Ruben Cantu

Ruben Cantu

Following the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Amistad Dam, event celebrated by the International Boundary and Water Commission on Sept. 12, a series of interesting facts with historical connotation emerge, concerning Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña.

The dam was dedicated on Sept. 8, 1969 by U.S. President Richard Nixon and Mexican President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz during an event scheduled at 1:35 p.m. Central Daylight Time, 12:35 p.m. México Time. The daylight saving time program was implemented in México until 1996.

The Del Rio Independent School District and the San Felipe Independent School District observed a holiday, and bused children to the dam site to designated viewing points.

Both Del Rio Mayor Alfredo Gutierrez and Val Verde County Judge Jim Lindsey proclaimed a holiday to mark the dedication of the dam.

Sept. 8, 1969 marked the third occasion in nine years that presidents of the two countries met in Del Rio and Acuña.

Each time the leaders were brought together by the Amistad Dam construction project.

A special chartered plane flew the White House press corps to Laughlin Air Force Base preceding Air Force One. The members of the press where then bused to the dam site.

Nixon was accompanied by his wife Pat, and by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s wife Mamie Eisenhower. President Eisenhower, who signed the treaty to build the dam on Oct. 24, 1954, had passed away months before the project was completed, in March of 1969.

Also aboard Air Force One were Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Attorney General John Mitchell, Chief of Protocol Emil Mosbacher, Presidential Advisor Bryce Harlow and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. Nixon and those accompanying him were taken from Laughlin Air Force Base to the site by helicopter.

The presidential helicopter landed in a landing pad built specifically for the occasion, which was located on the downstream side, approximately a-mile-and-a-half away from the center of the dam, where the ceremony took place.

Some of the dignitaries from Texas included Gov. Preston Smith and former Gov. John B. Connally, Sen. Ralph Yarborough (D-Texas) and U.S. Rep. George H.W. Bush (R-Texas), the latter would become the 41st president of the United States, in 1989.

The dedication of the dam was honored by a 21-gun salute, from a battery of six 105 Howitzers, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Artillery commanded by Lt. Col. David E. Scales.

The national anthems of both the U.S. and Mexico were performed by the Lackland Air Force Base Band of the West, under the direction of Maj. Dwayne Hoff.

The Del Rio High School Band, under the direction of Carlos Garcia, also played the national anthems later on during the program.

The Del Rio High School 48-member Del Rio Dolls precision dance and drill team and the 24 High Stepping Señoritas of San Felipe High School assisted Miss Del Rio Georga Lou London,

And Miss Fiesta Deanne Salmon, in seating the dignitaries.

News coverage of the event drew hundreds of correspondents, radio and TV representatives. It is estimated that only from Texas 100 representatives attended the luncheon following the dedication, held at El Mirador, in Ciudad Acuña. More than 300 journalists were coming from Mexico. Time and Life magazines were represented, 20 telephones were installed with direct lines to Mexico City, and 20 more with international lines were available at El Mirador.

Rubén Cantú has been a journalist since 1995. He is the managing editor of the Del Rio News-Herald.

(1) comment


Thank you for this additional information and the extra newspaper section provided on September 12, 2019, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Amistad Dam. Truly an incredible and important part of local and national history, whether or not one agrees with the construction of dams. Knowing the history is always good.

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