If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Restoring community interest in Main Street Program for historic downtown
Karina Sauceda fills two roles at Cotulla City Hall. She is the assistant manager of the Main Street Program and the public information officer for the city government.
The jobs, however, are interconnected in ways that Sauceda believes will ultimately benefit the community.
As organizer of city events such as the recent ‘Trunk or Treat’ festival for families at Halloween and the seasonal decoration of Veterans Park downtown, Sauceda has accomplished tasks often taken on by the Main Street Program, namely to bring local residents and visitors together in the historic downtown area and give the community a focus for family-friendly activities.
The events have not only attracted Cotulla residents; tourists from Laredo have left the interstate to stop downtown and enjoy the park decorations, Sauceda says. She hopes they will do the same when the park is decorated for Christmas.
The Cotulla Main Street Program, however, is not just about tourism. Ultimately, it aims to boost the local economy, generate interest in the city’s historic buildings and old-fashioned downtown shopping area, and appeal to those looking to start up or relocate small businesses to the center of town.
All of these people, city staff believe, will help the economy when they shop downtown, either for gas and groceries or booking hotel rooms. In turn, the Hotel Occupancy Tax levied by the city in the form of a surcharge on every hotel or motel room booked in Cotulla goes into a fund whose sole purpose is to support local activities and projects that will attract more visitors.
Sauceda is a 2017 graduate of Cotulla High School and earned her bachelor of science degree in agricultural communication and journalism from Texas A&M University at College Station in 2020. A lifelong Cotulla resident who has involved herself in community activities and county fairs since a young age, Sauceda feels deep connections to her home town.
The Cotulla Main Street Program lacks a manager since Patsy Leigh’s retirement earlier this year. From her office in City Hall, however, Sauceda keeps the program alive as its assistant manager by performing many of the functions generally required of the head of the municipal department. This week’s city dinner for former armed forces personnel on Veterans Day in the AB Alexander Convention Center Thursday evening, November 11, represents one of the activities to which her tasks extend.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, if we are going to make this successful,” Sauceda says of her role as assistant to the Main Street Program. “It is up to us all at City Hall to reintroduce the program to the community, to keep people aware of the significance of the historic buildings in downtown Cotulla, and give families a place to which they feel connected. This is the lifeblood of a successful Main Street Program. A historic downtown area is nothing without the people to bring it to life.”
The city’s historic district is small in comparison to the ever-widening municipal boundary on the map. The Main Street Program focuses primarily on the few blocks occupied by Front Street and Main Street in the very heart of Cotulla, an area that once bustled with life as the central business district.
Cotulla’s significance to Texas history cannot be overlooked. The original Laredo-to-San Antonio highway passed through the center of town on Main Street until Interstate 35 was completed in the early 1970s. The Union Pacific Railroad and its predecessors ran fresh produce, oil, livestock, and passengers along its single-track mainline, which was vital to commerce and development of the Brush Country. Road and rail intersected with the ancient Camino Real that brought settlers, missionaries and tradesmen from the Gulf Coast to the ancient capitals of the Mexican territory, San Antonio among them.
That intersection of the routes that served as the life-giving arteries of South Texas is at the center of Cotulla’s downtown historic district, overseen for the past century by the two-story Front Street facades.
Some of the buildings that have survived were made of Cotulla brick, a locally sourced material baked in La Salle County and used for the city’s first permanent structures. In their lifetime, the downtown businesses have included hardware and dry goods stores, car parts dealers and garages, boarding houses and hotels, banks, saloon bars and restaurants, clothiers, government offices, and a variety of small enterprises.
“Everything that the people of Cotulla needed was right here in the middle of town,” Sauceda says. “This was where people met each other, did business, shopped for their clothes and supplies. It’s the people who brought it to life, and it’s people who will come to our events and feel a sense of belonging. That’s how we start to breathe life into our downtown district.”