“Why do you want to go to Houston?” Was the question most colleagues asked me, their eyes skeptical and shocked, when they saw my flight itinerary including a stopover in Houston on the way from San Diego to Baltimore.
“I want to see what a red state looks like,” was my reply.
“It’s Texas, what do these red states have except barbecue, cowboys and guns…”
And quite a few of these colleagues were American too, an empirical observation that seems to back up the findings Hidden Tribes of America, regarding political-society in America, but that’s a whole different discussion.
There was a slight flaw in the plan though, Houston was a Democrat dot in the middle of a Republican state. Having said that, the very fact that Houston is not simply a red state, drives home and important point – that people have agency and no two people think the same, someone from Texas could vote Democrat just as someone from California could vote Republican.
But that’s enough politics for today, back to the city itself.
There was so much more to Houston, in fact Houston is just one of a large number of Texan cities which are the best to live in, in the United States – much to the chagrin, as you can imagine, of Californians. Contrary to stereotypes, Houston is becoming of the best places in the United States to try to make the American Dream, it is in fact in line to be the next global city in the United States by 2023.
And this is more empirical than data-driven, but I actually felt safer walking on the streets of Houston than I did in Los Angeles, San Diego or Baltimore.
As of 2018, it is the most diverse city in the United States (more so than even NYC and Los Angeles), has the most diverse culinary scene in the US, has the largest medical facility in the world, lower unemployment than the American average and where the dollar stretches the furthest. Has some of the best green lungs (parks) dotted around any American city.
Discovery Green in the heart of the city
No wonder it is considered a top destination for young people and couples to move to.
Then there’s the fact that it is home to the NASA Space station. It’s Space City and Future City, what’s more exciting than that?
The story of Houston and its explosive growth in the United States began when Texas was fighting to be disunited from another nation, Mexico in the Texas Revolution. From1835 to 1836, Colonists from the United States and Texas Mexicans (Tejanos) rose up against the Mexican government. They, as you might imagine, won their independence.
After the war,two brothers, Augustus and John Allen, who took the opportunity of war to make a killing in trade built up a large fortune and set up a township in the area. They named it after Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas. Texan independence didn’t last long though and barely 9 years after independence, Texas was annexed (willingly) as the 29th state of the United States. The Allen’s chose well, since it didn’t take long for the new American city to become a centre for the cotton trade, Houston was a hub for trade by the 1860s, by 1890 all railroad travel in Texas went through Houston.
Houston went from boom to even larger boom after oil was discovered in the 1900s. World War II might have been devastating for Europe but it was a blessing to Houston because the military complex needed more petrol and synthetic rubber to feed to war machine. Houston was therefore flooded with petrochemical refineries as well as manufacturing plants. The decades after the war saw constant expansion, the Texas Medical Center was formed in 1945, NASA established the Johnson Space Center in the 1960s, the oil embargo of 1970 saw even more jobs for oil extraction in Houston.
The good times seem to keep rolling on in Houston, it seems like here, the American Dream is still alive and kicking.
I went to Texas searching for America as it was yesterday, I was wrong.
I ended up in America as it will be tomorrow.
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