TEXAS (FOX 44) – It’s no secret that Texans are proud of where they have come from, or where they are now if they’re transplants, to the Lone Star State.
This is something that’s hard to put into words, it seems like Milton Ezrati did a pretty good job with the opening paragraph of an article he wrote for The Antioch Review called “Just What Is It about Texas?“:
“No one, it seems, is ever neutral about Texas. Pro or con, the place inevitably envokes passion, all over the country, the world.”– Milton Ezrati
Ezrati goes on to say that he is a native of New York who, despite having lots of pride in where he comes from, has a widespread fascination with Texas. But he is far from the only “outsider” who has some opinions on the Lone Star State.
A Southerner’s view
Ashley Bean Thornton was born and raised in Mississippi. She and her parents moved around a lot throughout Mississippi, Louisiana and Memphis before coming to Baytown, Texas, when she was around nine years old. Her first exposure to Texas was in a refinery town near Houston.
“The most obvious first thing that I loved is the food,” says Thornton. “I mean, no offense to okra, tomatoes and peas – but I would trade them all in in a minute for cheese enchiladas and chips and salsa. No hesitation at all!”
Thornton says the scenery of Texas has grown on her, but it still can’t compare to the live oaks and knobby-kneed cypress trees she grew up with.
“My husband is from San Antonio. I remember one of the first times I went home with him he said, ‘I love the Hill Country. It’s so beautiful.’ I felt kind of sorry for him. It looked pretty scrappy and scraggly to me – but I have come to appreciate it. Or at least I thought I had until I went back to Mississippi and Louisana this last week for my mom’s high school reunion and remembered what real trees look like.”
Thornton says she has now lived in Texas for most of her life, but she still doesn’t identify as “Texan.”
“Part of it is because there’s a certain ‘Texas nationalism’ that I don’t really feel. Maybe it’s because Texas really was its own country for a while…I don’t know,” Thornton explains.
Californians weigh in
Sal Velasco says he came to serve at Fort Hood, Texas [now known as Fort Cavazos] after joining the military at 16. He says the people of Texas stood out when comparing them to his neighbors in Los Angeles.
“The people seemed way friendlier here than where I grew up,” he says. “People here actually look at you and greet you. That was hard to get used to at first. I was used to keeping to myself.”
Velasco says there’s an independence to Texas that makes life different.
“It has its own way of doing things, and that’s fine by me. I don’t feel like Texas aspires to be California, nor do I believe it to be the other way around,” he explained.
Velasco says the weather also caused some culture shock.
“The majority of people say the fall is their favorite season in Texas. In L.A., people love all seasons,” Velasco explained. Still, he has chosen to make Texas home.
Yvonne Gonzales also moved to Texas from California. She’s also a fan of the food, focusing on the BBQ options and shopping at H-E-B, but for her much of the appeal is the culture.
“Freedoms, [Texas is] 2A friendly, the Texan vibe and pride, rural areas and conservative values. Hard work in Texas is not dead!” Gonzales told us.
She also takes pride in “little hidden gems,” like the Brazos River. Still, she said there are one or two things to improve, including, “Texas drivers and Texas driving!”
Gonzales sees clear differences between California and Texas, but her allegiance to her new state is clear.
“The overall vibe of the states [is different]!” says Gonzales. “Going into detail would be political and not very diplomatic – so I will leave it there!”
A British Perspective
Fiona Bond came to Texas all the way from the United Kingdom. She says that she grew up mainly in Kent, in southeast England, and lived closer to France than to London.
“We moved to Waco from St. Andrews in Scotland in 2009, living between the U.S. and the UK for a few years, then back in the UK for 2012-2013,” says Bond. “We have lived permanently in Waco since summer of 2013.”
She misses the public healthcare system and aspects of the outdoor lifestyle on shared public lands she grew up with in the U.K., but the aspects of life in Texas that she loved as a child remain today.
“I lived in Texas for two years as a child. We had so many cool things in easy and affordable reach, like ice skating, pizza restaurants, all the things a kid would find appealing.
“The other thing that really stood out was that we had friends from all over the world. It was such a vibrant mix of people, and I loved learning about my friends’ cultural traditions,” Bond explained. “When we moved with our own kids in 2009, one of the things I found immediately appealing was that very same cultural richness in the elementary school our children attended. I got involved with the PTA and in that first year we had an international fair celebrating all the national and cultural roots families from the school. That first year, there were 34 different nations represented. We thought that was amazing.”
Bond also voiced her admiration for the people of Texas.
“I also love the gritty resilience and ‘can do’ attitude of what I would describe as ‘Texan’ culture, which draws from so many different traditions and has love of the land and survival in often harsh climate at its core. That combination of being able to celebrate the simple life while aspiring to blast humans into space is a very Texan dichotomy,” says Bond.
All of the new Texans we spoke with mentioned aspects of the life and culture that they truly admired, but they also held on to respect for their original homes and an understanding that there are plusses and minuses to life in states and individual communities.
Thornton summed up her separation from the full sense of Texas pride quite simply.
“I make it a point to never, ever say the Texas Pledge! Holy cow, y’all! Having your own pledge is getting a little too big for your britches!” Thornton said.