“while longhorns, Stetson hats, and the romance of ranching have replaced cotton, mules, and overalls in the historical imagination of Anglo Texans today, the fact remains that most Anglo Texans were descended from transplanted Southerners who had fought hard to maintain the ‘color line’ in Texas and to extend its barriers to Mexicans” (Foley)

Southern vs. Southwestern Image and Orientation / WS, 2

The postbellum image of the South also overlooks twentieth-century Texas and its large population of Mexicans, both native-born and immigrant, who came increasingly to displace Anglos and blacks on cotton farms in central Texas after 1910. As part of the Spanish borderlands before 1821 and as a Mexican state until 1836, Texas has had a long history of interaction between Mexicans and Anglos, as well as between masters and slaves in east Texas.[2] East [2] Texas, for example, fits comfortably within the cultural and historiographical boundaries of the South, with its history of slavery, cotton, and postemancipation society. South Texas, however, shares more commonalities with the history of the “trans-Rio Grande North” and Mexico than with the U.S. South. These discrete cultural regions of east and south Texas overlap in south-central Texas from Waco to Corpus Christi, where cultural elements of the South, the West, and Mexico have come to form a unique borderlands culture. Spanish, French, German, African, Mexican, English, Polish, Czech, and other groups have left their cultural mark in a society of such great social heterogeneity and hybridity that one geographer has called it the “shatter belt.” Texas is thus culturally and historiographically at some distance from the “most southern place on earth,” but its cotton culture nevertheless makes it recognizably southern, even if the state’s large Mexican population continues to link it with other western states and Mexico (see Maps 1 and 2).[3]

As the cotton culture of the South advanced westward, Texas retained the image of a state more western than southern, in part because, as one Texas historian has noted, cotton makes Texas seem “too southern, hence Confederate, defeated, poor, and prosaic.”[4] In Texas, “unlike the Deep South,” wrote the anthropologist Oscar Lewis, “there was no leisure class to romanticize cotton farming, and it could at no time compete with ranching in capturing the imagination of the people as an ideal way of life.”[5] Tourists flock to San Antonio more than any other Texas city because it alone captures the image that Texans most like to project of themselves–defenders of the Alamo, victors in the war against Mexico, pioneers in the western wilderness, manly cowboys and rich cattle barons. But while longhorns, Stetson hats, and the romance of ranching have replaced cotton, mules, and overalls in the historical imagination of Anglo Texans today, the fact remains that most Anglo Texans were descended from transplanted Southerners who had fought hard to maintain the “color line” in Texas and to extend its barriers to Mexicans. Many Anglo Texans thus often wore two hats: the ten-gallon variety as well as the white hood of the Invisible Empire.[6]

Neil Foley, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 1-2.
  1. [2]On interactions between Mexicans and Anglos in Texas, see David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987); Américo Paredes, “With His Pistol in His Hand”: A Border Ballad and Its Hero (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958); and Arnoldo de León, The Tejano Community, 1836-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982). On slavery in Texas, see Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989); Paul D. Lack, The Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social History, 1835-1836 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992), 238-52; and Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin: Founder of Texas, 1793-1836 (1926; reprint, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), 201-25.
  2. [3]Terry D. Jordan, John L. Bean Jr., and William M. Holmes, Texas: A Geography, Geographies of the United States Series (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1984), 5, 91.
  3. [4]Robert A. Calvert, “Agrarian Texas,” in Texas through Time: Evolving Interpretations, ed. Walter L. Buenger and Robert a. Calvert (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991), 197.
  4. [5]Oscar Lewis, On the Edge of the Black Waxy: A Cultural Survey of Bell County, Texas (Saint Louis, Mo.: Washington University Studies, New Series, 1948), 2.
  5. [6]On the resistance of many white Texans to identify with the Texas of the South and the Confederacy, see Campbell, Empire for Slavery, 1. For a long-overdue discussion of the burden of Western history, see Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987), esp. 17-32. On the connection between southern and western regional identities, see David M. Emmons, “Constructed Province: History and the Making of the Last American West,” Western Historical Quarterly 25 (Winter 1994): 437-59, and, in the same issue, the responses by Joan M. Jensen (pp. 461-63), A. Yvette Huginnie (pp. 463-66), Albert L. Hurtado (pp. 467-69), Charles Reagan Wilson (pp. 470-73), Edward L. Ayers (pp. 473-76), and William Cronon (pp. 476-81). See also Edward L. Ayers, “What We Talk about When We Talk About the South,” and Patricia Nelson Limerick, “Region and Reason,” in All over the Map: Rethinking American Regions, ed. Edward L. Ayers et al. (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 62-104.

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