From the Canary Islands to San Antonio - the Origins of Tex-Mex

As Americans, we all share a common bond of nationality. But one of the things that make us unique in the world is that we all have a regional heritage as well, each reflecting the history and culture of the indigenous inhabitants and the old world colonists that settled there. Those regional differences are most obvious in the dialects and cuisine that can change dramatically just by crossing a state border – you can drive from Houston, Texas to Mobile, Alabama in one day, and encounter a distinctly different dialect and entirely different type of menu each time you stop to eat.
Texas was ruled by Spain for several hundred years - longer than it has been a part of the United States. English was not spoken in Texas until the first white settlers arrived in the first part of the 1800s, shortly before the battle of the Alamo and the subsequent revolution when Texas became it’s own sovereign nation before eventually joining the union in the 1850s. Even the name “Texas,” like everything else Texan, is an example of blending contributions from around the world into its own unique culture. It started with the Caddo Indian word “tayshas,” (meaning “friends”) which the Indians called the first Spanish explorers in the 1500s. The word was pronounced “Tejas” by the Spaniards and eventually evolved into “Texas.”
Tex-Mex cuisine is a hybrid of Native American and colonial cooking that has come to be regarded as a state treasure, characterized by distinct flavor combinations that are found nowhere else in the world. One of the major influences on the Tex-Mex we know and love today came from a group of Berber colonists from the Canary Islands that settled near present day San Antonio nearly 300 years ago. Cumin, cilantro, and chili peppers - the mainstay ingredients that give Tex-Mex its distinct flavors, were contributed by the Canary Islanders. When these spices were added to regional ingredients such as pecans, pinto beans, and wild onions, along with an abundance of meat from the local cattle ranching trade and the flavor of mesquite from cooking with local wood, Tex Mex was born.
The most popular Tex-Mex inventions that are commonly found beyond the Texas borders are chili con carne, chili con queso, and nachos. These items can be pumped out of machines along with the gas at stations all over the country and are not necessarily the proudest example of fine Tex-Mex cuisine. Dining at one of the many excellent Tex-Mex restaurants in San Antonio is a far better way to the experience the cuisine and have a fun and memorable dining experience at the same time.
The King William District in San Antonio is not just the major tourist district in the city; it’s also home to a variety of excellent Tex Mex restaurants. Rosario’s is one of the most popular, with the margaritas being especially appealing after a day of sightseeing or walking the riverwalk. Well known for the live music on weekends and its festive and funky interior, the menu is also one of the reasons that there is usually a wait to get a table, but most locals would agree that its worth it.
The most reliable gauge in whether your Tex Mex is good is whether it came out of a can – if it did, let’s not call that Tex Mex. Fresh, colorful ingredients; bold spicy flavors; aromas that can make your mouth water from a block away and presentation with a little flair are the traits that characterize the true cuisine of Texas. Y’all enjoy!

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About The Author, Marti Kougel
Cathy Hastings is a writer about the finer living for the lifestyles and travel destinations of Texas. You can find some great information on Texas restaurants; destinations and attractions that you would not want to miss by visiting > San Antonio Restaurants and > Austin Restaurants .