Things That Matter

Here’s Why Texas’ Latino Problem Is Important To All States

CREDIT: AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN / YOUTUBE

Right now there are nearly 10 million Latinos living in the Lone Star State, and according to the Austin American Statesman, 1.3 million are living without representation among elected officials. In some cases, this can mean that a significant number of people are left to fend for themselves when government aid is needed. In areas like Deaf Smith County, the Latino population can top 70 percent, yet not one of the representative seats is held by a Latino, meaning there is a divide between who represents these citizens. At schools, similar problems arise. In the Grand Prairie school district, the school’s Latino population is around 65 percent, yet only one Latino, David Espinosa, sits on the school board. For a state that will be a majority Latino by the year 2020, a minority of offices are held by Latinos. This is a problem.

“I feel like we have been abandoned,” Isabel García told the Austin American Statesman.

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CREDIT: SMASHISM / INSTAGRAM

It might seem like the remedy for this problem rests in mobilizing Latino voters, but the math isn’t so simple. There are many factors that can lead to low Latino voter turn out: roadblocks in voter registration, voter apathy from underrepresentation, and redistricting measures that limit the influence of Latino voters are a few potential problems. Oftentimes, people running for office just don’t know how to connect with their Latino constituents and end up ignoring them when seeking reelection. Other times, the only strong candidates belong to a party that is not interested in their needs.  In spite of all this, Texas is poised to become a swing state in the 2016 presidential election. In 2012, Romney held a double digit lead over Obama in the Texas vote. In 2016, the margin between Trump and Clinton is only 3 percent. This closing of the gap between Democrats and Republicans is partly due to Texas’ Latino population, which largely skews Democrat when voting. So while people like Isabel García feel disenfranchised by their lack of representation, the outcome of the national election can rest in the hands of Latino voters. Something has to change at a local level.

So what’s next?

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CREDIT: TEXAS DEMOGRAPHIC CENTER

When Latinos vote in large numbers, they have the power to affect real political change. Florida has already seen a staggering increase in Latino voters for the 2016 presidential election, up 99% more than the turnout in 2012. For all the faults Texas has representing Latinos, the state also has more Latino elected officials than any other state, 2,536 in total. The problems that Texas is facing should concern any state that has a growing Latino population. Texas’ problems will be your problems one day soon. Thankfully, there are people in Texas’ underrepresented districts working for change, and already in this election cycle we’ve seen efforts to encourage Latino voter participation. Like most things, it’s a matter of time, education, and participation.


Read: Schools, Weed, And Crime. Here’s Why Californians Should Register To Vote Beyond The Presidency

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Is Standing Behind Her Strict Facial Coverings Order

Entertainment

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Is Standing Behind Her Strict Facial Coverings Order

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is facing growing anger about her strict facial covering orders. The Latina county official is facing pressure from county residents as well as Texas state officials because of her science-based approach to controlling the spread of Covid-19.

This is Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

The 29-year-old Latina has mandated that all residents of Harris County, which includes Houston, wear facial coverings when in public. Anyone who is caught without their facial coverings could face a fine of $1,000. Hidalgo is not the only politician who has mandated facial coverings to assist in slowing the spread of Covid-19, which has killed 100,000 people in the U.S.

Hidalgo has faced some backlash from county residents and state officials.

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In #elpaso for the Conference of Urban Counties!

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Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who you might know for saying grandparents are willing to die to reopen the economy, is one state official attacking Hidalgo’s orders. Patrick has called them overreaching on Twitter.

Hidalgo refuses to back down to the pressure citing the need to protect public health.

Hidalgo is pushing to make sure that Harris County residents have the best chance to slow the spread of Covid-19. This means using facial coverings and practicing social distancing, including working from home as much as possible.

“We have to use every tool in the toolbox,” Hidalgo said at a press conference. “I know this takes some getting used to, but these are all small yet powerful actions.”

The order mandating facial coverings is in line with the advice of health organizations.

The point of wearing facial covering is to slow the spread of Covid-19. The nonmedical coverings prevent people from spreading the virus to others while out in public. Studies and data show that asymptomatic people are spreading the virus and the main source of infection is airborne. A cough or a sneeze can send the virus up to 3 feet into the air.

Covid-19 is proven to cause deadly complications for people with certain underlying health conditions.

Latinos have higher rates of diabetes and heart disease meaning that Latinos are at a higher risk of dying from Covid-19. Hidalgo implementing facial coverings orders in line with advice from several national and international health organizations. The virus is still not under control and there is no proven vaccine, treatment, or cure for those who are infected. Stay safe.

READ: Another Man Has Died Of Covid-19 In ICE Custody And The Agency Still Lacks Any Plan To Prevent More Deaths

The Brief And Surprising History Of Tex-Mex Food That You’ve Never Heard

Culture

The Brief And Surprising History Of Tex-Mex Food That You’ve Never Heard

elvisfoodie | santo.inspiracion.mexicana / Instagram

Handfuls of shredded yellow cheese. Flour tortillas. Corn chips dripping with melted queso.

While many Americans think of these dishes as examples of authentic Mexican cuisine, they are completely wrong. 

Indeed tacos salads and sizzling fajita platters are delicious, but they are properly considered Tex-Mex food. That label wasn’t used to describe the unique border region style food until the 1960s, but the origin of Tex-Mex goes back more than a hundred years to a time when Texas was still a part of Mexico. Over the ensuing decades, different ingredients and cooking styles combined along the border to become what we today call Tex-Mex. 

Tex-Mex was first used to describe a railroad.

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The term “Tex-Mex” didn’t originate with the invention of quesadilla triangles. The origin of the term can be traced back as an abbreviation for the Texas-Mexican Railway. First chartered in 1875, the 52-mile line was created to deliver sheep from Texas ranches to customers along the Gulf of Mexico.

An English gastronomer popularized the name of the cuisine.

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Eventually, the moniker would be applied to the Texas-take on Mexican food.  The first usage has been traced to a 1963 article in the The New York Times Magazine, but the term didn’t really take off until the publication of the 1972 book “The Cuisines of Mexico” by food author Diana Kennedy.

Kennedy used the term to draw an important distinction between authentic Mexican cuisine and the Americanized version that was popular in Texas. Mexican restaurant owners took offense to the term at first but most eventually embraced the new descriptor.

Diana Kennedy received the Order of the Aztec Eagle.

Alexeinikolayevichromanov / Wikipedia

In case you are wondering why an Englishwoman would be such an expert on what constitutes real Mexican cuisine, Kennedy wrote several books on the subject based on her more than fifty years of travels in Mexico. She has been called the “grand dame of Mexican cooking” and was decorated with The Order of The Aztec Eagle in 1981. That is the highest honor the Mexican government can bestow upon a foreigner. 

Tex-Mex has its roots in Spanish Missions.

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The establishment of Spanish missions in Mexico, and what would later become the southwestern United States, brought together Aztec staples like beans, with European ingredients such as rice. The Spanish also brought with them many flavors that are essential to Tex-Mex cuisine including olive oil, rice, onions, garlic, oregano, and cilantro.

Tejanos blended Mexican and American cooking styles.

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Tex-Mex cuisine really started to separate itself from traditional Mexican dishes in the home kitchens of Tejanos living north of the Rio Grande. Tejanos were descendants of the original Spanish-speaking settlers of Tejas. After Texas became an independent state and later part of the United States, Tejanos maintained their identity and overtime combined their traditional family recipes with the influx of new flavors that arrived in the area as Americans migrated to the state.

Railroads introduced new ingredients north of the Border.

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The advent of the railroad changed America in many ways, one of which was the ability to send food products and livestock across regions.  Flour, lard, bacon, and molasses made their way to Texas ranches, along with cast-iron skillets and Dutch ovens. Mexican ranch cooks learned to incorporate these ingredients and tools to gain favor with Anglo palates.

Spanish immigrants brought the cumin.

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Cumin isn’t often used in Central Mexican recipes, but it’s a Tex-Mex favorite. New Spanish immigrants to Texas brought a taste for the spice with them by way of the Canary Islands.

Tex-Mex moved from the ranch to the streets.

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From the ranches and home kitchens, Tex-Mex foods such as tamales and enchiladas became street food staples in Texas cities starting in the 1880s. Towards the beginning of the 1900s, health safety laws put many vendors out of business. This is the time when you start to see the first indoor restaurants serving Tex-Mex food.

Chili con carne gave many Americans their first taste of Tex-Mex.

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A stew of ground beef and chilis (and sometimes beans), chili con carne became a popular dish in San Antonio during the 1880s with parlors popping up on every corner. Famous “chili queens” served up the concoction by the bowl-full to hungry locals and travelers. The essential Tex-Mex dish found an even bigger audience at the 1893 Word’s Fair in Chicago, thanks to the appearance of the San Antonio Chili Stand.

Burritos were born on the border.

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Another quintessential Tex-Mex meal is the burrito, a flour tortilla stuffed with various ingredients. Meaning “little donkey” in Spanish, it is believed that the portable meal got its name in Ciudad Juárez during the Mexican Revolution from a street vendor who served them from the back of his donkey.

Nachos are named after a Mexican chef named Ignacio.

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While the tale of the burrito is likely a folk legend, the origin of the term nachos is much more likely to be true.  Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya is credited with creating the dish of fried tortillas to serve a group of hungry American women taking a tour of Piedra Negra in the 1940s. The world was never the same again.

Refried beans aren’t fried twice.

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The term refried beans is actually a mistranslation of the Spanish term frijole refritos. Rather than the prefix “re” meaning to do again, it is actually an intensifier. A more accurate translation would have been “well-fried beans.” 

Otis Farnsworth is the father of the combo plate.

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What goes great with refried beans? Rice of course. Chicago native Otis Farnsworth is credited with being the first to pair the two together. Farnsworth opened one of the first Tex-Mex restaurants in 1900 in San Antonio. His restaurant was called the Original Mexican Restaurant. 

The origins of the chimichanga is a matter of dispute.

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The chimichanga is another Tex-Mex dish that was first created north of the border. Two restaurants, both in Arizona, lay claim to creating the first chimichanga. El Charro Cafe in Tucson claims that the original owner accidentally dropped a burrito in the fryer, and spoke the name as she avoided saying a similar sounding Mexican curse word. Macayo’s Mexican Restaurant in Phoenix claims to have invented the chimichanga after deep-frying unsold burritos so they’d keep longer. The owner, Woody Johnson, named them chimichangas, which is supposed to mean “toasted monkeys.”

Taco Bell made Tex-Mex an American staple.

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A milestone in Tex-Mex history happened in 1962: Glen Bell opened the first Taco Bell in Downey, Calif. Bell started out in business with a hot dog stand in San Bernardino. After seeing long lines at a Tex-Mex restaurant across the street that served hard shell tacos, Bell decided to change his business model. Eventually, Taco Bell would expand to 7,000 locations, bringing Tex-Mex to the masses.

The first international Tex-Mex restaurant in Paris opened in 1983.

Jean Francois D. / Yelp

According to the Houston Press, the first restaurant to bill itself as “Tex-Mex” didn’t open in the United States, but in France. Claude Benayoun tasted Tex-Mex food in Texas while a college student in California, and returned to Paris with the idea for a new exciting concept. The restaurant closed its doors for good just a few a years ago.

The 1986 movie “Betty Blue” made Tex-Mex even more popular in Paris.

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Benayoun’s restaurant was not an instant success, but the 1986 movie “Betty Blue” would go on to change all that. The movie features a scene of heavy tequila drinking, and (SPOILER ALERT) the movie ends with the main character forlornly eating chili con carne after mercy-killing his lover. The movie led to an explosion of Tex-Mex restaurants in the city, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Chuy’s in Austin, TX claims to be the first self-proclaimed Tex-Mex restaurant in the United States.

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Mexican restaurants in America were slower to embrace the term Tex-Mex. Now a major chain, the first Chuy’s opened on Barton Springs Blvd. in Austin, Texas in the early 1980s. Its owners, Mike Young and John Zapp, added the words “Tex-Mex Deluxe” to their menu in 1986.

The longest operating Tex-Mex spot is in Dallas

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Restaurants throughout Texas were serving up Tex-Mex food long before anyone started calling it by that name. El Fenix in Dallas is considered the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant in operation today. It was founded in 1918 by Mexican immigrant Miguel Martinez. Martinez is also credited with inventing the first tortilla-making machine.

Tex-Mex can be found all over the world.

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Tex-Mex is a global phenomenon. You can find Tex-Mex restaurants everywhere from Switzerland to Thailand.

Some Mexican restaurants in the U.S. call themselves “Mex-Mex”

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Lots of restaurants that took offense to the label “Tex-Mex” took to calling themselves Mex-Mex, either in protest or to signify that they have more authentic dishes.

READ: Latin America Truly Is A Food Oasis And Here Are Some Of The Best Dishes