Cristina Ibarra's "Las Marthas" Documents a Colonial Debutante Ball in Laredo, TX

A debutante emerges in Las Marthas (photo by Craig Marsden)

A debutante emerges in “Las Marthas” (photo by Craig Marsden)

Cristina Ibarra (2005 Film/Video) premieres her Creative Capital-supported documentary, Las Marthas, in San Antonio’s CineFestival with a screening at Guadalupe Theater on Tuesday, February 25 at 9:00pm. The film is the winner of the festival’s Special Jury Award. Las Marthas had its broadcast premiere on PBS’s Independent Lens on February 17 and is available to stream online through PBS Video until March 19. Other upcoming festival screenings include San Diego Latino Film Festival, Chicago Latino Film Festival and Ambulante California.

VIDEO: Preview of “Las Marthas”
Las Marthas documents the annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas—a spectacle unlike any other. Part of the largest celebration of George Washington’s birthday in the world, a select group of mostly Mexican-American girls is presented at a lavish Colonial Ball. Their goal: to recreate a party hosted by Martha Washington, but this time set along the U.S./Mexico border. Las Marthas follows two of the girls, Rosario and Laurita, as they prepare for this extraordinary rite of passage. A year in the making, each girl’s dress can weigh up to 100 lbs and cost up to $30,000—nearly the median family income of Laredo. Las Marthas unravels the origins of the celebration and shows why, in a town like Laredo, Washington’s Birthday Celebration has managed to persevere and even flourish thanks to the Mexican-American girls who wear the gilded burden of tradition.

In this excerpt from the film, debutantes Laurita and Rosario discuss their different paths to the Martha Washington Ball—Laurita’s family goes way back with the Society of Martha Washington, while Rosario is a newcomer from across the border—as they participate in the fall rehearsal, a few months before the big event.
Watch the film through PBS Video (available through March 19, 2014)

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