Nuevo Laredo was founded in 1848 by 17 families who remained loyal to Mexico and moved south of the river, even taking the remains of their ancestors so they might continue to rest in Mexican ground.

Nuevo Laredo has evolved into the most important trade border crossing in all of Latin America, with about 8,500 trucks crossing the border daily. The location of the city of 350,000 is almost perfect for international commerce, as it sits on the primary trade route between Mexico, the USA and Canada and is the only city on the Mexico-USA border strategically positioned at the convergence of all ground transportation systems. Seventy percent of all Mexican exports to North America travel through Nuevo Laredo, which is considered to be the largest inland port in Latin America.

Although the drug wars that have affected nearly all Mexican border cities are a present plague on Nuevo Laredo, there is still an active educational and cultural side to Nuevo Laredo. The city is home to six universities, four of which have strong emphases on business administration and technology trades while the other two are teacher’s colleges. There are three main theaters in town: the Centro Cultural, Teatro de la Ciudad and the Casa de Cultura, which all feature diverse fares such as music, plays, dance recitals, films and other forms of artistic expression. The major park in Nuevo Laredo is Parque Viveros, a 124-acre forest park overlooking the Rio Grande and housing a zoo, two swimming pools, walking trails and a picnic area with barbeque pits.

Nuevo Laredo is home to the Mexican League Tecolotes (or “Owls”), who returned to the city in 2008 after a four-year stay in Tijuana. Baseball has a long history in the Laredo region, where some claim the game was first played in Mexico. Nuevo Laredo has hosted five Mexican League pennant winners since 1945, with the last Liga flag coming in 1993. The team plays its home games at a 12,000-seat ballpark in the Ciudad Deportiva complex. For a number of years in the 1980s and 1990s, the Tecos split their home games between Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, becoming the only pro baseball team ever to share its home games between cities two countries.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#13): Reynosa, Tamaulipas

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