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German Influences on Texas Culture
If one has lived in Texas for any length of time, they will realize immediately that the Texas culture is influenced by German culture in a number of ways. Modern day Texas culture would not exist as it does today if it were not for German influence. Today Texas culture can be described as a blending of German and Texas traditions. Though German culture is not the only culture that has impacted the Texas of today, it is often considered one of the most significant influences historically.
Whether one examines the architectural landscape of the towns and cities, examines the art and music or simply talks with many of the German descendants living in Texas, one must immediately acknowledge the significant influence the German people have had on the development of Texas as known today. In early Texas history German influence was widespread, often comprising a majority of the ethnic traditions and landscape that have made Texas what it is today. Though the number of German born natives living in Texas today is much less than it was in times of old, the impact the native Germans have had on Texas culture is undeniable.
The intent of this research paper is to examine the extent to which German folklore, traditions and culture still permeate and influence Texas culture today and the extent to which German cultural influences are still felt by people living in Texas today. There is a large body of evidence that already exists examining the historical influence of German migration on Texas culture. Though this paper will explore the foundation for German immigration and the historical influence of German immigrants on Texas, its aim will be to confirm that German influence has not yet died out of Texan culture, and is still in fact a very influential aspect of German culture today. The author asserts that without German influence, Texas culture as most people recognize and love it, would not be what it is today had German immigrants not permeated the landscape and influenced the rich historiography of the land today.
German cultural influences are in fact deeply embedded in modern day Texas architecture and history, and still strongly felt among the native people living in Texas today. There are numerous personal and historical testimonies which affirm the existence of German influence in Texas. German influences have been positive and have helped create Texas culture as most people understand it today. Most people readily acknowledge their familiarity with many German traditions, including dance, folklore, customs and music. These traditions have been modified somewhat to suit Texans living in the state today, but they are nonetheless deeply German in nature. Many people have adopted the German traditions of music, dance, art and celebration into their modern day practices as a way of acknowledging their ancestry. In fact many of the celebrations that occur in Texas today are influenced by German born traditions, the most prevalent of which is the Oktoberfest celebrated in Fredericksburg every year.
The nature of these traditions and the German cultural influence on Texas today is examined in great detail below.
The history of German migration and influence within the state of Texas begins in the early 19th century. Settlers began migrating from Germany to Texas in the early 1800s, as the prospect of opportunity and open land became more available. In the early 1800's Texas was portrayed in Germany as an available new territory with large plots of fertile land and much wild game ... A very appealing prospect for people living in country dwellings and rural areas of Germany at the time. Many German immigrants decided to travel to the United States with the intent of improving their social and economic status, particularly due to the low cost in living (Oomen, 2004, n.p.). In the early days when this nation was still forming, it was not unreasonable for an immigrant to expect to be able to acquire a large parcel of land affordably upon migrating to the states.
Many Germans in fact began arriving in Texas during 1848 when German Revolutions plagued Europe, and a majority of these early settlers formed close communal towns within the state (Oomen, 2004, n.p.). They looked forward to the opportunity of peace and a new life filled with opportunity and promise. The reasons that German immigrants flocked to the United States are not much different from the reasons many other settlers came to this country. They were looking for a better life for themselves and their families. In the process of immigrating and settling large parcels of formerly uninhabited land, they began to develop roots and inspire traditions that have become deeply ingrained in the culture of Texas today.
As German immigration to Texas became widespread, towns and communities began to form what are now considered many of the primary cities that exist within Texas today. Most of these towns were modeled after German towns and villages.
Modern German Influence
Today the influence of German heritage on Texas culture is wide reaching and broad in nature. There are many cultural influences, architectural influences and even towns named after German influenced names, German music and other cultural traditions that are significant. It is not uncommon during festivals and celebrations such as Oktoberfest to here many Texas speaking in their native language of German, so rich is the cultural heritage that has formed the livelihood for many Texans today.
This is not to say however that German immigrants are the only immigrants that have influenced Texas culture. In modern Texas culture there is also a wide reaching Mexican influence, which has mingled with the German influence to form a truly unique heritage for many of the people living in Texas today. However the roots of Texan culture as it is recognized today are largely attributed to heavy German influences and traditions. Only in more recent times have the traditions of Germany and Texas been mingled with those of other cultures including Mexican, to form the rich hodgepodge of cultures that make up modern day Texas.
As is the case anywhere, Texas art is influenced by many different cultural traditions, including that of Germany. Many of the museums of Texas today cater to German influences and artists, often holding showcases of German artwork that date back to the 19th century. The influence of German Art is most evident in the architecture and landscape of Texas, though it is not uncommon to glimpse paintings and stone structures modeled after German artistic design in many of Texas' historical districts. Though Texas artistic tradition is not as heavily influenced by German art as its music tradition, it nonetheless is representative of many German artists and traditions.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston Texas is just one example of an art forum in Texas where the work of 19th century German artists is appreciated for its contributions and influences on Texas culture and American artists in general. German works of art are an important element of culture and tradition in Texas, particularly because more than 1/5th of the population proclaims that they have some German ancestry (MFA, 2001). The museum of fine arts much like many other artistic establishments in Texas often displays the work of historical German artists.
Despite the wide reaching influence of German artists in Texas, their achievements go often unnoticed. However there is a large body of evidence that suggests the work of many American artists particularly those living in the mid 1800s was influenced by German artists (MFA, 2001). Among the German artists most noted for influencing American include: Joseph anton Koch, Wilhelm Leibl, Fritz von Uhde, Carl Blechen, Carl Gustav Carus and Johan Christian Clausen Dahl (MFA, 2001).
Texas architecture is also deeply entrenched in German cultural foundations. In fact, no other area is German influence more evident than it is in the architecture of rural villages within Texas. Though a majority of the architecture that has German influence is older, built many years ago, there is still some sense that the style has been adopted even by modern architectural designers.
There is a large body of evidence suggesting that German culture and design traditions have influenced the structural components of Texas architecture. Particularly in the southern and central parts of the state including in regions such as Hill country and Medina County there are many vernacular dwellings and churches that are fashioned in the style of traditional German homesteads (Jordan, 2004). The style of architecture most often described as Texas German is one where the house is often less elongated and built more an a square plan with a Teutonic roof and casement windows, cellars and outside stairs (Jordan, 2004).
In addition many rural and small town churches particularly historical ones in Texas are built in a half timbered style similar to those found in historical Germany. There are many German Gothic style churches found in Texas most notably the following: St. Louis Catholic at Castroville;…[continue]
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