Texas Nationalism: A Unique Breed
I sit in the basement of the Texas State Capitol holding a white styrofoam box surrounded by Texas State Capitol police and national guard offices and a group of senators and representatives. You may think I’ve gotten myself into a dangerous situation or maybe a felony, but I can explain. The reason for the police? It was their lunch break and just as excited as me for today's special. The senators? They were getting some sugar free red bulls from the fridge. The styrofoam box? It was my pasta bolognese and a slice of garlic bread. I was at the Capitol Grill, and I just visited the Texas State Capitol to explain some of the reasons why Texas is facing another problem. I thought the best way to explain why Texas is once again seeking independence is to go to the very beginning, and discuss the six nations that created Texas’ unique brand of nationalism and rebellion.
We begin with the examination at the Texas State Capitol with the Tejano Monument. The monument itself is dedicated to the fighting spirit of the native and Hispanic inhabitants of Texas and their contributions. Tejanos and native people had a grand and important role to play in the birth of Texas’ nationaloistic movement. Before the Texan Revolution, a smaller insurrection occurred against the imperialist Spanish Government. The Gutierrez-Magee Expedition, commonly known as the Green Flag Republic, was a campaign against the Spanish Government led by Hispanic, Indigenous, Chicano, and Anglo settlers united in their dislike of the tyrannical Spanish governance. This was the first sign of the fall of the Spanish Empire in the Americas, but when the United States failed to aid the revolution, the Green Flag Republic fell to the superior Spanish forces and all revolutionaries were put to the sword. The events thrusted revolutionary ideas not only into the minds of Texas but also in Mexico, which would later spawn more and greater revolutions, but for now we move on the co-colozier of the Texas region.
The next monument in Austin isn’t exactly in the Capitol nor is it actually a monument. The next artifact of the state of Texas’ past is the La Belle, one of the four ships of Sieur de René Robert Cavaleir La Salle and is housed in the Bob Bullock State History Museum. He was set out by King Louis XIV also known by his illustrious nickname “The Sun King.” The ships were filled with immigrants to settle the wilderness of French Louisiana, but tragedy struck the fleet. The ships shipwrecked in Matagorda Bay, Texas. Despite the ship crashing, La Salle and many others escaped alive, but La Salle feared the “cannibalistic” Karankawa peoples who lived on the coasts. These irrational fears of the natives eventually led to his end. At the town of Navasota, Texas in Washington County Texas, he was ambushed by a group of his own men and killed. Despite the fear of natives, there are theories that La Salle’s men who deserted along with their families settled with locals. Another example of how rebellion was the cornerstone of Texan identity.
We Return to the Tejano Monument once again for the discussion of Mexico. Texas’ sons are not only famous Americans like Chuck Norris, George W. Bush, and Willie Nelson, but we have also raised one of the greatest heroes of another United States… the United Mexican States. Ignacio Seguin Zargoza was one of the most influential Mexican generals and presidents in the history of the nation. He was born at Bahia del Espiritu Santo at Mission Espiritu Santo near modern day Goliad, Texas. He was raised in a somewhat well-off Tejano family and was related to influential Texan Revolutionary figure, Senator Colonel Juan Nepomuenco Seguin. But, at the Battle of Puebla — also known as Cinco de Mayo — he led a massively smaller Mexican force against a significantly larger French force. This is another example of the Texan qualities that influenced Zargoza in his life — the belief that you can overpower large odds in favor of the little guy or the moral right. These values continued to be taught to Texans and Tejanos for generations after.
REPUBLIC OF TEXAS
Now we enter the Texas State Capitol herself and we behold a painting of the Battle of San Jacinto. It depicts the battle in which Texas won her independence from Mexican tyranny. The battle itself was an example of how the Texan people were and still are willing to sacrifice everything for the well-being of future generations. After the Battle of the Alamo, all 182 men were killed by the larger Mexican forces, and there was the surrender and massacre at Goliad. The result of the battles began the Runaway Scrape in which Texan settlers abandoned and torched their town and ran eastward; not to flee the nation but to leave no useful supplies for the Mexican Army. Mexican Army logs record acres upon acres of lone chimneys overlooking charred wasteland. On Apr. 21, 1836, General Sam Houston’s forces met President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna on the swamps of San Jacinto and led a surprise attack on the Mexican Forces. Sam Houston was shot down from his horse and shot in the leg (as seen in painting) and continued in battle against the tyrannical forces. The Texans won in 18 minutes, but the Texans and Tejanos took revenge for their fallen comrades by massacring Mexican troops for two hours. They eventually captured President Santa Anna disguised as a common soldier, and signed the Treaty of Velasco, giving all Mexican land east of the Rio Grande to the newly formed and independent Republic of Texas. This true underdog story gave birth to the Texan mystique and the values that we still see hailed today.
The Confederate States
Now we leave the inside of the Capitol and walk by a statue of Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas and one of the antebellum governors. He was the governor of Texas when the Civil War broke out. Governor Houston was faced with a conundrum that would rock the state of Texas. He had to decide whether or not he would abandon his values and admit his state to the Confederacy — or, would he stand up for his values? He advocated for Texas to stay in the union, and he immediately resigned after fighting for this. He was quite basically exiled from Austin and was called a coward and a traitor by the same people who once hailed him as a hero of the Lone Star Republic. He retired to Huntsville and died soon after in shame, but Houston's legacy did not die. After the war during reconstruction, he was hailed as a hero as he stood up to the tyranny of the Confederacy.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Finally, before we leave the gates of the Texas State Capitol we see one of the newest Capitol monuments: the Texas African American History Memorial. The monument is dedicated to African American advancement in Texan society. The statue itself is dedicated to the edurement of African American people and their triumphs over racism. The issue is that this monument was constructed mainly as a response to the three monuments on the Capitol grounds. The situation is quite ironic. How can a monument to African American achievement sit in the Capitol lawn whilst being overlooked by the towering figure of President Davis? So, instead of recounting a story from history regarding this monument, we ask how can you yourself stand up for what is right? How can the Texan embody the Texan spirit saw in all of our 500 years of history. Remember that even the hero of San Jacinto Sam Hosuton himself opposed the Confederacy, and why should a building built to honor him and his comrades have statues dedicated to the same institution he opposed?
Now I look back at my analytical tour of the Texas State Capitol. We hear all this talk about “Texan Virtues,” but what exactly are the Texan virtues? They are the same virtues that were found in the American Revolution and echoed. According to constitutional law expert Thomas Patterson at Harvard Kennedy School, they are “liberty, equality, individualism, and self-governance.” These describe the same virtues that not only won us our freedoms in both revolutions, but fought for the rights and continue to fight for the rights of American citizens. The virtues contribute to this strange breed of Texas nationalism that continues to contribute to Texas political attitudes to this day.
Thomas E Patterson, American Government: Constitutional Foundations
Texas State Historical Association, Zaragoza, Ignacio Seguin (1829-1862)
Harris Gaylord Warren, Gutierrez-Magee Expedition
Robert S. Weddle, La Salle, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de (1643-1687)
L. W. Kemp, San Jacinto, Battle of
Stephen L. Hardin, Alamo, Battle of
Thomas H. Kreneck, Houston, Sam (1793-1863)
Ted Poe, Texas has ties to Francis Scott Key
Arnoldo De Leon and Robert A. Calvert, Civil Rights