Saturday, February 11, 2012
L.A. Times covers the Sara Melee with lengthy article
"This town sucks, and thank God I was not born here or raised here 'cause I would probably be dead by now."
That was the opening salvo from Sara Wells' roughly 8-minute video, "Why Sara hates Laredo," posted earlier this month on YouTube. The video, which appears to have been shot at home with Walls speaking directly to the camera, did not go unnoticed.
Walls, a Colorado native, explains at the start of the video that she moved to the Texas border city of about 230,000 people a year and a half ago, after her husband was transferred there for work. She then begins to rail against Laredo's Latino drivers, crime and life on the border.
"Half the people driving around have Mexican plates and don't know American laws," the young mother says. In the video, Walls wears a hoodie and dangling earrings -- her brown hair pulled back -- with what appears to be a wall of windows and family photos in the background.
Walls, who is white, says in the video that she's encountered "illegal Mexicans" in her backyard three times since moving to Laredo and that half the people in town don't speak English. She bases the statement, she says, on interactions she's had while driving to, among other places, Wal-Mart.
"The Mexican men here are disgusting," she says, and goes on to complain about being hit on. She also has a few things to say about Mexican moms covering their children's cavities with gold caps and feeding babies Pepsi. She even condemns menudo, a traditional Mexican soup, and the annual Laredo menudo festival.
"I have a list of bad stuff I hate about Laredo, that's how much I hate it," Walls says, glancing down to consult the list. "The whole town is really ghetto, sketchy, scary, unsafe."
"I pray to God that my husband can transfer out of here."
The video ends with Walls casually mentioning that she anticipates negative comments from "haters," but promising to read their comments nonetheless.
"I'm a white girl. How do they say it? They call me guera, gringo," she says. "I was never prejudiced against Mexicans until I moved to this town. So thank you, Laredo, for giving good Mexicans a bad name."
Walls grossly underestimated the potential effect of her video rant.
Overwhelmed by hundreds of negative comments and threats, she removed the video only to later see it posted again by critics, garnering more than 24,000 views and nearly 500 comments as of Friday. Viewers vented their anger on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, prompting a CNN ireport that fanned the flames.
"Get a life. Get a job and stop leeching off our Laredo economy and go back to Colorado," one critic wrote, adding, "By the way Colorado is a Spanish word that means red."
"I have blonde hair, green eyes and im not from here either but i love it here. This chick is stupid!" wrote another.
"Everyone should gather a ton of menudo and dump it on her garden at night," someone suggested.
Soon after, a photo of what appears to be Sara Walls menudo mix was uploaded online.
Earlier this week, Walls' husband came forward to apologize on her behalf, but that failed to contain the controversy.
Michael Walls told Laredo's Pro8 News that his wife struggled with being away from her hometown and adjusting to a very different culture. After she posted the video, he said, he and his kids saw the community turn not just on her, but on them too.
"I'm just sincerely sorry and if there is anything I can do to make it right I mean I would but I didn't do it. So I'm apologizing for my family," Walls said on Monday. He added that the family has moved away from Laredo and has no plans to return.
But the apology didn't satisfy Laredoans outraged by the video, many of whom posted send-up videos of their own on YouTube, including an LMFAO remix, Why Laredo hates Colorado and Sara hates menudo, which dubbed Walls "the meanest whitey you'll ever meet."
The outraged included Laredo's mayor, who spoke out against the video the same days Walls' husband apologized.
"The city of Laredo has been offended," Mayor Raul G. Salinas told KGNS TV.
The mayor made a suggestion of what might help, besides apologizing: He invited Sara Walls to come see him at his office "to talk about the city of Laredo."
He said the video was "not fair to the people of Laredo" and claimed "the monster of racism has awoken."
"On YouTube, Facebook you can say whatever you want, but it does not give you the right to be destroying a great city and speaking ill of our culture and our people," he said, "Just because we happen to be bilingual is not a bad thing. It's a good thing."
The mayor went on to praise the local university and schools, tout the upcoming baseball stadium, golf course and the fact that local unemployment is at 7.2%.
"She's totally wrong," he said, "Laredo is numero uno."