The first thing visitors to the central Texas city of San Marcos notice are the mermaids. They’re everywhere, in some form. At the playground, one of the city’s fiberglass mermaid statues stands seven feet tall, her tail and hair painted in a rainbow of neon colors. At the library, a costumed interpreter named Mermaid Cypress often reads to kids in a salmon-colored fin. And at a local restaurant, a mural depicts a blue-tailed mermaid swimming below a lake’s sunlit surface in the company of fish, salamanders and cranes. “Keep San Marcos beautiful,” the lettering reads.

Read more from Erin Donaghue with Smithsonian Magazine here.