The Legacies of Spanish Texas
The independence of Mexico in 1821 and the inclusion of Texas in that new nation assuredly did not end the more than three centuries of Hispanic influence in the future Lone Star State. Before joining the United States in 1845 as its twenty-eighth state, Texas experienced fifteen years under Mexican governance and another ten as an independent republic.1 Given the state’s past and its long, common border with Mexico, it is often difficult to separate Spanish and Mexican legacies, such as persistence of the Spanish language and the Roman Catholic faith. In those instances, it seems acceptable to blur colonial and postcolonial influences.
Overall, Spanish contributions to Texas history are both significant and enduring, especially given the small number of Hispanics and Hispanicized settlers who were present in 1821. The most obvious legacy from the colonial period is Spanish names for counties, places, rivers, creeks, towns, and cities. Approximately one-sixth (42) of Texas’s 254 counties have Hispanic names or Anglicized derivations, such as Galveston and Uvalde. Names of hundreds of physiographic features, including Llano Estacado, Guadalupe Mountains, or Padre Island, serve as occasional reminders of Spanish explorers and conquistadors who crossed parts of Texas well before the English settled the Atlantic Coast of North America. Every major river in Texas, with the exception of the Red, bears a Spanish name or an Anglicized derivation.2 And there is the name of the state itself. Thanks to Indians in East Texas and the influence of a few Spanish officials who, for a change, insisted on a simple rather than complex name for the province, Tejas became Texas, not the New Kingdom of the Philippines.
Among the most important Spanish contributions to Texas history are the legacy of literature, an astonishing bureaucratic penchant for preserving historical records, and objects of material culture. The early recorded history of Texas depends almost entirely on maps, diaries, itineraries, ac