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San Marcos is known for its natural freshwater springs, but many don’t know these springs are more than a source of water. San Marcos has a long history with mermaids, to the point where San Marcos has been named the Mermaid Capital of Texas.
San Marcos’ love for the mythical creatures has been connected to some Native Americans who considered these springs as sacred places for more than 14,000 years, according to VisitSanMarcos. These Native American communities considered these springs to be their birthplace.
San Marcos’ history with mermaids continued. Years after the San Marcos were dammed to form Spring Lake, the theme park Aquarena Springs was opened. This theme park specialized in a water show featuring “Aquamaids”.
These women put on a mermaid show where they performed synchronized swimming and breathed underwater through a hose. The Aquamaids were accompanied by their sidekick, Ralph the Swimming Pig. This theme park created San Marcos’ deep love for mermaids.
In 2016, San Marcos created the Mermaid Society of Texas. This society focuses on environmental sustainability, the arts, and economic growth, as well as events, such as the Mermaid Capital of Texas Fest. The multi-event festival hosts the Mermaid Art Ball, parade and faire. These events fuel the city of San Marcos to embrace the mermaid as their local mascot. Locals participate in the events by creating local art and dressing in mermaid attire.
Mary O’Hara is one of the 2023-2024 Executive AquaReina Team Leaders for the Mermaid Society of Texas. O’Hara discussed how Mermaid Fest started, “It was a small parade and it has grown exponentially every year.” Mermaid Fest is a two-week event, “The Mermaid Society works on educating young people on protecting natural resources.”
The day of the festival is on Sep. 23. The City of San Marcos participates by supporting the festival, vendors and parade. O’Hara said registration for vendors and participants for the parade is currently open.
The San Marcos Arts Commission funded 10 mermaid statues to create the “Mermaid March” These statues are scattered around the city. Doug Hiser was the artist of one of these mermaid statues titled “The Fish of the San Marcos Waterways”. Hiser, the wildlife artist, painted the statue as a continuation of his previous artwork “The Birds of The Hill Country” in Wimberly.
“I looked up all the species and decided I would cover my mermaid in all the fish of the San Marcos waterways,” said Hiser. While Hiser is not a San Marcos resident, he is aware of the mermaids of San Marcos. “When I was a kid, we used to go to Aquarena Springs. I was fantasized by that. I always knew there were mermaids in San Marcos.”
Written by: Preethi Mangadu