A Voiceless Majority

// Posted by on 03/31/2013 (10:34 PM)

I’m from Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the United States and a booming town that has plentiful job opportunities, great schools, a world-class medical center, and large homes for small prices. We’re also well-known for our large Mexican population, a feature that directly affects almost all aspects of Houstonian society. According to a USA Today article, Hispanics accounted for over 65% of Texas’ growth since 2000, while the non-Hispanic white population grew by only 4.2% during the same period.

There are countless reasons for their move to Houston. Some have come to escape some of the border violence, many come for better economic opportunities, and a recent New York Times article said that many wealthy Mexicans have been coming to Houston because of inexpensive luxury housing and a chance to live in a safe haven that’s away from the violence and persecution against wealthy Mexicans in Mexico.

However, this isn’t an article about immigration. This is about cultural diffusion and the drastic change in Houston’s identity that is accompanying the massive Hispanic population increases. Almost everything that is printed is in both English and Spanish, and there are some areas near my house that have signs and billboards that are completely in Spanish. Our MLS soccer team, the Houston Dynamo, is primarily supported by Houston’s Hispanic population. I, personally, see more quinceañeras per year than I see average birthday parties taking place. The more I think about it, Houston culture is not just being affected by Mexican culture, it’s being shaped by it.

How does this tie in with activism? Well, for a city that’s steeped in Mexican culture, there is almost zero cultural or political activism in Houston. I have read numerous articles about this anomaly, but a 2003 story in the Houston Chronicle sought to answer this question: “Why would a city with so many immigrants have so little political organizing?”

One Mexican professor cited the border and zoning as being two reasons why so few Mexicans take part in directly affecting Houstonian society. While cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles have large sources for local activism, Houston’s proximity to the border allows for the Mexican population to travel to and from the two countries with ease. This creates a situation where is not a strong need for organizations to be established in Houston. In addition, the Houstonian urban sprawl spreads out communities and makes it hard to get together as a community.

The internet has become a forum for like-minded individuals seeking change and unity, and has been the backbone for movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. In the Southern United States, however, physical and geographic situations are what affect the unification of the Hispanic population. This raises some important questions: when it comes to activism, does Mexico prefer to work together by communicating through physical means? Is traditional activism–which used to be based on community building–impossible in today’s world, where information is primarily digital (which becomes a question of access) and people are spread widely across expansive cities? Most importantly to me, what is the most effective way to unify the voices of an entire community if digitization is not effective?

Here’s a scene from one of Houston’s Hispanic Heritage Month parades, held annually in downtown Houston.

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Sam said...

One of the stand-out things I remember working on the Hill, was one of my experiences with Quico Canseco (TX-23; the huge district that runs along the Mexico border from the western end of the state to the middle of the state). The congressman told me that to run for office anywhere in the vicinity of the border, one was basically required to be bilingual. Having read this article I’m hardly surprised to hear that, yet for one reason or another I still have trouble picturing Thomas Jefferson planning for spanish to be spoken under the capitol rotunda. Just another great example of the international nature of legislation and globalization.

// 04/01/2013 at 3:51 pm

Patrick said...

It is interesting how you talk of Houston as being culturally shaped by Mexico. Living in the Northeast I have never really experienced what this would be like. How would you compare Houston to the community of the University of Richmond?

// 04/03/2013 at 3:36 pm

Tec de Monterrey said...

It’s interesting to see how Mexico is shaping south of the United States, we often or pretty much always talk about the Americanization of the world, but we don’t see the other way around, in this case the Mexicanization of the border.
My family own a house in San Antonio Texas, and we spent a lot of time there, I can see first hand this phenomenon happening, the community is called Presidio, and as you say everything is in Spanish and English, and in some cases Spanglish. A lot of the cattlemen in this part of Texas studied in Tec de Monterrey have family ties in Mexico and the Mexican culture is well in-deep in the San Antonio, and as for activism I can say is also influence by the Spanish Speaking population, all the elected post in the government have Spanish slogans and they appeal to the Hispanic population.

// 04/09/2013 at 12:25 pm