Point Person: Q&A with UT historian H.W. Brands on Texas at 175 years old

Source: Dallas News, 2-25-11

On Wednesday, Texas marks its 175th anniversary as a republic. Of course, we’re no longer a separate nation. But we remain a consequential state. So, Points turned to University of Texas at Austin historian H.W. Brands to get a sense of where Texas has been and where it is headed. Read on, because the popular author offers some challenges, including that we haven’t done a good job making people admire us.

We are 175 years into this experiment, but it seems like we’re closer to how we started than to, say, 1935. Recent census data suggests our destiny is again linked to Mexico’s influence.

Sort of, except Texas is firmly entrenched in the United States. We’re a long way from our Mexican roots. Yes, there are demographic issues and social and cultural ones. But Texas is not like it was when we were part of Mexico.

But data shows we’re headed toward a Hispanic-dominated state.

That’s not a big deal. Immigrants have long been a part of America’s fabric. And those driving the population will be Hispanic Americans. That’s different from being a Mexican national.

True, but the cultural influences may not be that different from when we started.

I would dispute that. What’s happening now is that we are approaching a world culture. American culture and Mexican culture are part of a world culture. That doesn’t mean the world is becoming more Americanized or Mexicanized. It means the culture of different countries is becoming more similar.

You write in Texas Monthly ’s current issue that people have been selling Texas as a “place” going back to Stephen F. Austin. But we now are a big urban center. What role does “place” play today?

Mythology dies hard in Texas history, as it does in the history of most places. Texans like to think of themselves as inhabitants of this unique place. We can pull this off because we are such a big state. You couldn’t do that if you lived in Delaware.

Even if you live in Houston, you can imagine you are riding the plains of the Panhandle. Texas also is big enough and diverse enough that people’s imaginations can wander freely and still stay within the state’s boundaries. A sense of place is an act of the imagination, not a function of where you live.

How do we keep Texas’ history alive, especially since people increasingly come here from elsewhere.

Texas has no problem keeping its history alive. Texas identifies with its history more than just about any state.

Sure, newcomers don’t share the same roots as native Texans. But they are quickly made aware of them, and some become more zealous about Texas’ history than the native-born….READ MORE

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