Laredo’s Last Chapter

by Published on

It seems especially ironic for a city that’s spawned as much literary imagery as Laredo—it inspired Larry McMurtry’s Streets of Laredo, amont others—to lose its only bookstore.

The B. Dalton bookstore at the Mall del Norte is slated for extinction at the end of January. (The city’s independent bookstore, Bookmark Books, closed in 2000.)

“There’s just something comforting about having a bookstore,” says Xochitl Mora, public information officer for the city of Laredo. “A city needs a bookstore.”

It’s not as if Laredo, with a population of roughly 230,000, is a stagnating backwater. The border city is fast-growing, youthful and vibrant. Its Mexican sister city, Nuevo Laredo, is growing even faster, with 350,000 residents. People from Nuevo Laredo cross the international bridge to buy Spanish-language books at B. Dalton, Mora says.

The bookstore’s looming closure has even imperiled the citywide book club. Mora helps spearhead the initiative—called One City, One Book—to get Laredoans reading. Mora orders the books, sometimes 500 or more, for members to buy at B. Dalton.

Not long ago, Mora brought Pulitzer-winning journalist Sonia Nazario to present her book, Enrique’s Journey, to the club. “It had a lot of meaning for the author to be here because part of the book took place in Nuevo Laredo, our sister city,” Mora says.

Laredo’s B. Dalton store, though profitable, is a victim of larger economic trends like online shopping. The money-losing B. Dalton chain, a division of Barnes & Noble Inc., is closing nationwide. Since 2000, Barnes & Noble has been closing B. Dalton franchises as their leases expired.

What are literary Laredoans to do? Mora says that she and other communications professionals have formed a group called “Laredo Reads.” They are putting together a publicity campaign to attract a bookstore. “We’ll find a way,” she says.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.