Claudia De La Fuente
Austin became the capital of Texas after Mirabeau B. Lamar was elected President of the Republic of Texas. President Lamar moved the capital city from Houston to Waterloo, a city which in 1839 he renamed Austin in honor of Stephen F. “who, though he has gone into history books with the rather grand title of “impresario,” was in reality little more than a glorified real estate developer” (Lomax 1).
Austin was chosen as the capital of Texas over more thriving cities because of many factors, one of them being its geographical location. Austin is located in the central part of Texas, where President Lamar believed the republic?s population would eventually expand. Austin?s central location made it easier for people from all over Texas to move and settle in that area. Another factor that contributed to President Lamar?s decision to move the capital city was to escape the fevers that plagued residents of the republic?s coastal areas. Austin?s mild climate compared to Houston?s humid climate was another reason why Lamar chose Austin as the capital city of Texas, since its great climate would attract more people to settle there. Another reason why Austin was chosen as the capital of Texas was because no one could have predicted the future of Austin or the significance of Houston?s economic and cultural contributions to Texas. At the time, both Houston and Austin were just beginning to grow, it would have been impossible for the president or anyone to predict the insignificant number of medical and cultural happenings present in Austin compared to Houston’s.
After being chosen the capital city of Texas, Austin experienced many changes on its economy, population, and culture. After Austin became the capital of Texas, its population started to increase. As more people from all over Texas started moving and settling in the capital, the cost of living in that area must have increased. As a result of the increase in demand for property started, the prices of those properties began to increase as well. Austin?s growing population attracted entrepreneurs who started new businesses in the capital. These new businesses helped improve Austin?s economy by providing more job opportunities. After Austin became the capital of Texas, the government started investing more on Austin?s education. As evidence of these is the fact that the best university in the state of Texas is located in Austin. The government also started investing more in Austin?s culture by building museums, theaters, and parks that would attract more people to come and visit the capital or even settle there. The fact that Austin is the capital of Texas provides a great amount of profit to the city since it attracts many people from all over Texas and the rest of the country to visit the city and spend their money on the city?s businesses and attractions.
As the city of Austin started to grow and its education and economy started to improve, more and more people from other parts of the country and the world started moving to Austin. This wave of immigrants has helped shape Austin?s culture, since people who come from other parts of the world or the country and settle in Austin bring with them different traditions that have remained part of Austin?s culture. As expected after Austin became Texas’ capital its population has increased over the years and Austin?s culture is very diverse. We are looking forward to a greater development and that at some point Austin can be consider a truly capital with no second thought.
The political culture that dominates Austin is a combination of traditionalism and individualism. In my opinion individualism dominates Austin?s political culture because the majority of Austin?s citizens are republicans; therefore they believe that the government should limit its intervention in the economy to a minimum and they particularly support private businesses. The city of Austin is mostly full of Republican politicians, appointees, lobbyists, and corporate leaders, who mostly care about their businesses and pursue their self-interests instead of considering the public good.
Even though Austin has a political culture that is dominated by individualism, its traditionalistic subculture still remains present. I believe this is because even though as years have passed, and the immigration rates had increased, meaning more people from all over the world have settled in Austin, the Anglo population is still the majority group in Austin. Since most of them are conservative and their voter turnout is greater than any other group, traditionalism is still dominant. In a traditionalistic subculture, politicians come from society?s elite and politics is mostly a competition between rival factions within the elite, these are all characteristics of Republicans. The traditionalistic aspects of Austin?s politics are exemplified by the low level of voter turnout among minority groups, and the social and economic conservatism present in Austin.
As a result, both a traditionalist and individualist subcultures dominates the state capital, and the state as a whole. If more minority groups would vote and make their opinions be heard, maybe Austin would not be dominated by a traditionalist and individualist subculture, and instead it would be dominated by a moralistic subculture, in which the government is more involved in social issues such as education and health, and corruption is less evident.
Austin?s slogan “Keep Austin Weird”, tries to convey the idea that Austin is a unique and strange city and that anyone who comes in must keep it that way. It is said that the culture of Austin is a mismatch with the rest of the state, I agree with this statement. Since throughout many years, people from other parts of the world, have come to Austin either to study or live there, Austin has a very diverse culture. People who come from other parts of the world and settle in Austin, bring with them different traditions from their countries of origin that have remained in Austin, therefore the city of Austin has been forced to adapt to those cultures and live with them. As a result, Austin?s culture is not representative of the state of Texas and instead it is a combination of the culture of many different countries. “Capital cities should be something of a synthesis of the places they represent, but Austin is to Texas what Saint Petersburg was to Imperial Russia: a deplorable conduit for foreign ideas and fashions” (Lomax 3).
The fact that Austin is a city full of people from different parts of the world with different political opinions and social status influences Austin?s political subculture. Even though most of the population of Austin is white, there are still many people of different races with different points of views regarding politics. As a consequence, we find that there are several political subcultures present in Austin making influence on every aspect, which means they have an impact in politics, social and economic matters. For example, most white and wealthy people are most likely to favor an individualistic subculture because in an individualistic subculture the government?s role in the economy is limited and corruption is tolerated, while members of minority groups are most likely to favor a moralistic subculture because in a moralistic subculture politics revolves around solving social issues and the public good.
The state capital should be the most important city in the state of Texas; the city that has an impact, not only within the state but in the whole country. That city should serve as an example for the rest of the cities to follow. I believe that city is Houston, not Austin. Houston?s medical, economic, and cultural contributions to Texas and the rest of the country, make it the best contender to become the capital city. One of the best hospitals in the state of Texas and the country are located in Houston. “For nine of the past eleven years, U.S. News & World Report has named MD Anderson the top cancer hospital in the country”(Lomax 2). Houston?s contributions to the American economy through its energy industry have earned Houston worldwide recognition; this is something that the city of Austin cannot claim. “Houston, the broad-shouldered city of refined oil and crude people, with its leviathan port and behemoth of a petrochemical complex, propels the American economy more vitally than all the stocky bald bankers on Wall Street” (Lomax 2). Houston?s energy industry- particularly oil and natural gas- are essential to keeping the American economy progressing, which proves the importance of the city of Houston to Texas and the rest of the country.
The capital city should be a strange city with a culture that represents the rest of the state and that attracts people from all over the country. Even though Austin claims to be weird and representative of the state of Texas, in reality Austin?s culture has been shaped by foreign ideas and fashions. In contrast, Houston?s cultural combination of the traditional, the modern, and bizarre, makes Houston weird and unique. In addition, Houston?s cultural institutions, every year attract millions of people from all over the country. “More than two million people avail themselves yearly of ballet, Broadway shows, opera, plays, and symphonic music at the nine arts venues downtown” (Lomax 2). These are several reasons why I believe Houston should be the capital of Texas, instead of Austin.
Lomax, John Nova. February 2013. Texas Monthly.