Texas should be more than cowboy culture

Alyssa Fernandez

The cries of the Alamo and the classic “Come and take it” flag are disappointingly integral parts of Texas culture, whose attraction stems from the rebellious attitude the United States was born in. What isn’t understood is that these bits of folklore are not actual history and are unnecessarily romanticized. Exclusively focusing on these icons marginalizes all other experiences and condenses the diverse history of Texas into a hollow cowboy myth.

C.J. Alvarez, assistant professor in the department of Mexican-American Studies, explains how a large portion of the popular portrayal of Texas only focuses on the actions of one group, the American colonists.

“I don’t think it is a misrepresentation, but a limited representation,” Alvarez said. “And so if we can stipulate that it’s one of many representations but it’s the one that is privileged, the question becomes what are other legitimate representations?”

The lazy answer is that the other legitimate representations of Texas are those directly related to the six flags over Texas, but there is more to the issue. Architecture senior Serena Sonnenberg, co-president of the Native American Indigenous Collective, says that native indigenous groups in Texas have a long history of being mistreated.

“A lot of the indigenous groups that were originally here thousands of years ago are still here but are not federally recognized, such as the Coahuiltecans,” said Sonnenberg. “They are not federally recognized because when the U.S. got Texas to be part of the [Union], they mistreated the indigenous population, so they knew it was safer to just say they were Mexican instead of Native American.”

As only 44.4% of Texas’ population is white, the stories of over half the people are continuously ignored. This is not to discredit the contribution of the colonizers to the state history. Instead it’s to point out that their dominance over the culture antagonizes the representation of the people who called Texas home before their arrival. Having Stephen F. Austin, Davy Crockett or the Bush family be the poster children for Texas doesn’t just mislead others, it robs Mexicans, indigenous people and others of their rightful place in Texas history.

Why should Texas be George Strait and not Selena Quintanilla? Or a 10-gallon hat instead of a sombrero? More than anything there needs to be validation and for outsiders to see the multi-faceted Texas that is more than ranches and oil barons. It’s time to temporarily retire the cowboy boots and adopt a perspective of Texas that truly represents its diverse population.

Unbeknownst to me, Texas Independence Day was last week. I realized my folly when I stumbled into an office party, celebrating the birth of this glorious state and felt completely alienated. Cowboys, tassels and bejeweled crosses heartily paraded state pride with the absence of some major key players — Mexico and indigenous tribes. To many, Texas is synonymous with cowboy culture but that does not represent the home that I recognize.

Fernandez is a Spanish and rhetoric and writing major from Allen.