Wednesday August 10, 2016
During my recent visit to my hometown of Laredo, Texas, as I was heading out of town toward Corpus Christi, I passed by the former site of Laredo Air Force Base. Serving as a training base for new pilots, the base was a prominent part of Laredo life when I was growing up.
During that time, public officials and much of the citizenry were scared to death that the base might close. Like many people on the dole and like many other American communities with military bases, Laredoans were convinced that without LAFB, the city would die.
Then, in 1973 the unthinkable happened. US officials announced that the base was being closed. The official explanation was that the base was no longer needed given the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam. The unofficial reason was that President Nixon had decided to retaliate against Laredo for supporting Nixon’s Democratic Party opponent in the 1972 presidential election, Sen. George McGovern.
Reflecting their disdain for a private-property system and their love of socialism, US officials decided to deed the land to the City of Laredo rather than auctioning it off to private owners. The base property land included not only the landing strips, which ultimately became the city-owned Laredo International Airport, but also all the surrounding buildings and properties that composed the entire military base. That put the Laredo government in the rental business, immediately making it the biggest landlord in town. My father used to remark that the area had become “Little Cuba.”