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21 Feb 2024 1:50 PM | Anonymous

The Webb County Heritage Foundation announces the retirement of its Executive Director Margarita Araiza, after 28 years of service in this role. Araiza, a well-known leader in the field of historic preservation, this month alone, completed one last major project before her exit - the opening of the Ursuline History Center – a mini museum dedicated to educating audiences about the history of the first women religious educators in this region. This beautiful, new exhibit is a collaboration among the Ursuline Sisters of the Central Province, the Webb County Heritage Foundation, St. Augustine School, and the Ursuline Alumnae Committee.

Also this year, Araiza was asked to serve on a jury to select the winner of the Organizational Excellence Award presented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She is one of five Texans that serve on the National Trust’s Board of Advisors.

Similarly, she was invited to judge applications to the Texas Historical Commission’s Preservation Trust Fund that provides matching grants for historic preservation projects throughout the state of Texas.

Board Member Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia stated "Margarita has a wealth of knowledge in Laredo history and historic preservation. She passionately sought for Laredoans to recognize and remember our history at the local, state, national, and international levels. She is a remarkable advocate that will be missed."

Judith Gutierrez, another WCHF Board Member recalled how Araiza had such a widespread network of professional colleagues who acknowledged her expertise by inviting her to speak at numerous state and national conferences throughout her career. “Margarita is always greeted very warmly by her fellow preservationists whenever she attends conferences. She is a well-known figure in preservation circles,” said Gutierrez.

Araiza was fond of recalling that she was recruited to apply for her position as Executive Director by Betsy Gill, a generous and dynamic Board Member who contributed significant collections of historic photographs, documents, and artifacts to the Webb County Heritage Foundation’s archives. “Betsy was a force of nature around here,” Araiza said. “She had a deep and some-would-say fierce commitment to preserving local history. I’ve never known anyone like Betsy, and I can sincerely say that she instilled a real appreciation and love for our community’s story in me and all those who saw her in action. She is my preservation hero.”

Local journalist and publisher of the independent LareDOS - Journal of the Borderlands Meg Guerra stated, “When the late Elizabeth Gill recruited Margarita Araiza to become the director of the Webb County Heritage Foundation nearly 30 years ago, it became quickly evident to many of
us that Margarita’s energy and professionalism breathed new life into the non-profit. Her three-decade commitment was unwavering and brought to fruition what shall surely be recorded as the most productive years in the Foundation’s history. As an advocate for historic and cultural preservation, Margarita raised the bar for the Foundation’s relevance to the community as a resource for research and education for Laredoans of all ages.”

Board Member Jim Moore added, “We thank Margarita for all of her efforts in guiding the Foundation throughout her years at WCHF.  She represented the City of Laredo through some difficult times. As she retires, we wish her well and thanks for her leadership.”

Araiza has an impressive list of accomplishments that she readily shares with her staff and countless Board Members over the span of 28 years. Among these are the creation of the Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum  – a showcase for exhibits focused on regional history housed in a rehabilitated historic building once slated for demolition; the establishment of a Laredo history curriculum for local schools – the first time local history was taught to local students;  the commissioning of a comprehensive, new historical exhibit on the subject of the Republic of the Rio Grande – designed to teach this important chapter of our community’s story to visitors and locals, alike; and a series of oral histories and videos on local history topics that continue to be appreciated by countless viewers on social media.

“I have been very fortunate to work with some of the best people I could have hoped for – Edwardo Garcia, Andrea Ordoñez, and Lupita Valdepeña – outstanding collaborators, who I’m proud to count as friends as well as co-workers,” said Araiza. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and give my sincere thanks to all the supporters, sponsors, corporate citizens, elected officials, and friends who have shown their love of local history over the years. It has been a privilege to contribute to the promotion and protection of our community’s rich history.” 

Webb County Heritage Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization


Address: 500 Flores Avenue

Laredo, Texas 78040

Call: (956) 727-0977

Email: heritage@webbheritage.org

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