HOUSTON – Hi everyone and welcome to H-town, Space City, Hustle Town or any other name you could use to identify the great city of Houston.
I’m sure many have heard the phrase âEverything is bigger in Texasâ and my hometown is no exception. With an infrastructure as large and “bad” as it is bustling, it’s no surprise that Houston has managed to establish a reputation for itself as one of the most diverse cities in the southern United States.
The city itself is a true wonder with a history as deep as modern colonialism. Its namesake, Sam Houston, played a central role in organizing Texan forces during the former country’s struggle for independence from Mexico.
“Here we don’t call 911,” read the signs that line our streets – a vague allusion to our past that makes me wonder if it’s because we’re civilians or because many are wielding guns ( I’ll let you decide).
Houston is known for its diverse groups of people who cluster in ethnic enclaves all over the city. Here you can find neighborhoods like Little Asia Town, where you can enjoy a Boba tea or a bite of my crispy Japanese pastry or my favorite ice cream called taiyaki. From a Korean restaurant, we get a sweet service called Somi Somi (Ironic, right?).
Travel about 30 minutes and you might spot the flashing sign of Finger Licking Good, a restaurant that actually serves authentic Nigerian dishes like fufu and egusi. As a Nigerian, I can attest to the fact that my mother’s is better, but I digress.
Travel a little further and you might stumble upon the Mediterranean style of Dimassi’s Buffet or even the characteristic smiley face of Jollibee, the mascot of the famous Filipino fast food chain.
It’s safe to say that with a full tank of gas, some tenacity, and a big appetite, you can get down to eating pretty much anything you want in Houston. You just have to “find your people”.
One of Houston’s biggest distinguishing features – aside from the sweltering heat of course – is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Texas’ past as a wild western frontier seems to manifest in many forms throughout the year, but during annual rodeo season it explodes into something unlike anything I’ve ever had. seen.
Meanwhile, the art students are tearing their hair out in anguish as they have to complete another series of western / cowboy-related works. Families flock to the mini-fairs and rodeos to prepare for the ultimate boss, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. At these events, they like to watch steer wrestling – which I still don’t quite understand myself – and bull riding.
For reasons I don’t know, Houstonians consume atrocities like Oreos bars and Fried Snickers. There has never been a more false culinary pax.
At the Big Cattle Show, once the Houstonians have gorged themselves on Texan-style material, they flock to the stadium at the center of the main event. Inside, crowds of over 72,000 people are nearly intoxicated with the electricity of the stage, though discarded beer cans may suggest their zeal may have other origins.
Top performing artists from around the world take the stage in a series of performances that successfully break the internet – in both good and bad ways – year after year. It’s a sight to see, and one can’t really understand the nature of a Houstonian’s existence without attending the rodeo at least once.
As vibrant as life in Houston may be, it is evident that the glitz and glamor of city life contributes to the drowning of many deep-rooted issues that grow far – and even in the middle – from the starry eyes of the Houston curator and America.
Racism, sexism, poverty and gun violence are dismissed as problems that only radicals and those “on the margins of society” face.
When I marvel at the elaborate rodeo exhibits and shopping malls where consumerism abounds from ceiling to floor, I can’t help but remember the âbread and circusesâ of ancient Rome.
People are too eager to shy away from subjects which are harder to digest and which have the potential to tear our perfect society apart.
It is important that we learn to appreciate the beauty of our home without curling up on the conflicts that plague it.
If we get stuck in our ways, our ever-changing world can push us aside like awkward tumbleweed in a dusty Western movie.
Christine Marinho is a junior journalist at Youth Journalism International.