History of Texas
The oldest, pre-European developed cultures inhabiting the area of today’s Texas that records were found of were Pueblo that mostly inhabited the upper Rio Grande region just west of Texas; Mound Builder, or Mississippian culture, that of course inhabited the Mississippi valley and Mesoamerican people, who’s centre of power was located to the south of the today’s Texas. The most prominent Native American tribes that inhabited this area were the Caddo tribe, who are also responsible for the name of the state, Comanche, Apache, Kiowa, Wichita, Choctaw and Atakapan tribes. The disposition of these tribes had great influence on the willingness of settlers to come to this region. If they were friendly they would encourage the settling of these lands by providing the settlers with means and instructions for growing crops and living with the land, while the more belligerent tribes did all they could to repel the settler and discourage them from inhabiting these lands.
The first Europeans in this region were Spaniards in 1528. They were shipwrecked there and didn’t establish significant colonies, partly due to the fact that the indigenous inhabitants started suffering and dying from a bowels disease that they (probably rightly) blamed the Europeans for transmitting to them. The first significant colony established in those parts was set up in 1685, and was a result of a miscalculation. It was supposed to be established in the Mississippi River valley, but an error on the part of the leader of the expedition placed it in Matagorda Bay. It was short lived; it took four years for it to dissipate because of hostile native tribes and all-round difficult living conditions. The next larger, also Spanish colony was set up in 1718 and was named San Antonio. It was established mainly because the Spanish noticed the increasing interest of the French for this location, and they were trying to claim the land first. The region was very tumultuous due to the warring Native American tribes, some of which cooperated with the Spanish in war efforts. This, combined with the significant distance from other populated colonies, made the area quite unpopular for settling.
The American purchase of Louisiana in 1803 brought a lot of Americans close to the border with Texas, and they often organized parties meant to claim Texas for the United States. However, this territory became a part of Mexico in 1821. At first Mexican authorities encouraged European and US settlers to inhabit this area in hopes that this will help the locals fight off Comanche raiders. These settlers soon gained the significant majority over the Mexican people, and by 1835 only about a fifth of inhabitants were of Mexican origin.
This has led to revolts against Mexican rule, the first of which was Anahuac Disturbance that took place in 1832, the same year in which the first convention that started Texas’ war for independence was held. The revolution was launched in 1835 with the battle of Gonzales. During the effort to suppress this revolution, Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna besieged for thirteen days, and finally conquered the Texan revolutionaries in Alamo. Even though they lost the battle, Alamo became one of the strongest symbols of the Texans’ fight for independence. Soon after, Santa Anna’s forces were defeated in the battle of San Jacinto, and he was forced to sign the Treaties of Velasco that ended the war.
After they have won their independence, the people of Texas fought over the course that they should take, independence from the US, or annexation. They have finally been accepted as one of the states in the USA on December 29, 1845. Its current boundaries have been set in 1850.
Texas joined the secession war in 1861. Not a lot of fighting happened there, but Texas provided the confederate army with men and supplies. It was admitted back into the Union in 1870. The state didn’t fare all that well until the discovery of oil in 1901, which completely transformed it. It reinvented its economy and allowed for significant funding of the educational system. Texas owes a lot of what it is today to that discovery.
Geography of Texas
In the USA Texas is second only to Alaska regarding the size of the state. It covers the area of 268,820 square miles, meaning that is larger than France by 10%, and nearly twice the size of Japan or Germany. It is situated in the south-central USA. It has three natural borders defined by rivers: Rio Grande to the south that separates it from Mexican states of Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua and Coahuila and Tamaulipas; Red River to the north that separates it from US states of Oklahoma and Arkansas and Sabine River to the east that separates it from Louisiana. It is also has New Mexico on the west.
Texas is a state with a lot of different aspects. It is divided into 14 soil, 11 ecological and 10 climatic regions which gives this state an incredible diversity in the topological features as well as plant and animal life. Form the Gulf Coastal Plains region covered in thick pine woods to vast prairies and steppes of the Llano Estacado as well as hilly regions, this state offers an abundance of beautiful sites and potentially exploitable land.
It has 15 significant rivers, the largest of which is Rio Grande, followed by Brazos, Pecos, Red River and Colorado River. The state is intersected with smaller streams, and although it has but a few natural lakes, it can boast more than hundred artificial reservoirs.
The fact that it holds large amounts of sediments in the soil is what makes this state so rich in oil. The land was once a part of the Gulf of Mexico, which is the reason for the present quantities of sediments in the soil. The state is situated on relatively stable tectonic soil. It doesn’t suffer from earthquakes too often, and contains no volcanoes.
The climate in Texas is not very stable, which prompted one of the local sayings: “If you don’t like the weather, give it a minute, it will change.” This is caused by the fact that the state is located on the intersection of a number of climate zones. Different parts of the state have quite different winters and quantities of rainfall. While the western parts of the state average 8.7 inches of rainfall, it is not uncommon for southeastern Texas to average around 65 inches per year. Likewise, snowfall is not a rarity in the mountains of west Texas, while it is a much rarer occurrence in the north and central parts of the state. If you go south of San Antonio it becomes a true rarity.
Temperatures are usually consistent at around 90F, but this also heavily depends on the time of the year and the area. This state is known for its frequent thunderstorms and tornadoes. Texas is the state with the most tornadoes per year, averaging at 139. They usually occur during the late spring, and early summer months. Hurricanes are not only the most frequent in this state, they have also been more devastating here than in other states. The city of Galveston has been the site of the most devastating natural disaster in the US history, when a hurricane struck it and took anywhere between 8 and 12 thousand lives in 1900.
Population of Texas
The 2011 census of the Texas’ population estimated it at 25,674,681, which presented a 2.10% increase since the last year. The natural increase from births and deaths was determined to equal to 1,389,275 people, while immigration, both from inside and outside the US, brought 1,253,486 new inhabitants. The estimated number of illegal aliens in the country is around 1.2 million people. This is not surprising when you consider the fact that between the years 2000 and 2006, Texas had the fastest growing immigration rate in the USA.
The population density of Texas was estimated at somewhere around 35 people per square kilometer, which makes it somewhat higher than the estimated national average of 31 people/km2. When you consider its size, this leaves large unpopulated areas, with most people living in large metropolitan areas.
Ethnic and racial composition of Texas is rather varied and looks like this: white people (of Hispanic origin or not) make 70.4% of the population – non Hispanic white people make up for 45.3%; African American people constitute 11.8%; native American population is estimated at 0.7%; Asian 3.8%; Pacific Islanders 0.1%; other races, including mixed races 13.2% and Hispanic and Latino people 37.6%.With the 48% of non-Hispanic white Americans, Texas is a minority-majority state. They are usually of Irish, German and English descent.
The largest religions in Texas are Roman Catholic Church - 4,368,969 believers which makes for 28% percent of the population; Southern Baptist Convention - 3,519,459, believers, 21%; and United Methodist Church - 1,022,342, believers, 8%. In addition atheists and agnostics make up for 11% of the population, other Christian denominations have 7% of the population, Lutheran 3%, Pentecostal 3%, Mormon 2% and Episcopalian 1%.
The Muslim population numbers somewhere between 350 and 400 thousands, while Jewish population is estimated to 128.000. Members of non Christian religions are usually located in some of the state’s urban centers.
The Economy of Texas
The GSP (gross state product) of Texas is the second highest in the United States at $ 1.207 trillion. It is roughly the same as GSP of such countries as Canada or India that have, respectively the world’s 11th and 12th largest economies. Its per capita income in 2009 was $36,484, placing it in the 29th place regarding the per capita income in the nation. This was mostly made possible by the Texas’ abundance of natural resources, especially oil, important centers of higher education and the state’s large population. Texas can boast very low taxes with 8.4% of the inhabitant’s income, and a satisfyingly low unemployment rate of 8.1%.
One of the most important staples of Texas’ economy is agriculture. It is the leading state in the livestock production, number of farms and ranches and the acreage. Texas is the leader in the goat and sheep products, as well as in the production of cotton. It is also a significant exporter of cereal crops and has a very well developed fishing industry. The abundance of mineral resources has made the state an important source of crushed stone, salt, gravel, send and cement.
Energy is another important product of Texas. The discovery of oil has shifted the majority of Texas’ industry in this direction. This has made this state the largest consumer of energy in the nation, both per capita, and as a state. This is partially thanks to their own power grid – Texas Interconnection. Some of the most important resources are uranium, surface coal, and of course, petroleum, the reserves of which were estimated at around 5 billion barrels, which would account for a fourth of the current national reserves. It is thus not surprising to learn that the America’s largest refinery, The Baytown Refinery is located in the Houston Area, and that Texas is home to a number of large petroleum companies such as Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Conoco-Phillips and Valero.
But apart from leading the market in the production of fossil fuels, the state is also at the helm of the production of renewable energy sources. It has the largest wind farm in the nation, Roscoe Wind Farm with a 781.5 megawatt capacity. The state’s solar power potential for development is the largest in the nation, and vibrant and developed forestry and agricultural industries could provide Texas with incredible amounts of biofuel.
Many centers of higher education have prompted the significant growth of technological industry, making Texas the home of such Companies as Texas Instruments, Dell, Inc., AT&T and Perot Systems. Not to mention the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston that has been crucial in a number of US space endeavors.
Texas Government and legislation
This state’s plural executive branch system is organized in the way that limits the Governor’s power. Executive officials are elected to their positions (except the Secretary of the State), which makes the candidates directly responsible to the public and not the Governor. This kind of system can lead to certain branches being split between parties. The legislature is composed of the Senate, containing 31 members and the House of Representatives that contains 150 members. Sessions are scheduled for two times a year, but additional sessions can be called at any time by the Governor.
Texas has one the more complex judicial systems in the USA and a well known law enforcement agency called the Texas Ranger Division. They have state-wide jurisdiction and can work on cases dealing with everything from murder to corruption. They were first created in 1823, but only became an official agency in 1835. Since then they have been an integral part of many important US criminal cases.
Education in Texas
Mirabeau B. Lamar, who was the state’s second president, is considered the Father of Texas Education. He had set aside large quantities of land that were designated to cover the expenses of public schools and Universities. This has been a base for the establishment of the fund that was to cover education in Texas. The state was providing 88% of the education funds, while the federal government contributed with the remaining 12%. Texas’ students were found to be above average in mathematics and bellow in reading. Today, Texas has more than a thousand school districts, almost all of which are independent from municipal government.
Texas currently has six state University systems and four independent universities. It also has a plan that grants immediate admission to state funded universities to students who finished in the top 10% of their high school class.
Texas is an important hub due to its central position; this makes it very important for its transportation system to be effective. The state can boast the longest highway and railway systems in the nation. The first freeway opened was the Gulf Freeway in Houston, opened in 1948. Since 2005, the estimated length of Texas freeway comes to about 79,535 miles. Despite the length, or perhaps, because of it, the roads in Texas are not all that well maintained and are often in poor condition.
As far as air travel is concerned, Texas is not lagging behind, it is second in the nation by the number of airports (730), and it also has the second largest airport by area in the USA – Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which is also the fourth largest in the world.
Naval traffic is also well developed with 1,150 seaports, that provide employment to almost a million people and at average handle somewhere around 317 million metric tons of cargo. The busiest port, not just in Texas, but in all of the US in foreign tonnage, and second in overall tonnage is The Port of Houston. It is also tenth in the world in overall tonnage that goes through it.
Texas has also usually been a nationwide leader in railroad length. The first railroad that was operational in Texas was Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway that was opened in 1853. In 1932, Texas’ railroad was at its longest with 17,078 miles, but by the year 2000 this was reduced to 14,006 miles.