(lӘrā'dō), city (1990 pop. 122,899), seat of Webb co., S Tex., on the Rio Grande; founded 1755, inc. 1852. It is a port of entry on the U.S.-Mexican border, with a thriving export-import trade and a tourist industry. During the late 20th cent., Laredo became one of the fastest growing U.S. cities. It is a wholesale and retail center for a large area on both sides of the Rio Grande. Important to its economy are cattle ranching, irrigated farming, oil production, and mining and smelting. A wide variety of products are manufactured, including clothing, military supplies, candles, steel products, and leather goods. Laredo has close economic ties with its large sister city in Mexico—Nuevo Laredo—with which it is linked by two international bridges.
Laredo, a blend of Spanish, Mexican, and American frontier influences, grew as a post on the road to San Antonio and other Texas cities. After the Texas Revolution its ownership remained in doubt until the southern boundary of Texas was established by the Mexican War; during that period the city was the capital of the “Republic of the Rio Grande” (the capitol building, erected in 1755, still stands). Laredo's growth was aided by the arrival of the railroads (1880s), the development of irrigated farming, the discovery of oil and natural gas, and the opening (1936) of a highway to Mexico City. The former army post Fort McIntosh was founded in 1849 and intermittently rebuilt and used until 1946; Texas A&M International Univ. is now on the grounds. Laredo Community College is also there.