Laura Garza Hovel's family portrait
The annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas, lasts an entire month and coincides with George Washington’s birthday. For more than a century, the city’s coming-out celebrations have involved intricate paeans to America’s colonial past. In 1939, the Society of Martha Washington was founded to usher each year’s debutantes (called “Marthas”) into proper society. The centerpiece of the festivities is the Martha Washington Pageant and Ball, when the girls are presented. The festival resonates anew in a time of economic uncertainty and political tension over immigration. Still, the Washington celebration has managed to persevere and even flourish, thanks in large part to the Mexican-American girls who carry this gilded tradition on their young shoulders.
Independent Lens: Las Marthas, Saturday at 4 p.m. on PBS 6.