Spain in Texas, an old friendship looking to the future

 

Manuel Mª Lejarreta

Secretary General of Fundación Consejo España-EEUU

 

The charismatic president J.F. Kennedy said in a speech pronounced on October 24, 1961, in an Inter-American Seminar on Archival Sciences: “I have always felt that one of the great inadequacies among Americans of this country in their knowledge of the past has been the knowledge of the whole Spanish influence, exploration and development in the sixteenth century in the southwest of the United States”.

 

This declaration reflects reality both in Spain and in the US with respect to the lack of knowledge regarding Spain’s presence in North American land before the birth of the US, regarding our help in the 18th century in the revolution of the thirteen American colonies and the cultural legacy that remains in that country. Getting pass that ignorance is part of the raison d’être of Fundación Consejo España-EEUU, created in 1997 to promote relations with the US and favor greater rapprochement.

 

Texas is one of the states in which that Spanish mark anchored in history is noticeable. Three hundred years ago, in May 1718, the governor Martín de Alarcón founded the prison of San Antonio de Béjar and the mission of San Antonio de Valero, which would be followed by others. Five of these Franciscan missions were declared World Heritage of UNESCO in 2015. However, taking a look at San Antonio’s origins, almost 300 years ago, we find the ten families from the Canary Islands that, following the order of a Royal Letters Patent of Philip V and after a long and grueling journey, settled in 1731 alongside the aforementioned prison and constituted the first town council of Texas.

 

Apart from the colonial architecture, the Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, the culture and breeds from Spain and the stamp of flavors and smells from the traditional Texan cuisine. Texas is especially connected to Spain inasmuch the Spanish language lives on, promoted by the powerful Mexican underlying layer. In Texas, more than 10 million people, around 30% of the population, communicates in our language, which turns it into the second state of the Union with the biggest number of Spanish speakers after California.

 

This historical familiarity, along with the spread use of the Spanish language, has contributed to the success of our companies and to our flourishing trade with Texas. More than eighty Spanish companies are developing projects in that state, which displays great economic dynamism, is characterized by innovation and is the world’s tenth economy. Texas is the first destination of Spain’s exports to the US with 12% of the total equivalent, in 2017, to 1,842 million dollars, whereas Spain is the sixth country with the highest volume of direct foreign investment in that state. Our companies are present in several fields, standing out in the financial sector; that of big infrastructures; and that of energy. Texas’s bet on the energy transition towards renewable energy and the good acceptance of public-private consortium formulas in infrastructures projects have facilitated the disembarkation, promoted by the neighboring Mexican market too. The business Texan presence in Spain is also important, since, at least, 30 Texan companies operate in our country.

 

The visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen on June 17 and 18 to San Antonio, within the framework of a tour that will also take them to New Orleans, another neighboring state with a strong Hispanic stamp, and to Washington, is expected and considered by San Antonio to be the pivotal moment of an ambitious calendar of activities to celebrate the Tercentenary in this 2018.

 

Fundación Consejo España-EEUU has joined with pleasure this important anniversary of our Texan friends accompanying Their Majesties in their Visit. In the first place, it has transferred to the emblematic building of the Court House of the County of Bexar the exhibition “Designing America: Spain’s Imprint in the US”. This exhibition, in a didactic line and with interactive visual elements, values Spain’s historical presence in the territory of what the US is today, being an eloquent reflection of Spain’s legacy in that country.

 

On the other hand, the Foundation has produced the bilingual informative publication “Spain in Texas, an old friendship looking to the future”, which offers a panoramic view from different perspectives of our presence in Texas.

 

San Antonio’s inhabitants are proud of their historical roots and of those cultural elements that give them a unique identity. Therefore, they are receiving with great hospitality all the visits from Spain this year.

 

There is a promising future to continue to develop our ties. In this 21st century, the routes first used by the explorers, then the missioners and the military, and finally the colonists, are now walked by cultural exchanges, by our language, by Spanish companies and by top-level visits. Accompanying Their Majesties in San Antonio’s celebrations is the best token of that old friendship that will continue to open ways to a shared prosperity.

 

15/06/2018. © All rights reserved

 

 

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