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Welcome to the state of Texas.

The first thing you should know: the state itself is huge, being 268,820 sq. miles with a population of about 27.8 million people. This makes it roughly half the size of Alaska with sixty times the population - and several times larger than many entire countries. For example, it is approximately three times as large as the entire United Kingdom put together—or, more to the point, "only" a bit larger than France.note  It is the largest of the lower 48 states, the second most populated after California, and the state with the most counties (254).

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Texas can easily be divided into five different regions culturally, with climates ranging from the near desert-like conditions of the panhandle to the humid coastal subtropics along the shoreline; the only thing they have in common climate-wise is that they are hot.note  Needless to say, that gives us a lot of ground to cover, so let's get into it.

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History of Texas

Texas is the birthplace of the Six Flags theme park. Why is that relevant here? Well, the name comes from the six national flags that have historically flown over the state: France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States (though during most of the time all but one of those flags was flying, the Comanche were the ones really in control of most of the territory).

Yes, you read that right: the state was its own independent nation from 1836-1846, carved out of Mexico after a rebellion of American settlers from the neighboring South who wanted to preserve their right... to own slaves. The U.S. delayed annexing it for a decade in part to avoid war with Mexico and in part to keep the issue of expanding slavery from dividing the nation, but expansion was hugely popular and James K. Polk pulled the trigger, helping to start the Mexican-American War.note  To encourage Texas to agree to give up being a separate country and join the United States, it got one special privilege and one special permission in its admission. First, all public domain land in Texas belongs to the State of Texas (everywhere else, public domain land remained the property of the U.S. Government). Second, without further action of Congress, Texas can, at any time, divide itself into as many as five states. The joke coming from that is that it will never happen, because none of the new states to be created could agree on which one got to keep the Alamo.

As mentioned, Texas sided with the Confederacy during The American Civil War, though most of the Confederate residents lived in the eastern half of the state. After the war, settlement began to spread westward, though its vast desert landscapes only were able to sustain large, long-term settlement after the invention and popularization of air conditioning in the mid-20th century. After this, the population exploded, and the state has been on a steady ascent upwards ever since; it passed New York as the second most-populous state in the 1990s, and while it is still a fairly distant second behind its rival California, it is feasible that it can close that gap in a few decades time. Part of that rivalry comes from the sheer number of recent migrants that actually come from California, something that native Texans have mixed feelings about (though it does give them some room to gloat about how great their state is).

Demographics and Culture

Unfortunately, some writers will represent Texas as a backward state, a mashup of the Deep South and The Wild West. This is very untrue, as we'll see below. That being said, there are Texans that aren't afraid to act the stereotype of the Boisterous Bruiser intentionally to mess with non-Texans (especially when out of state), as it's practically a sport - especially when a native is asked a stupid question they've probably heard a thousand times before (no, not every Texan owns a gun or wears cowboy boots). Truth be told, Texans tend to be rather proud of their state heritage, to the point that it can be considered a form of local nationalism. Ask a Texan where they're from, anywhere in the world, and they'll likely say he's from Texas rather than America.

In terms of culture, Texas plays host to some of the largest Hispanic and Asian American communities in the Southern United States. For instance, Vietnamese is the state's third-widest spoken language behind English and Spanish. The state's ranks of professionals, business leaders, and politicians draw from all racial and religious groups. Many government institutions retain their form from the days of the Republic of Texas and the Reconstruction Era. Politics is personality-based as much as anything else from the state's history of being in the Solid South, leading to such politicians as Kinky Friedman, a self-described Jewish Cowboy and entertainer whose campaign slogan was "Why the hell not?", popping up from time to time.

Historically speaking, Texas has been a Republican stronghold since the early 1970s, as the state has voted for GOP presidential candidates for nearly fifty years from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump. However, it used to be a solidly Democratic state as the birthplace of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States from 1964 to 1968, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first Vice President, John Nance Garner, who had the incredible nickname "Cactus Jack". Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat presidential candidate to win Texas, while Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Governor Dorothy Ann Richards were the most recent Democrat politicians to hold high-ranking government positions in the Lone State State until they lost to Kay Bailey Hutchison and George W. Bush respectively in the 1990s. Bush, of course, would later go on to be president himself, following the footsteps of his father; while both father and son were born into old money in New England, they became much better known for representing their adopted state on the world stage from the late '80s through the 2000s and are one reason the state is seen as a Republican hub.

However, there are more nuances on the local level: Texas cities are much more diverse than the rural counties (Houston is often touted as one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation, Dallas has arguably the largest LGBT community in the South, and San Antonio and El Paso have large Hispanic populations, most of whom tend to be Mestizos) and thus tend to vote Democrat. Like many Sun Belt states, migration from Mexico and California is altering the state's political landscape; elections have gotten increasingly competitive in recent years, something that is expected to continue in the future. Democratic candidates Beto O'Rourke (former US Representative from El Paso) and Lupe Valdez (the first lesbian Mestizo Hispanic sheriff of Dallas County) both ran tight races against Republicans Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott in the 2018 midterm elections only to lose to their competitors. It remains to be seen if the Democrats can one day flip back the state, especially with the changing demographics of the cities and suburbs. Since the state has the second highest number of electoral college votes in the country after solidly Democratic California, this outcome would give the Democrats a huge edge in presidential elections.

If Texas was an independent nation today, its economy would be in the top ten of all countries, surpassing major forces like Canada and South Korea. It is the home to 58 companies of the Fortune 500, more than any other state in the US. Economics is mostly regional in the state, helping to define the regional identities of many residents. The state as a whole leads the entire nation in beef production. East Texas has a large timber industry. North and West Texas are defined by agriculture and petroleum extraction. Dallas has defense manufacturers and the Silicon Prairie. Houston excels in shipping, petrochemicals, and aerospace industries (thank you NASA). San Antonio is very rich in history and is home to several major military bases, while El Paso's economy is a mix of military and oil. Last but not least, Texas's capital of Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World, the Hollywood of Texas, and the Silicon Hills, combining a vibrant, globally recognized arts, media, and music scene with the cutting-edge research and manufacturing hub of California's Silicon Valley.

Training people for all of these jobs requires a lot of education. There are at last count 181 different colleges, universities and other institutions actively engaged in research and development—not only into oil but alternative, renewable energy sources as well—along with the much more numerous community colleges and trade schools. Laws have been passed in the state where any high school student graduating in the top 10% of their class gets first pick from any of the schools. Also, the Texas Medical Center in Houston is the largest medical complex in the world, consisting of 21 hospitals, eight specialty centers, eight academic and research institutions, four medical schools, seven nursing schools, three public health organizations, two pharmacy schools, and a dental school.

The Texas Ranger Division is one of the most famous non-federal law enforcement agencies in the nation, acting in many of the big events in Texan and Old West history, including the Indian wars, The Mexican Revolution, and the capture of Bonnie and Clyde. Despite two attempts to disband them (once during Reconstruction and again in the 1930s in a political dispute), they remain part of the state's law enforcement, functioning as a Texan version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are the source of the saying and trope, "One Riot, One Ranger". Contrary to popular opinion outside the state, the Rangers are not the primary state-level police force, despite having full police powers. The main state-level police force is the Texas Highway Patrol, often locally referred to as "DPS" (though DPS refers to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the parent body of both the Rangers and Highway Patrol, plus several other divisions). The Highway Patrol has an order of magnitude more sworn personnel than the Rangers—more than 2,800 sworn troopers, compared to fewer than 200 commissioned Rangers. The Criminal Investigations Division, another DPS body little-known outside the state, itself has more than three times as many officers as the Rangers.

Texas' love of high school American Football can be clearly seen from the storied Permian High School Panthers (a real team from Odessa), who were chronicled in Friday Night Lights. In fact, for many rural areas, weekly high school sporting events are the biggest non-religious social event in town, with about ninety-eight percent of the town out in the stands every game. The other two percent are on the field. Admittedly, this is true for most of rural America, not just Texas, but Texas does have a good claim of being the most football-crazed state in the nation: the Dallas Cowboys are the most highly valued franchise in all of sports due to Texans' devotion to the team, and the state boasts a laundry list of major college programs including five schools in the "Power 5" conferences (Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas Christian, and Texas A&M) that have produced superstars or earned national attention.

Regional Geography

Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio count as three of the US's top ten most populous cities, with the state capital of Austin and the cities of Fort Worth and El Paso rounding off the list of cities that can be described as big. For more information on the regional geography of the state, please visit their individual pages and our page on Other Cities in Texas. The state is also the home to NASA's Johnson Space Center—that's right, Texas is so big it expands into space.

Oh, and there's also tornadoes. Don't forget the tornadoes. Or the hurricanes. Or the floods. Or the hail.

Notable people from Texas


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