The name for one of Texas’ popular amusement parks, Six Flags Over Texas, comes from history. The slogan is used to describe the six different countries that, at one time or another, had sovereignty over territory that now falls within Texas borders.
The six flags represent Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America and the United States.
The border city of Laredo, however, lives under seven flags.
Margarita Araiza leads the Webb County Heritage Foundation, which runs the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum. The museum is dedicated to telling the story behind Laredo’s city flag.
The flag has red and white, like every American flag. There is a red vertical rectangle with three white stars on the left. To the right, there are two horizontal rectangles. One rectangle is white. The other is traditionally black, but some Texans like to change it to a dark blue.
“The three stars were for the three states,” Araiza says. “Texas was included. It was Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas – but Coahuila y Texas was one province.”
The museum is located in the San Augustín Plaza in downtown Laredo. It was the heart of the Republic of the Rio Grande.
“That building was the capital building – the real building – it’s not a recreation, it’s actually there,” Araiza says. “They had a president, they had a cabinet, they passed laws, they think they had established a couple of banks.”
Unlike other “independent countries” in what’s now the United States, like the Republic of California or Republic of Texas, the Republic of the Rio Grande was never officially recognized by other countries.
The Republic itself only lasted 10 months. “It was squashed,” Araiza says.
Remnants of the Republic that lived and died in 1840 live on at the Republic of the Rio Grande museum. The city of Laredo’s main newspaper the Laredo Morning Times also honors that legacy with pictures of the seven flags on its banner.