A guide book about the Texas and two of its main cities: Austin and San Antonio.
Texas is the larger state in the United States. Its surface is bigger than France's: 696,000 km² vs 675,000 km². Its capital is Austin and the main cities are Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.
The symbols of Texas are its flag, the shape of the state, the logo of Texas Longhorns and the armadillo.
Horses were brought by Spanish colons.
In 1836, Texan troops (900 people) launch a surprise attack against the Mexican army (1200 people): the battle of San Jancito. After 18 minutes, 630 Mexican soldiers had been killed whereas only 9 Texans died. Then, Santa Anna was captured and forced to surrender. Texas becomes independant.
In 1845, Texan counties voted for the annexion to the US. At that time, Texas had an important debt ($ 12 million) that the federal government did not want to pay. So, it allowed Texas to keep and sell its public land to reduce the debt.
Since 1850, Texas has had a very strange (and very famous) shape. This is due to the Compromise of that year: Texas abandoned New Mexico, and, in exchange, could allow slavery.
Windmills were invented in 1854. They are water pumping machines powered by the wind. Nowadays, some of them are still in use.
Between 1860 and 1865 (American Civil War), Texas joined the Confederacy. After the War, it had to abolish slavery.
In the 1870s, during a war between the US and some Indian tribes (Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho), called the Red River Conflicts, US armies destroyed Indian resources in winter, to make them starve and surrender.
Between 1870 and 1879 took place an systematic extermination of the buffalo. This animal was the main resource of Indian tribes: all their life was centered around it, from food to clothes and houses.
Other rural activities has been the exploitation of pine resin and wood and the growth of rice (since the 1880s) and cotton (that used "sharecropping", which is working a land owned by someone else).
Cow-boys were cattle raisers. When Joseph F. Glidden invented barbed wire in 1874, it changed ranching forever.
In the previous century, the discovery and exploitation of oil changed nearly everything: this rural state became urban and a lot of "boomtowns" appeared.
Between 1902 and 1942, Mercury mines also represented an important activity. Mercury was called "quicksilver".
Since 1916, the citrus industry has developped a lot. It uses an irrigation system and employs Mexican immigrant workers.
Nowadays, Texas is very active in electronics (with Texas Instruments), aeronautics and astronautics.
Texas is well known for its oil wells and also for its ranchs in which you can see longhorns.
In all the South of the USA, the Hispanic culture has also an important place.
Tex-Mex food is quite famous all over the world. Among its specialities, you can find tacos, burritos, chili con carne, corn on the cob, red beans...
In Texas, "B.B.Q." food is also appreciated.
The University of Texas
Its campus quite huge (1.4 km²) and you can see a lot of Grey squirrels and birds (even Blue jays) in it. The University has 50,000 students, under- and post-graduates. It has a gymnasium with a swimming pool, a huge stadium and a six-floor library.
Paul Philippe Cret (1876-1945) studied in the École des Beaux Arts, in Paris. He was the architect who created the original design of the campus, including the Main Building and the Tower.
The white tower was completed in 1937. It can be considered as a symbol of the campus and can be seen from very far away. It has several different lightings, from entirely white to entirely orange, depending on the campus or sports events.
The Texas Longhorns
The American football team of Austin is called "Texas Longhorns". Their symbol is a longhorn head. In some shops, you can buy all sorts of clothes and objects with this symbol on it.
Their stadium, on UT campus, is huge.
The Texas State Capitol
The original building was built in 1882 and entirely financed by donators. In 1990, an extension with new offices and conference rooms was added. It is completely underground and costed 63 million dollars, paid by the State.
The main hall shows a pavement with the foundators of Texas: the kingdom of Spain, the kingdom of France, the republic of Mexico, the Confederate states and the United States.
The Capitol was made in Texas granit. The statue on its top represents the godness of Liberty. The current statue was made in aluminium, because the original one, in zinc, did not last.
The Senate is composed of 31 members. The 31 desks present are original ones. Nowadays, all of them are equiped with a phone and a laptop. There is one session every other year. Each senator can speak as long as he wants, but has to remain at his desk and in his subject. The two paintings in this room represent the Alamo and San Jacinto. The painter took 40 years to collect the information before painting.
The House of Representatives is the largest room, since they are 150. The desks are the original one and are also equiped with a phone and a laptop. They cannot speak from their desks but elect a speaker.
The Capitol also contains a legislative reference library.
6th street is famous for its pubs and night clubs. During the night, the street is closed to the cars, and so, the youth can enjoy the night clubs.
Saint Mary's cathedral
Saint Mary's cathedral of Austin was built in 1872 in neo-gothic style. It is located in the Downtown and is quite a small church.
This natural space proposes a walk in a forest near the Colorado River. The flora of this forest has been restored to be the same as the one the Spanish explorers found when they discovered Texas.
Another space is composed of a garden with small ponds containing fishes and water lilies. A few peafowls also live there.
Zilker Botanical Garden
Those gardens are a pleasant place to walk and admire a lot of species of plants (flowers, trees, cactus...). You can also visit the Japanese garden, with its ponds, fishes and asian decorations and the Hartman Prehistoric Garden with its dinosaur sculpture...
The history museum
In the Bob Bullock Texas State history museum, you can learn a lot about the history of Texas. A wide range of history is presented, with old objects, maps, models and a lot of explanations.
Animals you can see a lot in Austin are squirrels. They are nearly everywhere in the campus and near the Colorado river.
Some birds are very special by the sound they make (like a car alarm!) and others (Blue Jay and Cardinal) by their colours.
Texas has 32 species of bats, in which 9 live around Austin. Studies shew that 100 millions of Mexican free-tailed bats live in the Texan Hill Country. Since the renovation of Congress Avenue Bridge, in 1980, a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats has found a good place to live in the summer: the bridge has narrow but deep openings which are perfect for this specie of bats.
The bats migrate from Mexico each spring to give birth. They are between 750,000 and 1.5 million (when the young bats begin to fly) living under the bridge. It is the largest urban bat colony in North America. This number can be compared with Austin's population, which is about 700,000.
Each evening, at dusk, the bats emerge to feed themselves. They fly to across Lady Bird Lake and hunt between 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects. So, they are very useful to humans by reducing the population of mosquitos. This is one of the arguments Bat Conservation International used to change the opinion of people about bats. In fact, the town of Austin and the UT first tried to exterminate the bats with cyanide gas, DDT and carbon dioxide, in the beginning of the 1980s.
Currently, their emergence represent a major touristic atraction for the town since each evening, hundreds of people come near and on the bridge to see them. Even boats have been put in place for the show. Each year, about 100,000 people come to see the bats. The economic impact of their presence is very positive and all the town now lives with the bats, that have become a real symbol for Austin.
This city is about 150 km at the South-West of Austin. It was founded in 1731 and called Bexar at that time. The Mexican influences are really important there.
Institute of Texan cultures
This museum presents the cultures of the various people who immigrated into Texas, for example: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese...
It also details the local civilisations, from prehistoric people to recent Indian tribes.
It was created for the exhibition Hemisfair, in 1968.
San Antonio has been a market town since 1718, when the first Spanish expedition set up camp there and build the presidio (which is the military headquarter).
The first real market place was created in 1718, in the military plaza. In 1892, it was moved to its current location, which is part of the ejido, the land given in 1730 by the Spanish king to the settlers, "for their use and entertainment".
Nowadays, you can find there a lot of shops for tourists, with all sorts of objects, useful or decorative, and Mexican restaurants.
San Fernando's cathedral
It was built between 1838 and 1850, so, it is the oldest active cathedral in the United States.
It was first one of the five missions built in 1724 for missionaries who converted Indians to christian faith. Later, it became a military site.
In 1835, the general Antonio López de Santa Anna abolished the constitution of 1824. This marked the beginning of the Texan Revolution against Mexico. The same year, in October, a few Texan volunteers took the Alamo in four days and made a banner showing a cannon, a black star and the words: "Come and take it".
The general Santa Anna came a few month later, in February 1836, with 6 500 soldiers to crush the rebellion and recover the Alamo. His siege lasted 13 days during which a group of 32 volunteers, including David Crockett, joined the defenders of the Alamo. So, the total number of Texan soldiers was about 200. They were commanded by William Barret Travis and Jim Bowie.
Santa Anna decided to give no quarter to the Texan and attacked the Alamo with about 2 000 soldiers in which 600 were killed. He finally took the place and executed the last defenders. Only a few women, children and slaves survived.
Nowadays, the church and the gardens has been renovated and is taken care by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who were given this responsibility by the Texas Legislature in 1905.
A Live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) has been transplanted in the garden in 1912. Its base is now more than 3.5 meters and the length of some of its branches exceed 15 meters.
The river walk is a very nice place, with a lot of shade, water and restaurants, where you can walk and rest. You can also take boats to visit the downtown.
This cathedral was built between 1898 and 1902, after the creation of the diocese in 1890. It was first dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It took the name of Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe when the parish was merged with the neighboring parish Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1977. It was served by the Carmelite priests until 1988 and has, in 2013, the largest cathedral community in the United States.
Houston is famous for its space center, from which the space missions are guided. "Houston" was also the first word heard from the Moon. The city is named after Samuel Houston
The Colorado River
This river crosses Texas to Mexico gulf.
Lake Austin is a reservoir on the Colorado River in Austin. It is formed by Tom Miller Dam (constructed in 1939).
It is a quiet place where a lot of students come to work and see the sunset. There are also several restaurants and boats.
It is an other reservoir on the Colorado River, North of Austin. The lake is named after William Barret Travis.
There, a restaurant, The Oasis, claims to be the "capital of the sunset in Texas". Thus, the sunset is beautiful there and you can see a 180° panorama on the lake.
It is just near lake Travis an is a very quiet place where you can see Turkey Vultures and deers.
It is a place, not far from Mayfield Preserve, from which you can see the Colorado River and, sometimes, a nice sunrise over Austin.
It is a State Park 30 miles west of Austin, in Johnson City, on Pedernales River, which is an affluent of Colorado River. It exists since 1973. The landscape is wonderful, with small lakes made by white rocks.
There, you can see lizards, turkey vultures and deers.
The most important people in Texan history are:
Biographie de Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar
Second president of the Republic of Texas né 16 août 1798 à Louisville (Georgia) ; décédé 19 décembre 1859 à Richmond (Texas).
He was the second president of the Republic of Texas. He created the University of Texas.
Biographie de Stephen Fuller Austin
«Father of Texas» né 3 novembre 1793 à Virginia ; décédé 27 décembre 1836 à West Columbia (Texas).
He is known as the "father of Texas" because he led the second colonisation of this area by American people.
Biographie de William Barret Travis
American lawyer and soldier né 9 août 1809 à Saluda County (South Carolina) ; décédé 6 mars 1836 à San Antonio (Texas).
He commanded the Republic of Texas forces and died at the Battle of the Alamo.
Biographie de Samuel Houston
First president of the Republic of Texas né 2 mars 1793 à Virginia ; décédé 26 juillet 1863 à Huntsville (Texas).
He fought the Mexican army as a General during the Battle of San Jacinto. He was then President of the Republic of Texas and then governor of this State. He was for the Union between Texas and the USA and refused to join the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
Cette page en anglais a été créée par Peter à partir de notes de voyage, 23 juin 2008 et modifiée pour la dernière fois 25 août 2020. Son avancement est noté 3/3.