PBS preps Las Marthas for Washington's birthday

Michelle Clancy | 17-12-2013

PBS is set to air a new documentary film called Las Marthas, which showcases an exclusive border celebration in honour of George Washington, where Mexican American debutantes dress as American Revolutionaries.

Every February, one of the largest celebrations of George Washington's birthday in the world takes place in the border town of Laredo, Texas. This 116-year-old tradition has evolved into an entire month of inventive re-enactments and bicultural celebrations, many of them involving Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, the sister city across the border. The most pre-eminent event of them all, however, is the invitation-only colonial Ball hosted by the elite Society of Martha Washington.
Society daughters, most of them Mexican American, are invited to debut in elaborate Colonial gowns representing iconic figures from America's revolutionary history. Their goal: to recreate a party hosted by Martha Washington, but this time set on the US/Mexico border. Las Marthas follows two of the young debutantes one a prominent member of Laredo society and the other a newcomer from Mexico as they prepare for this rite of passage.
A year in the making, each girl's dress can weigh up to 100lbs and cost up to $30,000 nearly the median family income of Laredo. Many of these spectacular creations are made by highly coveted dressmaker Linda Leyendecker Gutierrez, an oil heiress who designs her dresses with "heavenly inspiration from God".
A fascinating look at a world barely known outside of Texas, Las Marthas unravels the origins of the celebration and explores why a town like Laredo, with such deep Mexican roots, feels such affinity for America's founding father.