As a thought exercise, I have been thinking about this question for some time but especially the last day or two. I’d like to share a few working thoughts. (I’m saving a few for later.) Let me know what you think! Thanks!
To begin this exercise, we must first recognize that Indians were here first. We’re somewhat imperialistic as we write History from present-ish points-of-view thereby “forcing” the label of Texas retroactively on a collection of lands, peoples, and events. Our boundaries between Mexico and the United States or Oklahoma and Texas were meaningless before we subjectively created them — geopolitical forces control everything! 😉
Additionally, similar to the United States, Mexico (including Mexican Texas) promoted itself as a unique land of opportunity, partly in hopes of increasing its population and also partly in hopes of having some kind of control over illegal immigration. People from the United States flooded into Mexico en masse, legally and illegally. Those who came legally–became Mexican citizens–and promised to become Catholic, master Spanish, and develop their land, for example.
Due to political revolutions in New Spain and then Mexico and elsewhere around the world, as well as deeply-rooted notions of race and White superiority, White people in Spanish Texas/Mexican Texas continued to see themselves as part of the United States and did not follow Mexican laws they promised to follow. Indeed since at least the United States acquired Louisiana, the United States really wanted Texas (and at times thought it already belonged to them) – wanted it for slavery, to “civilize” the lands, and to show off their power, for example.
Those who came from the United States to Mexico, had no real intention of becoming true Mexicans. Likewise, they had no true intention of becoming “Texans.” They brought with them and transplanted their cultural practices from the United States with no real goal to create another place or real plan to change national (and religious) loyalties.
From 1836-1846, the Republic of Texas “prospered” in mores related to enslavement, race, religion, and sex, for example, that existed in essentially the same way throughout the United States, especially in the South. After the Texas Revolution, for example, Hispanic women in Texas lost rights.
It takes times for a nation to develop and really take shape. Texas was populated with White people in an extremely short amount of time and was right next door to their point-of-origin. British North American colonies developed differently in part because of the length of time and ocean separating colonies from the mainland.
If we look at nations as imagined communities, the Republic of Texas was even more “imagined” than other nations, per se, if we consider it a nation, parallel to other nations. The “common identity” people in Texas had was tied to larger dynamics in the United States. As far as a “horizontal comradeship,” again, people in Texas were eager to join the United States and depending on resources from the US for survival (and in a much more than typical national ally relationship). Institutions required to develop a functioning modern nation state with all of its various branches were anything but stable in Texas.
Through the Civil War and Reconstruction, Texas was oriented mostly with the South. It wasn’t until the Gilded Age and Progressive Era that Texas started to develop historical memories and nationalism wrapped around the Alamo and similar selective historical moments.
In ways, we could argue that Texas is more of a nation today, than when it was a nation due to the popularity and widespread belief in Texas Exceptionalism and occasionally calls to become a nation. I also find it ironic–yet fully expected given patterns of human behavior and history repeating itself–that many in 2016 Texas are so against so-called “illegal immigration” when most White people who established Texas came illegally or completely disregarded (Mexico’s) laws that promised to follow, and that those White people who legally came from the United States and established what we call the state of Texas were Mexicans by choice.
Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives