History of Texas

The history of Texas begins with the discovery of Galveston Island in 1518 by Juan de Grijalba. The first group that explored the territory in 1519 was the expedition led by Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, during which a map was sketched that included the coast of Texas. In 1528, an expedition was shipwrecked near Galveston. The survivors, including Narvaez Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, met with hostility from the same Indians who had originally welcomed them. After six years of imprisonment, Cabeza de Vaca managed to escape and in the company of Andrés Dorestes, Alonso del Castillo and Estebanillo, the latter a Moorish slave, began a famous story in the lands of the interior. So, they traveled west of the state of Texas, (in the Big Spring area), to enter the current state of New Mexico. Years later, in 1541, the group led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, and headed to Quivira (Kansas), traveled part of this region. It is also likely that Luis de Moscoso who was part of Hernando de Soto’s expedition to the Mississippi Valley, passed through this territory in 1542, where he disappeared.

In 1598 it was Juan de Onate who sought in the lands of Texas the fabulous treasures that were told in the legends spread in New Spain. Texas remained assimilated to the viceroyalty of New Spain, but Spain did not have too much interest in colonizing the territory until the eighteenth century. The first permanent settlement was a Franciscan mission built near the city of El Paso.

The situation changed when the French, with the La Salle expedition, showed interest from part of the territory. For these, the Gulf of Mexico region was vital in consolidating the French monarch’s claims over the province of Louisiana. Thus, La Salle and his men built Fort St. Louis on the coast of the state of Texas in 1687. Immediately, the Spaniards acted and sent a military expedition in 1689 to destroy and drive out its inhabitants. Given the French interest in the region, the Spanish authorities began sending shipments to Texas. Some, such as those promoted by the governor of Coahuila, Alonso de Leon, starting from 1688, had as their mission the expulsion and control of the French, later they managed to actually conquer the territory, through the foundation of principals and missions, (39 Franciscan missions were founded). Texas became a province, with Los Adaes as its capital. To further strengthen the Spanish presence in the area, a series of expeditions were organized led by Domingo Ramón who, starting from 1717, founded various garrisons and missions in strategic areas of the current state of Texas and near the territory, claimed by France, in Louisiana. Among these missions, flanked by military forts, a particularly important one was the one that gave rise to the city of San Antonio, capital of the province since 1773, which was connected to Santa Fe by the route known as Camino Real.

US interest in Texas began with the 1803 annexation of the Louisiana Territory. In that year, Congress, at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson, decided to purchase the ancient province from France. This will be the first step in US expansion beyond the Mississippi Basin. With the acquisition of Louisiana also began a series of border disputes with Spain, as the United States asserted that the territory held by France extended as far as the Rio Grande. Shortly thereafter, the United States accepted that the Sabine River was the frontier of the territories.

The proclamation of independence of Mexico in 1821 caused a notable change in the relations of the area. Despite the declaration of independence, Spain granted permission to American colonists to settle in its territories south of the Colorado and Brazos rivers. Among them was Moses Austin (father of Stephen Fuller Austin), leader of a group of three hundred settlers, who were followed during the decade of 1820 by new groups of farmers and ranchers. Settler arrivals continued for years, despite Mexican authorities attempting to stop this invasion with laws passed in 1830. By that time, between 25,000 and 30,000 settlers from the United States had settled in the Mexican territory that now occupies the state of Texas.

The Texas independence process began in 1834 when General Antonio López de Santa Anna took power by overthrowing Anastasio Bustamante. That year, US settlers, through Stephen Austin, urged Santa Anna to secure the separation of Texas from the state of Coahuila, on which it depended. Similarly, the cancellation of the measures taken in 1830 which included heavy charges on imports was urged. Santa Anna not only did not accept this proposal, she imprisoned Austin for a year. Relations between Mexicans and US settlers deteriorated until 1835, when Mexican troops entered Gonzales. The soldiers were pushed back and this started the Texas War of Independence. This happened on October 2, 1835.

The settlers maintained an ambiguous attitude as on the one hand, they urged the relaunch of the Mexican liberal constitution of 1824 and on the other, they went to the United States government in search of military support. Thus, Austin and two settlers went to Washington and appointed Sam Houston, former governor of Tennessee, chief of the Texas army. On February 9, 1836, Texas declared its independence with David G. Burnet as the first president of the Republic of Texas. The reaction of Mexico was not long in coming since four days later, General Santa Anna, facing the Mexican troops, besieged the Alamo fort, on the outskirts of San Antonio. In this siege Davy Crockett, William B. Travis and Jim Bowie died who became martyrs and heroes of the new republic and the American public opinion. The great repression against the independence movement, (Santa Anna executed 330 Texans who had surrendered to Goliad, three weeks after destroying the Alamo fort), was avenged by Sam Houston’s troops a month later, who surprisingly attacked San Jacinto al cry of “Remember the Alamo” by capturing General Santa Anna.

The Battle of San Jacinto brought independence to Texas, a republic that was recognized by the United States, Belgium, France, Great Britain and the Netherlands. Sam Houston was named the first officially recognized president of Texas. The design of the flag of the new republic reflected American influence, as it includes the three colors of the US flag, and a star is depicted in the third pane on the left. This is why the state is known as, the ‘lone star’ state, and Texas was also the only state that was fully independent before joining the Union. During the years of the Republic whose presidents were Houston and his successor, Mireabeau B. Lamar, the institution of the Texas Rangers was created, an armed body that still exists.

Although Texas immediately solicited admission to the United States after the declaration of independence, the fact that it was a slave state hampered its annexation. Despite the obvious advantage that this huge territory had for the expansionist aims of the United States, admitting a state whose constitution ensured the right to own slaves unbalanced the precarious balance of the United States system of government. The strategy that Texas began to force the United States to decide on his admission was to have negotiations with Great Britain. In this way, the United States feared that an annexation of Texas to Britain could jeopardize its interests in the south, so in 1844 Congress accelerated the integration of Texas into the Union.

In 1846, Texas definitively joined the United States. This decision resulted in the breakdown of relations between Mexico and the United States which led to conflict following the invasion of Mexico by US troops. The war between the two countries (1846-1848) ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by which the United States snatched a third of its territory from Mexico. The annexation made it necessary to adjust the borders between the administrative units into which the acquired territory was divided. Thus, in 1850, the United States negotiated with Texas the cession of a part of the territory to be shared between the future states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas.

At the outbreak of the civil war between the Northern and Southern states in 1861, Texas joined the Confederacy as a slave state, (30% of its population were slaves), and despite a large part of the population (especially those who had fought for integration in the United States), they did not look favorably on this decision. Among the discontented was Governor Sam Houston, who was relieved of his post by refusing to swear allegiance to the confederacy. Texas actively participated in the war, although with the exception of the battle for the port of Galveston which was occupied for some time by Union troops, there were no major battles on its territory. Paradoxically, the last battle of the war took place in Palmito Hill, with the troops who did not know that the confederation had surrendered. Texas was readmitted to the Union in 1870.

After the war, the state’s economy was based on cotton (the most important product up to that time) and above all on cattle breeding, the development of which was facilitated by the construction of the railway. 1901 is the key year in the state’s development, when oil was discovered in Beaumont. The ease of communications across the Gulf of Mexico explains the development of the petrochemical industry in this area. The industrial impulse caused intense population growth, around the three most important centers of the state: Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. The two world wars were very positive for the economic development of Texas, as a major supplier of oil. Some of the strategic industries of the United States are located in Texas.

Although oil is the main source of wealth for the state, its great dependence on this product makes it particularly sensitive to price fluctuations, as happened in the 1980s, when prices fell sharply. To avoid these situations, Texas tries to diversify its economy.

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