Pancho Villa's Saddle at the Cadillac Bar
In 1924, Achilles Mehault “Mayo” Bessan and his eighteen-year-old bride journeyed from New Orleans to Mexico, where he ultimately transformed a dirt-floored cantina in Nuevo Laredo into a bar and restaurant renowned across the United States for its fine seafood and fancy cocktails. The Cadillac Bar built a reputation as one of the finest eateries and watering holes in the Southwest, even surviving a 1954 flood that devastated cities on both sides of the Rio Grande. Its history sprawls across more than a half-century and its food and drink drew inspiration from the culinary traditions of southern Louisiana, from pre-Prohibition New Orleans, and from the dusty border towns that straddle the Rio Grande in far South Texas.
In her introduction, author Wanda Garner Cash writes, “I grew up behind the bar: first child and first grandchild. I spoke Spanish before I spoke English and I learned my numbers counting coins at my grandfather’s desk . . . I rode Pancho Villa’s saddle on a sawhorse in the main dining room, with a toy six-shooter in my holster. I fed the monkeys and parrots my grandfather kept in the Cadillac’s parking lot.” Readers will find themselves drawn to a different, more languid time: when Laredo society matrons passed long afternoons in the bar,
sipping Ramos Gin Fizzes; when fraternity miscreants slouched into the Cadillac to recover from adventures “South of the Border”; when tourists waited in long lines for 40-cent tequila sours and plates of chicken envueltos.
Step into the Cadillac Bar and take a seat. You’ll want to stay awhile.
Meet Wanda Garner Cash at 5pm- 7pm on Dec. 10, 2020
Wanda Garner Cash, Author
Wanda Garner Cash retired in August 2016 as associate director of the University of Texas School of Journalism, after 10 years as a clinical professor and the first Fellow to the S. Griffin Singer Professorship.
Cash is a past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, Texas Press Association, and Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, which honored her with its Jack Douglas Award for outstanding service to journalism.
Cash devoted her career to mentoring young journalists and advocating for open government and public access. That work included her leadership of a media coalition in 2005 to push for a Texas reporter’s shield law. She traveled to Mexico and Cuba on delegations devoted to open records and a free press, and also served as the media member of the Texas Supreme Court’s Judicial Advisory Council's Committee on Public Access to Court Records.
In 2016, she received the James Madison Award from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, which honors those who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to upholding the principles of the First Amendment and open government. A community newspaper veteran with more than 25 years' experience.
In 2012, she was inducted into the Texas Intercollegiate Press Hall of Fame.
be there or be square