When a Texas newbie like myself wants to learn as much about the great state as possible, there are few sufficient choices. John Wayne was no historian. I’ve started watching Friday Night Lights but I’m only on season two. I could schlep down to the local library, poring over volumes on Sam Houston and the oil fields in West Texas, but all that reading and page turning, coupled with the fact that no one has “schlepped” in Texas in the history of the Republic, forces me, and others like me, to look elsewhere.
Texas’s Wikipedia page not only provides the convenience of the Internet but also the sweeping—and, in some cases, misleading—generalizations that I need for a successful stint in the Lone Star State. (That is, until the new history textbooks are out.) To save you the exhausting task of going through the entry yourself, here are my favorite parts.
Texas is the second-largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state in the contiguous United States. You’re going to want to remember that. It’ll come up once in a while. The name, currently translated as “friend” or “allies” in Caddo, was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves. “Texas” in Caddo originally meant something closer to “people we’ll eventually convert and force into labor. (Spanish historians, when questioned about the original translation, said they didn’t know what we were talking about and proceeded to awkwardly shuffle papers on their desks.)
Despite the common conception, less than 10 percent of Texas is made up of desert. This directly contradicts Hollywood, Texas, which is 110 percent desert.
Did we mention Texas is big? We did? OK, moving on.
In 1528, shipwrecked Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his cohorts became the first Europeans in Texas. They were also the last. Everyone since has been a native Texan.
Hostile native tribes, including the Comanches, discouraged settlers from moving to Texas, which was totally uncool. It’s not like we were stealing their native land or anything. It was one of New Spain’s least populated provinces for whatever reason. (Can anyone read the word “Comanche” without thinking about it in John Wayne’s voice?)
Combined with United States’ attempts to purchase Texas, Mexican authorities decided in 1830 to prohibit continued immigration from the United States. In the early part of the 21st century, the U.S. returned the favor by cracking down on immigration from Mexico by using border fences and drones. Immigration officials would only comment with, “Well, that’s what you get.”
In 1836, following a thirteen-day siege, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s forces overwhelmed Texan defenders at the Battle of the Alamo. News of the defeats sparked panic amongst Texas. You know what happened right? It’s the Alamo. Remember the Alamo? When Dennis Quaid came in and saved everyone? Good movie. Check it out.
After the war for independence, the nationalist faction, led by Mirabeau B. Lamar, advocated the expulsion of the Native Americans, and the expansion of the Republic to the Pacific Ocean. Their opponents, led by Sam Houston, advocated less crazy things. The conflict between the factions was typified by an incident known as the Texas Archive War, which amounted to Houston and Lamar whisper-shouting at one another while a librarian continually shushed them.
Over the next few years, Texas laid claim to many territories that didn’t necessarily belong to them, including some beachfront property in the Florida Keys.
After the cowboys disappeared, nothing that interesting happened. I mean, nothing interesting enough for Wikipedia. They found oil and JFK was assassinated. If you didn’t wear chaps, your influence on Texan history was probably minimal.