The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997 Page: 306
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the threat of outlaws. Yet residents rarely seem drawn to this story, as it
does not fit within South Texans' presumption that the worthwhile
episodes of Texas history occurred before i 900 in the countryside.
Despite recent efforts by teachers and textbook writers to draw Tex-
ans' attention to the city itself, the "mystique of the mythical cowboy and
pioneer life" still overshadows Texas historical sensibility. Some writers
contend that appreciation of the state's urban element will emerge only
with the overthrow of the "cult of rural Texas."2 As this essay will show,
much about the way Corpus Christians treat their past supports urban
scholars' presumption that Texas history and urban history mix poorly,
that the powerful rural connotations of "Texas" continue to divert atten-
tion from South Texas's urban presence.
On the other hand, Borglum was not entirely misguided in his im-
pulse to tie Corpus Christi to rural Texas lore and myth. Conventional
urban history often slights regional conditions and regional culture as
much as Texas history often slights the city. Urban scholars cannot ig-
nore the way that Texas's geography, environment, rural life, and even
its myths have shaped Corpus Christi. A persuasive urban history of Cor-
pus Christi and other Texas cities requires a flexible framework that ac-
counts for their commercial and industrial development and takes
seriously regional influences and mentalities. Such an approach would
resonate with South Texans because it would acknowledge Corpus
Christi's rural Texas roots alongside its dynamic twentieth-century expe-
rience. Proponents of a stronger urban identity for Corpus Christi and
the other Texas cities should attempt to depict their subjects as modern
urban phenomena but also as social entities to some degree nurtured by
rural Texas life, lore, and myth.
The manner in which South Texas's rural heritage interferes with ur-
ban sensibility becomes clearer when Corpus Christians' treatment of
their physical city-its monuments, neighborhoods, and buildings-is
set against cities with colorful eighteenth- and nineteenth-century urban
stories that fit readily into conventional Texas history and lore. San An-
tonio shares Corpus Christi's link to Mexico, while Galveston shares its
link to the sea. Nevertheless, San Antonio has its Spanish colonial origins
and its Alamo. Galveston has pirates, a role in the Republic and the Civil
War, and a sumptuous Gilded Age heyday. Both Galvestonians and San An-
tonians are thus able to make their city project a tangible, if romanticized
and marketable, historical identity that manages simultaneously to be urban
2 Christopher S. Davies, "Life at the Edge: Urban and Industrial Evolution of Texas, Frontier
Wilderness-Frontier Space, 1836-1986," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LXXXIX (Apr.,
1986), 444, 445 (quotations; cited hereafter as SHQ).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997, periodical, 1997; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/m1/372/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.