The Mermaid Capital of Texas isn't located on the coast. In fact, the city that has that recognition is actually hundreds of miles inland. San Marcos is a landlocked spot located between Austin and San Antonio, and it has recently been designated the official Mermaid Capital of Texas, a title it will have for the next decade.
The city's connection to mermaids runs deep. It began in the 1950s at Aquarena Springs, a local resort set along Spring Lake, which is connected to the San Marcos River. The resort had glass-bottom boat tours on the lake, and it also had a showy tourist attraction called a submarine theater. Opened in 1950, the theater was an underwater arena—originally 80 feet long and 75 tons, with room for 125 visitors—that lowered audiences into the water and gave them underwater views behind heavy-duty glass.
Billed as "The World's Only Submarine Theatre," the vessel was regularly filled with audiences and then fully submerged into the lake's spring-fed, crystal clear waters. The shows enacted underwater featured performers—live mermaids in the form of "aquamaids," divers, and synchronized swimmers—who alternated holding their breath and using compressed air tanks to put on scenes, dances, and even ballet routines below the surface.
The Aquarena Springs shows ended in the 1990s, but the city's connection to these attractions, and the concept of mermaids themselves, has continued. While the resort is no longer in operation, it has been replaced by The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, an educational center connected to Texas State University that offers boat tours and programming in and along Spring Lake. Additionally, in 2018, a public art project saw 10 statues of mermaids erected throughout the city.
Mermaids are a point of pride for the city and have been its unofficial mascot for decades. San Marcos is also the headquarters of the Mermaid Society of Texas, which promotes educational programming and preservation of the San Marcos River. They sponsor the Mermaid Capital of Texas Festival, which celebrates the city's history, arts, and culture and will be held on September 11-25 this year.
Have you ever heard of The Mermaid Capital of Texas? What's the mascot of your town?