On Monday, May 24, Governor Greg Abbott signed SCR 9, officially designating the City of San Marcos as the MermaidCapital of Texas.
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini and State Rep. Erin Zwiener, whose districts cover San Marcos, brought forward the resolution in the 87th Texas Legislative Session to highlight the central role the City plays in preserving water resources in Texas and to encourage continued public interest in protecting the natural environment.
“We take a lot of pride in the San Marcos River and we’re thankful to Sen. Zaffirini and Rep. Zwiener for recognizing that connection and bringing this resolution,” said Mayor Pro Tem Melissa Derrick. “It’s exciting to see this designation become official and I can’t wait for all the Mermania that will follow!”
The City’s association with mermaids can be traced back to 1849 when General Edward Burleson, a former vice president of the Republic of Texas, built the dam that created Spring Lake to power a saw and grist mill. In 1920, A. B. Rogers bought the Burleson homestead on the shore of Spring Lake and built a resort hotel where he offered glass-bottomed boat rides allowing visitors to see the bubbling springs beneath the water’s surface.
The Aquarena Springs amusement park was later added to the property. It included an underwater stage, where “aquamaids” performed synchronized swimming and underwater ballet routines. The show was expanded to include a clown named Glurpo and a swimming pig named Ralph, helping the park attract 350,000 visitors every year.
The performances continued until the 1990s, when the park was acquired by Texas State University. The site now hosts the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, which conducts research and develops educational programming focused on promoting sustainable water management and environmental stewardship.
Though the original aquamaids are gone, the mermaid remains an important symbol of the City’s special relationship to Central Texas’ natural resources, including the beloved San Marcos River. Through a program supported by the hotel occupancy tax the City has funded mermaid-themed public art, which includes murals and a series of seven-foot-tall mermaid statues known as the Mermaid March. San Marcos is also home to annual mermaid-themed events, including the SPLASH festival, Mermaid Art Ball, and the riverside Aqua Faire celebration.
“On a sunny day if you head down to the San Marcos River, you are more likely than not to find a few mermaids sitting on the rocks,” said Rep. Zwiener while testifying to the Texas House of Representatives’ Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee on April 19, 2021. “Everyone has a lot of fun with it.”
Before it was signed by Governor Abbott, the resolution was adopted by the Texas Senate on April 19 and the Texas House of Representatives on May 8. According to the resolution, San Marcos will remain the Mermaid Capital of Texas until May 2031.
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