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When foreigners hear the word "America," they think of Texas: pickup trucks, cowboys, country and western music, Dallas the city, and Dallas the TV show. Indeed, that's the image most Americans have, too.
Now, contrast this with a state that's leading the country in high-tech production and is at the heart of a gourmet movement with some of the U.S.'s finest restaurants within its borders. It's home to the largest oil industry in the lower 48 and surpassingly it is also home to one of the country's biggest wine-growing regions. And as more and more are discovering, Austin is America's "New Music Capital," with the country's most important annual music festival, South By Southwest, and it is one of the leading film centers also.
Texas is full of surprises. Nowhere in the country is the stereotypical American way of life so entrenched, yet few sections of the country are as influenced by Spanish, Mexican, and European residents as Texas. With one of the largest German, Czech, French, and Mexican populations in the U.S., Texas is hardly the homogenous land of the white cowboy it would initially appear to be.
The Native American inhabitants of Texas included Comanches, Kiowas, Lipan Apaches, Mescalero Apaches, and Tonkawas in the plains; Tampachoas, Karankawas, Coahuiltecans, Jumanos, and the Conchos in the west; and Caddoes, Atakapans, and Wichitas in the southeast. The Spanish arrived in 1519, but didn't really settle in until 1690; by that time they had taken a very bad Spanish pronunciation of the Caddo word for friend, tejas, and used it to describe the entire territory.
From then on, Texas became a crossroads for just about every immigrant group that settled in the U.S. Large contingents of Czech, German, and French settlers made their way to the center of the state while Americans came through on their way to California and Mexico. Also, many Mexican chose to settle here. Texas was first a Spanish, then a Mexican territory, and was for 10 years its own independent republic, with its Lone Star flag, before acquiring statehood in 1845.
One of America's most famous and hallowed battles took place during the Texas War for Independence: the Battle of the Alamo. Against huge odds and an army of thousands, 160 men including Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis, held out for 13 days before finally succumbing to the advance of Mexican troops. The Mexican victory was a costly one, as Texas soldiers fighting for independence used the "massacre" as a rallying cry: "Remember the Alamo!" The Mexicans were defeated soon after in the Battle of San Jacinto, by troops under the command of Sam Houston.
Today Texas remains fiercely proud of its immigrant and warrior heritage, and celebrates its diversity in a surprising number of ways, from statewide recognition of the Mexican Day of the Dead, to the central Texas Oktoberfest.
There is something for everyone is Texas, from the mountains and white water rivers of the west to the stark central plains, from the modern madness of Dallas and the chic cattle town of Ft. Worth to the coastal resorts along the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to all of this is the fascinating culture clash along the Mexican border and the cosmopolitan chic of Austin and San Antonio.