Pressing Questions, Pervasive Issues

Posted: July 7, 2011 in South Texas History
Tags: ,

Kingsville is in need of an enema:  a thorough cleansing of the inside so as to better understand the external changes that time has wrought.  There was a time when the city thrived in the context of the King Ranch: The westward expansion of the Easterner looking for a better life, the ‘Wild Horse desert’ carved out of the space created by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the inculcated Mexican and the legacy of the Kineño; all focused upon the region’s figureheads of commerce and commercialization: the Kings and the Klebergs.  It is more complex than this simplistic picture of course, but the foundation of tourism for the city and, indeed the region, is not interested in the accuracy of history so long as the mythic narrative supports and justifies the inflow of money.  Simplicity and stereotype are the life blood of tourism.

Over the last 20 years or so, Kingsville has experienced a growth of daunting proportions.  The University and the Naval Air Station have changed the complexion of our city.  The demographic make-up consists of more than the ethnic trinity of the by gone era, namely peoples of Anglo, Mexican and African descent.  A more robust and accurate picture reveals Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, and Filipino population growth, to name only the most visible.  And yet, recent literature about Kingsville continues to focus upon the same tired narrative of ranch life and cowboy culture.  Again, largely for the sake of tourism.  The fact remains, when we look at the recent trends in business the “foreigner” seems to dominate.  Whether we look at convenience stores, hotel/motel industry or restaurants, the clearest entrepreneurial spirit is to be found within the immigrant community. As the country is cast head long into a wider global culture, and Texas along with it: Where is the literature taking them into account?  Where is the literature that even mentions their existence?

There is a host of complex relationships when we take into account these other cultures.  Aside from the pure economic aspect, the religio-political-historical dynamics are fascinating.  The mixed bag of experiences bring to light a Kingsville that is far more variegated, interesting, and relevant than the sleepy township of Ranch Hand breakfasts and Posada parades would have us believe.  If we would take that into account and seriously contemplate the possibilities of this reality then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have such a large portion of the young people of this city itchingly eager to leave it.  Maybe, just maybe, we could celebrate the richness of the multifaceted culture we have available for us to learn from and experience.  And maybe, just maybe, therein lies the path for further growth and progress within a larger pluralistic society in which we find ourselves.  This would be the heart and the engine of a tourism industry of which we can be proud; quite outside the tired narrative of the King Ranch and the Cowboy.

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