The Legacies of Spanish Texas
THE INDEPENDENCE OF MEXICO IN 1821 AND THE INCLUSION of Texas in that new nation did not spell the end of more than three centuries of Hispanic influence. Before joining the United States in 1846 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 Roman Catholicism. In those instances, it seems appropriate to blur distinctions. This final chapter assesses the lasting and important aspects of a Hispanic past, as well as the blending of Spaniards with indigenous peoples to produce the roots of Tejanos.
OVERALL, SPANISH INFLUENCES IN TEXAS APPEAR TO BE WELL out of proportion to the small number of Hispanics and Hispanicized settlers who were present in 1821. The most obvious, albeit superficial, legacy from the colonial period is Spanish names for counties, places, rivers, creeks, towns, and cities. Approximately one-sixth (42) of the 254 Texas counties have Hispanic names or Anglicized derivations such as Galveston and Uvalde. Hundreds of physiographic features like Llano Estacado, Guadalupe Mountains, or Padre Island perhaps serve as 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. Surely most Texans are grateful for not being known as New Filipinos!