What is Texas culture? The Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM) advocates for the “political, economic and cultural independence of Texas.” The political and economic parts are easy to understand. However, what is “cultural?” Texas culture is already independent from the rest of the world, right? What defines our culture? Is our culture what we make it or what foreigners perceive? We’ll examine the answers to each of these questions in this first of a two-part series.
What is Culture?
First, we are defined by our identity and that begins with our borders. The world looks at our borders and knows “That is Texas.” The border of Texas is perhaps the most identifiable shape in the world. People also identify certain characteristics and declare “That is Texan.” If our borders were changed or our demographics altered by mass influx of a foreign culture that prefers not to assimilate, then the culture and identity of Texas would risk being lost to history. For example, more Europeans want to be known as “Europeans” rather than as “French,” “German,” “Swedish,” “Italian” etc. They demonize those wishing to hold on to their national identity, such as those embracing Brexit. And, so it is with Texans as well. It does not take much time on social media to spot the difference between Texans and others. Observe the exchange once “Texan” is introduced into the conversation.
Culture is defined in part as “Human achievement regarded collectively.” In short, it is the world’s perception of a segment of civilization. Perception of Texans may be cowboy hats, button up shirts, large belt buckles, boots, riding horses and bulls, shooting guns at anything that moves, fist fighting over everything, drinking beer and spitting tobacco. That perception probably includes Texan men as well. And, let us not forget that real picante sauce never comes from New York City!
Outsiders Define “Texan”
TNM president Daniel Miller said, “[Texas culture is] our unique history, our cuisine, our dress, our walk, our dialect, or our idiosyncrasies. It is the combination of all of these things that lead to our specific culture.” He said that a group of University of Wisconsin–Platteville students toured Texas and visited the TNM office in effort to understand our culture. He asked them what they noticed about Texas that they do not see in Wisconsin. Each had their own answers. Miller replied “That is Texas culture.”
A friend once shared with me about his trip to Japan. Many Japanese looked at him curiously and wanted to know why he wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat and boots. Where were his six guns? Was he friends with John Wayne? And, where did he hitch his horse while he was working? They were surprised to learn that most Texans no longer wear cowboy hats and boots. He did not have six guns (but did own a rifle). John Wayne was not a Texan, and he died long ago. And, my friend had never ridden a horse.
Daniel Miller pointed out author John Steinbeck’s observation of Texas: “[Steinbeck] said that a Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner. This is his observation of the uniqueness of Texas.”
Several months ago I met a convenience store customer service specialist who transferred her citizenship from California. She told me she was surprised that it took her three months before she finally saw someone wearing spurs. She thought nearly everyone in Texas was stuck in the 1800s. As unique as Texas is, we are not that dissimilar from the rest of America. They see us in a certain way, whether it is true or not. Perhaps I could have helped her a little more with this list of “28 Things Texans Have to Explain.”
Social Media Defines “Texan”
Paul on Facebook told me Texas culture is “God, country, and family.” I told him those are more values than culture. He replied “They are one and the same for a true Texan.” I asked what he meant by “country.” He said, “Texas first.”
Melissa tells me that Texas culture is “Y’all, independence, Alamo, barbeque, brisket, Longhorns and San Jacinto.” Note that this Texan sweetheart mentioned the words “y’all” and “San Jacinto.” Not many think to include “San Jacinto,” one of the shortest and most decisive battles in the history of the entire world, as a part of Texan culture. Perhaps it is because her birthday is April 21st, the day of the battle.
She also mentioned Longhorns. Whether you are thinking of the school or bovine, you are correct. When I spent some time working in Kansas, I was frequently teased for my use the word “y’all.” When I shared an Aggie joke, everyone looked at me and asked “What is an Aggie?” I realized then that I was far away from home – except for one girl who looked at me and said, “Thank God! It has been ages since I heard an Aggie joke!” She was from Arlington … Texas.
In part two of this series we’ll look at Texas music, food and heritage. Stay tuned!