Please circle only one ethnicity or race that best represents you:
· White-American or White European (non-Hispanic)
· African-American (Black)
· Pacific Islander
· Hispanic, Central or South American (non-white)
· Asian, Oriental
· Native American
Growing up, I had to answer this question on multiple standardized tests and forms. To this day, I still do. I typically circle whatever I think is funny at the time.
So now, that’s out of the way! I can begin talking about what’s been on my mind.
One of my go-to explanations, when people are intrigued by what I do, is: I’m a first-generation Texan, but my parents are from Argentina.
It took me years to say this proudly.
I sometimes didn’t know exactly how to answer a question like the following: “Wait. So where are you from?” Meaning, it sounds like you’re from a different culture, but why do you look white. When I’m in meetings, pitching a product directly to a customer, playing a game of pick-up soccer, talking to kitchen staff, you name it, my upbringing gets questioned. I often have fun with my answer. I tell different stories, all factual, to different people. I typically try to gauge why someone might be asking and adapt my answer to him or her…or gauge why someone is asking and completely go 180 on the inquisitor to confuse them even more.
I think the need to understand what I am (or why I make Chimichurri for example) engages people because their inner balance gets thrown off. I know that certain feeling intrigues and excites me when I meet similar, multi-cultural individuals (who are most of us).
What makes a Texan might have consisted of something different fifty years ago versus today. Today, I think a Texan can be more than oil, guns, horses, and cowboys. Texas and its inhabitants are at the forefront of multiculturalism as an iconic melting pot of identity. Texas has the longest international border in the US with a neighboring country whose people speak a completely different language (but not quite).
As a Texan, I grew up with South American and Tex-mix culture. My first language was Spanish, our neighboring countries’ language is Spanish, and our Houston neighbors speak Spanish. At School. On our sports teams. At our jobs. Spanish is everywhere inTexas. There is an innate understanding that Spanish speakers are part of the Texas culture as they are in Latin American culture.
My hometown, Houston, is the biggest spread-out, most diverse city in Texas if we include its neighboring counties. A big factor of our diversity is due to the ever-growing Hispanic community. As Houston grabs more attention from national media, we can begin to hear strong claims of why Houston is extremely diverse. But one can also look at cities like El Paso and Laredo where the Hispanic populations have exceeded into becoming the majority. My point is that I’m damn proud of this mixture. Not many can say that two cities in their state (San Antonio and Austin) have taco competitions to see which city understands the taco better. So we might not be number one in cultural diversity according to WalletHub (but probably in top 10 if examining cities over 1 million in population), but Texas is number one in throwing down for some tacos. If that doesn’t prove to you that Texas is embracing merging cultures, then you don’t get a taco.
I think we’re now shining more light on Hispanic-American culture in Texas. Our southern hospitality surely comes, at least partly, from our Southern neighbors. If you travel further South beyond Texas, you will notice how hospitable our neighbors are. One can even play with the idea that as former inhabitants of the Texas region, some kind hospitality mannerisms have been left behind. Historically speaking, I’m proud that I’m here today and that the US is a beautiful place to live, but the most recent cultures in Texas were Hispanic (to keep things simple). Which I think helps us understand hospitality as we merge traditions and cultures.
Texas and Latin America both have some deep-rooted traditions, and the idea of a merging multicultural Lone Start State is something to be damn proud of.
Texans and Argentines are known to be proud people. So, a recipe that calls for Texas culture and Argentine technique can only yield a very proud dish. Politics aside, we can admit that our cuisines, holidays, and stories are just getting better with every second we embrace our new, always-evolving Texas culture.
So now, what do you think makes a Texan?
Pour me a shot of tequila and cut me a piece of brisket, and let’s be proud of our state. YEEHAW!
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