Lone Star Muslims: Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

By Ahmed Afzal | Go to book overview

1
Houston
Race, Class, Oil, and the Making of “America’s Most Diverse City”

Houston is a study in paradoxes. There are pines and palm
trees, skyscrapers and sprawl; Tudor townhouses stop
abruptly as cows and prairie take over. It deals in incred-
ible extremes of wealth and culture…. Houston is all pro-
cess and no plan…. One might say of Houston that one
never gets there. It feels as if one is always on the way, always
arriving, always looking for the place where everything
comes together.

— Ada Louise Huxtable, Kicked a Building Lately?

Why Houston? Pakistani immigrants in Houston typically respond to this question by stating one of the following reasons for why they choose to come to Houston. Many cite the presence of family — kin and biradari (the patrilineal kin group) already living in Houston. Others, especially those from the port city of Karachi in Pakistan, maintain that the climate of Houston is vividly reminiscent of Karachi’s weather and is a significant factor in the decision to relocate to Houston. Yet others refer to the affordability of raising a family in Houston compared to say, New York City. Finally, the energy and medical sectors, the mainstays of Houston’s economy, have made Houston a leading destination for students and skilled professionals with backgrounds and training in engineering, management, and medicine.

These explanations provide insight into why Houston,1 along with New York City, Washington, DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles, ranks among the metropolitan areas with the largest Pakistani populations.2 In terms of statewide distribution, Texas is home to the fourth-largest

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