With approximately four thousand things happening every day that would, in previous eras, have dominated the news cycle for three months, it’s easy to lose track of events that might once have been considered headline news. For example: Did you remember that the U.S. is in the middle of a trade war with China?
There are a lot of consequences to that—China no longer buys U.S. oil; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts a GDP drop of 0.7 percent by 2021 as global growth slows; consumer goods that are made in China are getting much more expensive—but in addition to the global economic implications, there’s one fact that caught our eye for entirely different reasons.
As of March 2019, the largest port in the United States is no longer the Port of Los Angeles but rather the Port of Laredo.
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Laredo, which is a primary port of entry for trade with Mexico, saw its trade spike by nearly 10 percent from February to March, while Los Angeles’s dropped by a similar figure over that same time, according to Forbes. Laredo had more than $20 billion in trade pass through its port of entry, while in L.A., they were down to $19.66 billion. The key takeaway surely ought to be much more about how this reflects the changing shape of global trade more than a year into a trade war between the world’s two largest economies than it is about Texas’s ongoing cold war with California—but let’s leave that all aside, because Los Angeles just lost out to Laredo, and we’re here to celebrate it.
Los Angeles, as the nation’s second largest city, is a complicated place. So much of American culture comes from the city, the weather is perfect, and nobody is happy. Laredo, meanwhile, is a city of 260,000, which makes it the eightieth largest in the U.S.—just behind St. Petersburg, Florida, and just ahead of the bustling metropolis that is Buffalo, New York. The two cities don’t often find themselves in direct competition, but if you place them head-to-head, there are a few other areas where Laredo just straight-up beats Los Angeles.
We wouldn’t be so myopic as to declare that Mexican food in Southern California is bad. Los Angeles is a vibrant multicultural city that does pretty much every kind of cuisine well, and while the tacos might not be what those raised on flour tortillas and queso dream of when they close their eyes at night, it’s better to think of the differences between Texas’s and California’s Mexican food as regional distinctions rather than a question of superiority.
That said, Laredo’s tacos go on this list because Laredo’s tacos belong right at the top of just about any list. Taco Palenque, the finest fast food taco in the country, hails from the Gateway City and spreads its gospel as far as Houston and New Braunfels. Pretty much any Mexican restaurant you visit in Laredo is going to have food that you’d have to beg someone to clue you into in a city like Los Angeles (or Austin or Dallas or even Houston, frankly). How synonymous with “good Mexican food” is Laredo? LAX Airport literally has a restaurant in it called “Cantina Laredo.” We rest our case.
You know what sucks about Los Angeles? The traffic. That’s not exactly a trenchant observation—every aspiring stand-up comedian who moves there from the Midwest has struggled to find a way to make that funny—but it’s an undeniable fact. Laredo, meanwhile? Even at rush hour, the Bob Bullock Loop flows nicely. This is an easy one, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
You Are Very Unlikely to Be Inconvenienced by a Celebrity’s Entourage
Just a few weeks ago, a yoga studio just outside of Los Angeles was robbed as part of a shoplifting ring that, the studio alleges, included former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman. Rodman, according to the studio’s owners, distracted employees by being, you know, famous, while others in his party placed merchandise in their bags. While not every celebrity encounter in Southern California includes such striking video, the sheer presence of so many celebrities in one city distorts life around their fame.
You know where that doesn’t happen? Laredo, where the biggest star you’re liable to find is maybe former Cincinnati Reds infielder Freddie Benevides, who followed up his three-year playing career by pursuing coaching (he’s currently bench coach for the Reds) and who returns to his hometown every year during the offseason to host a baseball clinic for local youth.
When Yo-Yo Ma played in Laredo in April, the entire city seemed to turn out. Hugh Fitzsimmons, a rancher who lives in the area and who wrote about the performance for Texas Monthly, explains the way that folks in Laredo feel about their hometown. “The community supersedes the individual,” he says. “Family is always first, and there are old, old families. [Laredo] was settled in the 1750s, and you have this remarkable sense of pride in the community.” When Yo-Yo Ma played, the famed cellist performed while wearing a ball cap with “Laredo” emblazoned upon it.
In Los Angeles, appearances by world-renowned performers of every conceivable genre are downright commonplace. That’s one of the advantages to living in a megalopolis, but it means that folks in Laredo can take pride in things that people in L.A., who all just moved to the city six months ago to pursue their dreams, are taking for granted. The cultural life in Los Angeles is world-class, from the arts to the museums, but Laredo can take pride in things like the Museum of the Republic of the Rio Grande, which celebrates its time as the capital of the short-lived nation of the same name. Folks in Los Angeles can be proud of many things, but they can’t boast that their city was once the capital of a whole dang country–even if only for about nine months. We couldn’t argue that there’s more to do in Laredo than there is in Los Angeles, obviously, but there’s more opportunity to take pride in things in the smaller city than the massive one.
Laredo Is Very Unlikely to Fall Into the Ocean During an Earthquake
Look it up on a map.
Correction: A previous version of this post identified Freddie Benevides as a former outfielder for the Reds. In fact, during his time in Cincinnati, he played only in the infield. The post has been updated, and we regret the error.