Hey Texas! I’m Elvia Limón, a North Texas native now residing in Austin, where I work at The Texas Tribune. As a lifelong Texan I know one thing for sure: Texans love Texas, and they’re not afraid to tell others. We take pride in being part of a large state with great food, a diverse culture, southern hospitality and the fact that we were once an independent country. It’s no doubt that Texans, both native and transplants, know their identity comes with a badge of honor.
This conversation is presented by Texas A&M University. To join in, tell us what being Texan means to you by posting your #TexanSince story on Twitter and Instagram.
We explored this collective identity along with hundreds of readers who shared their Texas origin stories through our #TexanSince project. Now we’re taking what we’ve learned from these powerful stories and kicking off an even bigger conversation about what it means to be Texan — including our first-ever community mural at this year’s Texas Tribune Festival.
Unsurprisingly, the most common theme among our #TexanSince stories was on our sense of Texas pride. For Alexandra Hill, her sense of pride came after moving away from Texas in 2005. Hill says she found herself brushing off stereotypical questions from outsiders, like whether she had to ride a horse to school. After returning to Texas, Hill says she realized that “being Texan means accepting and celebrating my Mexican culture and being a resident of this modern state.”
DID YOU KNOW?
We’re not all cowboys: Texas may have a cowboy stereotype, cemented in fact and fiction, but what outsiders might not realize is that the state has some of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. In 2018, San Antonio grew more than any other city in the country when it pushed past the 1.5 million population mark. So like Hill, most Texans aren’t riding horses to school.
Growing population: The state’s population is also becoming increasingly Hispanic. A 2019 census estimate showed that the state’s Hispanic population growth continues to surpass the white population growth. Hispanics are expected to become the largest population group in Texas as soon as 2022. The Hispanic population climbed to nearly 11.4 million last year — an annual gain of 214,736 through July 2018 and an increase of 1.9 million since 2010.
“When I moved away from Texas, I learned how to make friends, how to share where I'm from, and that I needed to educate people that, ‘no, we don't ride horses to school.’ Well most of us don't. When I came back, my eyes were more open to how diverse Texas actually is. Being Texan means accepting and celebrating my Mexican culture and being a resident of this modern state.”
— Alexandra Hill, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 1987Boomerang
“As a 7th generation Texan it is a special part of this Continent with every kind of geography you can find everywhere else and a size you can find no place else. It is a pride that says we're Texans and no one else is.”
“It’s not just a sense of pride but it is an identity. We are not just Americans, we are Texans regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. We are one, we are Texans first.”
— Larry McDougal, from Sugar Land, TX • #TexanSince 1958Native
“It is a sense of pride and place. That stays with you, no matter where you live now. As I tell people, ‘I live in Scottsdale, AZ, but my home is Mount Vernon, Texas.’”
— David Bolger, from Scottsdale, AZ • #TexanSince 1939Texpat
“I am proud of our state. I have a strong Mexican American heritage. People often don't understand that Mexico is also a melting pot. On my mother's side we are more Portuguese-Irish-Mexican. On my father's side, more Mexican-Native Mexican. That's what I love about America and Texas - the rich diversity of cultures and people. And in Texas, how our cultures have merged, intermarried and are pretty much united in our pride for Texas.”
— Celeste Zamora, from Houston, TX • #TexanSince 1962Boomerang
“Being a Texan means being part of all definitions of an American. I am part of the west, yet still a Midwesterner with just a hint of the South thrown in for good measure. It means I know both the vastness of open country and the intimacy of close friends. Being a Texan is respecting the past, celebrating the present and planning for the future.”
— Louise Butler, from Edinburg, TX • #TexanSince 2002Transplant
Nothing compares to living in Texas: The state is bigger than any European nation. But while our state is vast, our sense of community is tight. Texas residents are known for being friendly and helpful, as many #TexanSince respondents noted. Jeff Pacheco of Houston said being a Texas transplant was not only an opportunity for a new career, but it was also a way to build new relationships.
“We discovered a new community of friends that are quickly becoming family. We enjoy the warm weather, our new church family and the diversity Houston, Texas has to offer. Our vocabulary has also expanded and now includes phrases like, ‘Bless your heart,’ ‘Yeehaw Texas!’ and ‘Y’all.’”
— Jeff Pacheco, from Houston, TX • #TexanSince 2018Transplant
DID YOU KNOW?
The friendship state: Texas is known as the “friendship state.” But there’s more to our 89-year-old state motto than being a place with lots of friendly people. Legend has it that the name came from a Caddo Indian word. The Spanish who settled on the land at the time began pronouncing the word as “Tejas,” which eventually became “Texas,” which is translated in the Caddo language as “friends” or “allies.”
Birth of the mum: Short for “chrysanthemum,” the homecoming mum is a uniquely Texas tradition that consists of ribbons, pennants, teddy bears, glitter and other decor attached to a giant corsage. The mum takes the place of a typical corsage exchange, except it’s much, much bigger than a corsage. The homecoming mum began to appear in the 1930s, although the exact date is a mystery. High school students now flaunt their mums between classes and at homecoming games each fall.
“I like our city because we’re close to so much – jobs, culture and entertainment. Mostly, I love that my kids walk to great schools where they’re active and involved with other smart children. We want our kids to go to college here and at least consider making Texas their home in the future.”
— David Faidley, from Plano, TX • #TexanSince 2010Transplant
“Texans are the most friendly and welcoming group of people in the world. When I moved to Texas, I only knew one person. I now have thousands of friends across the state. I meet people at the grocery store, walking in the park, and definitely at restaurants and bars.”
— Tina Wilcher, from Houston, TX • #TexanSince 2006Transplant
“Being a Texan means coming from a place of friendliness and curiosity. I always want to know more about neighbors and coworkers and learn more about their cultures and traditions while embracing that we all have common traits of growing up and living in Texas. We all have strong opinions about Whataburger and Blue Bell. We all have taken pictures in bluebonnets. We all have lived Friday Night Lights.”
— Francesca Marshall, from Houston, TX • #TexanSince 1990Boomerang
“I've lived in Texas twice now, for a total of 23 of my 65 years – nowhere else more than 10 years. What I love about Texas is the diversity - people, geography, culture - and the bold ‘everything is bigger/better/friendlier in Texas’ attitude, even if it is not always true. I love that Texans put their flag on everything just like my family from Puerto Rico does – a clear symbol of sovereignty. To me being a Texan is about having a wide open heart and the courage to live your convictions.”
— Aileen McMurrer, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 1972Transplant
“One of the things I love about Texas is how easy friendships are. Living in other places, one of the first questions I got was "what do you do?" Which roughly translates to "what can you do for me?" Here there are several people who have no idea about my professional life. We can gather without pretense to do things we love. There are several things that I rediscovered when I moved back.”
— Camelia Falcon, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 1978Boomerang
“I always knew I wasn’t from just one city – I was from Texas. As an artist living in these communities, I recognized that there were gaps in access to a better way of living. It didn’t take me long to figure out that working as a cultural worker could help empower disenfranchised communities. My work will always somehow be connected to Texas. This tierra is my birthright. I love my Texas.”
— Cruz Ortiz, from San Antonio, TX • #TexanSince 1972Native
“As the CEO of a creative studio that is involved with a lot of social and political campaigns, I often find myself surrounded by other outspoken and powerful female leaders and organizers. These women inspire and challenge me to continue to grow and advocate for other women. Texas women will always be compassionate, impassioned and loud.”
— Olivia Ortiz, from San Antonio, TX Native
On Texas Food
Texas is a foodie state, with cuisines that draw from many cultures. You can get anything here, from Tex-Mex to Czech kolaches to Texas barbecue and more. Our state’s good food is part of the reason why Emma Niewald of Irving loves living in Texas. She knows that living in the Lone Star State means being constantly surrounded by good meals.
“Being a Texan means guacamole on everything, polite people in line at the gas station, tacos for every meal, Shiner on tap and friendly strangers always willing to open the door for you.”
— Emma Niewald, from Irving, TX • #TexanSince 1988Boomerang
DID YOU KNOW?
Texas invented some of your faves: The frozen margarita is a summer staple, and it’s also a Texas original. The frosty cocktail was invented in Dallas by Mariano Martinez. Martinez said he got the inspiration for the frozen margarita machine after making a pit stop at a 7-Eleven. He made history when he realized he could use the Slurpee technique to make his margaritas. Martinez’s frozen margarita machine is now at the Smithsonian Museum for the whole world to see. Other yummy Texas inventions include Dr Pepper, Whataburger, klobasnikys (also known as meat-filled “kolaches”), Frito pie, Blue Bell ice cream and German chocolate cake. Texas also claims to have invented the hamburger and the corn dog, but other states dispute these assertions.
Dallas is 2019’s foodie city (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a native):Bon Appetit named Dallas its 2019 Restaurant City of the Year, giving Texans another reason to brag about our state’s amazing food. Bon Appetit recognized Dallas for its community of highly ambitious chefs, hailing from different backgrounds, who are ditching large-scale restaurant group models for highly personal spaces.
“Being immersed in two very rich cultures, Texan and Tejano, and two languages, Texan and Spanish. My favorites are flour tortillas and frijoles.”
— Jack Floyd, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 1938Boomerang
“Being a Texan means you have a fierce, independent spirit. It means the Houston Rodeo and the State Fair. It's a huge state, but it feels small. Best food in the country, best sky, best hearts. That's how you know a true Texan – their heart.”
— Jennifer Jackson, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 1976Native
“I love Texas. I always say Texas loves me because everyone is so friendly here and there is so much to do and see. I knew when I moved here this is where I belonged. They have great food, a big diversity of people from all over the world and there’s always something going every weekend.”
— Andrea Campos, from Houston, TX • #TexanSince 2008Transplant
“Texas means living an easy-going life. Taking things slow and really enjoying life. It means big skies with beautiful sunsets. It means a wide variety of GOOD food. Tex-Mex, BBQ, and QUESO. It means family and enjoying each others’ company. Being a Texan has a huge amount of pressure. We have had a long line of Texan greats who have shaped history: Presidents, CEOs, activists, educators, writers, artists (with all the different types of mediums) and athletes.”
— Janneth Perales, from New England • #TexanSince 1995Texpat
“Whenever I think of a Texan, I think about their accent, sweet tea and Whataburger – every Texan’s favorite fast food restaurant. Everyone says y’all. Texans love BBQ. I've been in Texas all my life, and being a Texan for me would be a love for BBQ and Whataburger.”
— Austin Rutledge, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 2001Native
On Texas History
It’s not rare to find a Texan bragging about our state’s history or the fact that we were once a sovereign nation. And Texas’ roots are incredibly diverse: Over nearly two centuries, the state was either entirely or partially controlled by France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States and the Confederate States. This is where we get the “six flags over Texas” slogan. For Lynn Hagan of Gause, independence is a big part of why she’s proud to be a Texan.
“It means independence and pride. A strong sense of history and where I came from.”
— Lynn Hagan, from Gause, TX • #TexanSince 1954Boomerang
DID YOU KNOW?
Our forefathers weren’t all Texan: Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and William B. Travis all fought for our state’s independence from Mexico. What some Texans may not know is that none of these men was born in Texas. Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, was born near Lexington, Virginia. Before moving to Texas, Houston served as Tennessee’s governor in 1827. He moved to the then-Mexican territory of Texas five years later and helped secure Texas’ independence. Like Houston, Austin was also born in Virginia. He first landed in Texas in 1821 after the Spanish allowed him to explore the land for a settlement, but that deal was broken after Mexico gained its independence from Spain soon after. He returned more than a decade later after being imprisoned by the Mexican government for allegedly trying to incite insurrection in Texas. He went on to become the Republic of Texas’ first secretary of state. Travis, known for fighting (and perishing) in the Battle of the Alamo, was born in South Carolina. Before he died, Travis left Texans with the famous battle cry “victory or death.”
Our Capitol is taller than the nation’s: Everything is bigger in Texas, including the Texas Capitol in Austin. Surveyors in 1999 found that Austin’s domed pink-granite building stands at 302.64 feet — 15 feet taller than the 288-foot-high U.S. Capitol. But just because we’re taller than the nation’s Capitol doesn’t mean we’re the tallest in the country. That honor goes to our neighbors in Louisiana, who have a 450-foot-tall Capitol in Baton Rouge.
“Being a Texan is being part of a legendary history and culture – living larger than life every day and never forgetting the importance of the land around us that shapes who we are. From the natural beauty of the RGV, Big Bend, and Hill Country to the thriving industries in the great cities and the people that made it happen.”
— Emil Shabanov, from Plano, TX • #TexanSince 2007Transplant
“Texas runs deep in my veins. My family has lived and owned property in Texas for six generations. I grew up on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country among beautiful rivers and landscapes. Being Texan to me means appreciating the land we love and live on by being good stewards, so future generations can enjoy it as much as we do.”
— Kayla Shearhart, from Fayetteville, NC • #TexanSince 1992Texpat
“Texas is more than a location, warm weather or oil. It’s where the dinosaurs left their footprints, folks pioneered and was once its own country. Being part of its history fuels us to be part of its future. Our museums keep us close to art and history, even aerospace exploration and achievements. We can wear anything from denim to designer classics and be part of the real Texan spirit.”
— Kathleen Lieberman, from Corinth, TX • #TexanSince 1956Native
“It means you get the best of both worlds, since we are bordering Mexico. I also think it means having a broader mind set, since we are so big. We as Texans need to widen the lens and set the example for other states. As our history tells us, we were once a part of something else and yet we accommodate well. I love that the main cities are so close, yet out west you can tell people you’re still in Texas after driving 10 hours.”
— María Villanueva-Dominguez, from El Paso, TX • #TexanSince 1995Transplant
“Being a Texan means honoring the history of my family who first came to Texas in the late 1820s. We are proud to have been a part of a long and rich history, from being a part of Mexico, through the years of the Republic, and to statehood. It is a unique point of view being a son or daughter of the Republic of Texas. The reverence and love you feel for this state almost cannot be expressed by mere words.”
— Brian Lenhart, from Parker, TX • #TexanSince 1957Native
From our presenting sponsor, Texas A&M University
“From humble beginnings to leading as one of the nation’s largest research universities, Texas A&M is proud to be #TexanSince 1876.”
If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait five minutes. And if you don’t like the geography, drive an hour or two. Our state’s massive size gives it a diverse geography. Texans may be bound under the same state flag, but it doesn’t mean that we all live in the same environment. Outdoor enthusiasts can find a state park to their liking, whether they’re hiking through the Big Thicket in Southeast Texas, biking through the trails of Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas Panhandle or riding the Wyler Aerial Tramway at Franklin Mountains State Park near El Paso. Nathan Mattise from Austin said the state’s differing regions are what he loves most about our state.
“The beauty of Texas is in how it quite literally encompasses everything – rolling green hills and awe-inspiring desert.”
— Nathan Mattise, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 2016Transplant
DID YOU KNOW?
Texas has one natural lake: Texans know lakes are the perfect way to cool down in the hot summer. And while many of these lakes look and feel like they’ve been around for centuries, most of them are actually man made. An exception to this is Caddo Lake, which encompass Texas and Louisiana. The lake was formed around 1800 when a logjam built up on the Red River. The jam, known as the Great Raft, created several lakes around the river, many of which have since disappeared. The lake has a diverse bird population, 86 species of fish and cypress swamps with trees up to 400 years old.
We are a bird paradise: Texas has the most species of birds of any state — more than 600. In a nutshell, the reason why all of these birds have homes here is our location, location, location. Texas’ south-central position in the country makes it a perfect place to spot birds migrating from the eastern and western parts of the U.S. We also claim several species of migratory birds found primarily in Mexico. Texas’ diverse geography also provides a wide variety of habitats for birds that may only be seen in certain parts of the state. However, your best bet for bird watching may be in Brazoria County in Southeast Texas, where more than 400 species have been documented.
“Texas’ beautiful and diverse landscapes and wide open spaces are the things I value most. The state’s nature, flora and fauna. Its diverse cultures, and I especially appreciate historical Native American and Hispanic cultures. The food! Dark night skies, state parks and wildlife preserves. Texas’ beauty, art, music and culture.”
— Patricia Meadows, from Waco, TX • #TexanSince 1956Native
“I love Texas with all my heart, especially Houston. Texans are so friendly, everyone feels welcome. There are 250,000 horses in Houston, making for a certain rural familiarity, even in a huge cosmopolitan city. We also have the most racially and ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in the nation, surpassing even New York City! Houston is also very egalitarian—if you can do the job, it doesn't matter what shape, color or gender you are.”
— Tamsen Valoir, from Alvin, TX • #TexanSince 1983Transplant
“I love the mix of cultures here. You can find Spanish street names next to German street names. I love the fact that you can go from the beach to the smallish mountains within the same state. I love Texas wildflowers in the springtime. The best chicken fried steak and best barbecue can be found in Texas.”
— Ruth Cooper, from Fort Worth, TX • #TexanSince 1980Transplant
“Being Texan has definitely grown on me. I never truly understood the meaning of state pride until after Harvey. Texans have this extreme pride in their state, talk about how wonderful it is to have been raised here and to live here. I'm happy to be raising my family here. They're experiencing mother nature, learning how to survive and becoming proud of where they live.”
— Amanda Garnsay, from Houston, TX • #TexanSince 2016Transplant
“I love the nature here. You could get lost in the woods of the Hill Country. As kids we would spend hours hiking the country surrounding our home in Jack County. There’s tons of scenic views and wildlife to observe.”
— Jonathan Royer, from Big Spring, TX • #TexanSince 1986Native
Texas is home to some of the world’s most talented musicians. We gave the world Beyoncé (you’re welcome), Willie Nelson, Selena, Buddy Holly and Janis Joplin. Texas’ music is as diverse as its people and geography. Different forms of music have cross-pollinated in Texas to create Western swing, which includes elements of country, blues, pop and big-band jazz. And the state’s conjunto music is a combination of traditional Mexican music with polkas and other European musical influences. Donna Lipman of Austin, who is a musician, said the state’s live music scene is one of her favorite things about living here.
“There are many, many talented musicians here. It’s also where I met my sweet husband.”
— Donna Lipman, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 1995Transplant
DID YOU KNOW?
No Texas, no rock ’n’ roll: Texas claims at least a partial role in the birth of rock ’n’ roll. Texas native Buddy Holly inspired many other rock legends, including the young John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton. The Texas musician also influenced the name of the British rock group The Hollies.
Gruene Hall and its history: German and Czech immigrants built dance halls throughout Texas in the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. These dance halls served as cultural and community centers, where residents gathered for meetings and to conduct business. The halls also served as a way for immigrants to interact with others who shared the same customs and interests. Some of these halls are still standing, and Gruene (pronounced “green”) Hall is the state’s oldest continually operating dance hall. The hall, built in 1878, has not changed since it was built. In its early days, Gruene Hall hosted everything from traveling salesmen to high school graduations to badger fights.
“I love the diversity of Texas: its topography (mountains, deserts, plains, coasts); its culture (Hispanic, Cowboy, African American, Asian, etc); its music (rock, folk, blues, tejano, country).”
— John O’Brien, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 1979Transplant
“Being part of a melting pot of people and cultures that share a mutual love of music, nature and tacos.”
“To me, being a Texan means holding yourself to a higher standard. It is being friendly and loving your neighbors, it is caring for your state and holding true to the individualistic spirit of Texas. It is also boots, BBQ, rodeo, football, Selena, George Strait, country and much more.”
— McClellan Johnston, from McKinney, TX • #TexanSince 2000Transplant
“Observing the Tejano influence all around this great state. It seems almost unnoticeable in places like Dallas and Lubbock, but take a hard look at place names, music, food, dress and even language and one can still see the influence. Being a 4th generation Tejano, it leaves me with a sense of pride that, even after these years of partisanship, my culture still plays a heavy part in what it means to be a true Texan.”
— Ricardo Martinez, from Grapevine, TX • #TexanSince 1968Native
“A Texan has the freedom to enjoy music that preceded one’s parents and take pride when any Texas creative, be it Larry McMurtry, Jim Parsons or Lizzo, wins national acclaim. Being a Texan means having the freedom to define what it means to be a Texan and the right to scrap with anyone who claims you’re wrong.”
— Andrew Barlow, from Austin, TX • #TexanSince 1992Transplant
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