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The Houston Area Survey
1982-Present
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Texas



Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Len, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, and has a coastline with the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast.

With 10 climatic regions, 14 soil regions and 11 distinct ecological regions, regional classification becomes problematic with differences in soils, topography, geology, rainfall, and plant and animal communities. One classification system divides Texas, in order from southeast to west, into the following: Gulf Coastal Plains, Interior Lowlands, Great Plains, and Basin and Range Province.

The size and unique history of Texas make its regional affiliation debatable; it can be fairly considered a Southern or a Southwestern state, or both. The vast geographic, economic, and cultural diversity within the state itself prohibits easy categorization of the whole state into a recognized region of the United States. Notable extremes range from East Texas which is often considered an extension of the Deep South, to Far West Texas which is generally acknowledged to be part of the interior Southwest.

The late Paleozoic mountains collapsed as rifting in the Jurassic period began to open the Gulf of Mexico. Pangea began to break up in the Triassic, but seafloor spreading to form the Gulf of Mexico occurred only in the mid and late Jurassic. The shoreline shifted again to the eastern margin of the state and the Gulf of Mexico passive margin began to form. Today 9 to 12 miles (14 to 19 km) of sediments are buried beneath the Texas continental shelf and a large proportion of remaining US oil reserves are here. At the start of its formation, the incipient Gulf of Mexico basin was restricted and seawater often evaporated completely to form thick evaporite deposits of Jurassic age. These salt deposits formed salt dome diapirs, and are found in East Texas along the Gulf coast.

When Europeans arrived in the Texas region, there were several races of Native peoples divided into many smaller tribes. They were Caddoan, Atakapan, Athabaskan, Coahuiltecan and Uto-Aztecan. The Uto-Aztecan Puebloan peoples lived neared the Rio Grande in the western portion of the state, the Athabaskan-speaking Apache tribes lived throughout the interior, the Caddoans controlled much of the Red River region and the Atakapans were mostly centered along the Gulf Coast. At least one tribe of Coahuiltecans, the Aranama, lived in southern Texas. This entire culture group, primarily centered in northeastern Mexico, is now extinct. It is difficult to say who lived in the northwestern region of the state originally. By the time the region came to be explored, it belonged to the fairly well-known Comanche, another Uto-Aztecan people who had transitioned into a powerful horse culture, but it is believed that they came later and did not live there during the 16th century. It may have been claimed by several different peoples, including Uto-Aztecans, Athabaskans, or even Dhegihan Siouans.

Hoping more settlers would reduce the near-constant Comanche raids, Mexican Texas liberalized its immigration policies to permit immigrants from outside Mexico and Spain. Under the Mexican immigration system, large swathes of land were allotted to empresarios, who recruited settlers from the United States, Europe, and the Mexican interior. The first grant, to Moses Austin, was passed to his son Stephen F. Austin after his death. While Texas had won its independence, political battles raged between two factions of the new Republic. The nationalist faction, led by Mirabeau B. Lamar, advocated the continued independence of Texas, the expulsion of the Native Americans, and the expansion of the Republic to the Pacific Ocean. Their opponents, led by Sam Houston, advocated the annexation of Texas to the United States and peaceful co-existence with Native Americans. The conflict between the factions was typified by an incident known as the Texas Archive War.

The population of the new state was quite small at first and there was a strong mix between the English-speaking American settlers that dominated in the state's eastern/northeastern portions and the Spanish-speaking former Mexicans that dominated in the state's southern and western portions. Statehood brought many new settlers. Because of the long Spanish presence in Mexico and various failed colonization efforts by the Spanish and Mexicans in northern Mexico, there were large herds of Longhorn cattle that roamed the state. Hardy by nature but also suitable for slaughtering and consumption, they represented an economic opportunity many entrepreneurs seized upon, thus creating the cowboy culture for which Texas is famous. While in the early days of the republic cattle and bison were slaughtered for their hides, soon a beef industry was established with cattle being shipped all over the U.S. and the Caribbean (within a few decades, beef had become a staple of the American diet).

Texas modernized and expanded its system of higher education through the 1960s. The state created a comprehensive plan for higher education, funded in large part by oil revenues, and a central state apparatus designed to manage state institutions more efficiently. These changes helped Texas universities receive federal research funds.






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