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Back home, only security forces and criminals have guns. In Texas, shooting is a family activity! And presumably the Balkans are the scary place!

My vacation in Corpus Christi, TX included an afternoon at The Sharp Shooter, one of this seaside resort’s many shooting ranges.

At the Sharp Shooter, anyone above the age of 21 can buy, sell, and trade their handguns and rifles. Anyone without restrictions can simply come and shoot for fun! There is no legal age for shooting, which is why the Sharp Shooter offers a great promotion, I quote:

 Family Day on Sundays: Children (16 and under) shoot for free **With paying adult.** Bring the whole family and save.

I guess shooting has a family bonding role in Texas, just like playing monopoly or riding bikes in the park. It is also a completely gender-neutral activity, check this out:

 Ladies Day – Tuesdays: Women shoot for ½ price. They also enjoy free targets, eye and ear protection, gun rentals, and classes from our expert instructors.

These instructors, by the way, were very kind Texan men who gladly showed me their entire line of guns: Taurus, Remingtons, Weatherbys, Smith & Wessons, Brownings, Springfields, etc, including the “cute” pink mini pistols, which are “ideal for a lady like you”.

In Texas, you do not need a permit or license to buy a gun or rifle; you don’t even have to register as an owner. You, however, need a permit to carry a concealed (out-of-sigh) handgun, which you can easily obtain at the gun store in exchange for an application, two color passport photos, fingerprints, and proof of residency and age, and $125. Once you’ve got that document, you can tuck your gun in your belt, put your shirt over it, and carry it whenever and wherever you’d like. Still, some establishments such as bars, schools, hospitals, and amusement parks put up a sign at the door saying that you should leave your gun in the car.

You are permitted to carry your gun out in the open if you are on your property (which explains the movie scenes where an old lady pulls out a rifle from underneath her skirt and points it at the intruder in her backyard). You can also openly carry your gun while you are hunting, attending a weapons exhibition, practicing at a shooting range, or all similar “sports” activities, which would probably be illegal in most countries.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, I said to myself, and shot a few times at the target with my friend’s rifle and guns. But still, I had a hard time understanding why my guy friends, who had just moved to Texas, had suddenly all bought a gun (or more than one, or even a whole collection of them). Even the greatest pacifist among them said he wanted to buy a taser (the thing that shoots up a metal rod in your skin and shocks you with electricity!).

“Everyone here has a gun,” the boys said, “so it’s a question of safety to have one as well.” I can’t say that I felt very safe having a burger in Hooters on a table with six guys, at least two of whom were carrying a concealed gun at that time. Kill me, I don’t get the logic (pun intended)!

What do you think? Is it ok to make guns so widely available and widely acceptable (to both children and adults)? What does this say of the American society, which has become so used to the presence of guns and violence that they don’t find it disturbing anymore? 

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Adventures in the Lone Star State: Selena and the Tejano Culture

Adventures in the Lone Star State: Texas Pride

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In Texas, I saw the biographical movie Selena, and it helped me understand the Tejano culture.

Selena Quintanilla-Perez, The Queen of Tejano Music

Selena Quintanilla-Perez (1971 – 1995) was a Mexican-American singer also known as the “Queen of the Tejano music” and the Mexican equivalent of Madonna. She was the best selling Latin artist of the 90s and an idol for the Tejanos and the Latin world. Selena was murdered in Corpus Christi, TX just two weeks before her 24 birthday by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar. Her death was commemorated as a great tragedy by millions of fans. That summer, her new album Dreaming of You, with lyrics both in English and Spanish, became number one in the US Billboard 200, which made it the second highest debut after Michael Jackson’s HIStory.

The movie Selena (starring Jennifer Lopez) was my introduction to the Tejano culture. Tejanos (the Spanish word for Texans) are people of Mexican heritage who live in Texas and whose ancestors arrived there before or during the Texas Revolution. In 2000, they are about 6.7 million or 32% of the population of Texas.  The center of their culture is San Antonio. In general, their music is very close to the Cajun music of Louisiana, to the cowboy country music, or to the Mexican and Latino music. Their cuisine is a mixture of Spanish and American, or more commonly referred to as Tex-Mex: lots of tortillas, enchiladas, fajitas, chili, etc.

I find it very interesting that this is a culture that evolved out of the meeting of two very different peoples. Because the Tejanos live on the crossroads between Mexico and America, Selena has to be very flexible if she wants to send a message to both. The movie portrayed very well the challenges Tejanos have when it comes to cultural assimilation. One quote by Selena’s father really struck me:

We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting!

The Selena Memorial in Corpus Christi, TX

Just think about it: Selena has to speak both Spanish and English and to know the customs and values of Mexicans and Ameircans in order to appeal to both and be accepted by both. Because she carries two cultural identities in her, she can never completely assimilate with one or the other. She is meant to live in both cultures simultaneously. And that’s why she has to try twice as hard.

The Tejan dilemma applies to all immigrants, people of mixed backgrounds, and even international students. You have to learn to embrace both of your identities (or both your home and host culture), but also you have to be flexible and bring forth one or the other of them when in the respective environment. In other words, you have to prove to the Mexicans that you are Mexican and to the Americans that you are American. It would be much more difficult to appeal to the Americans as a foreigner for example; yes, you might seem exotic and interesting, but you will never be accepted if you do not display an understanding of their values and ways of doing things.

Another way to put it is: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. So, having cultural sensitivity and understanding is very important for everyone but even more important for people of mixed descend and immigrants.

 

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Adventures in the Lone Star State: Texas Pride


The Texas and American flags by the Riverwalk, San Antonio, TX

After visiting Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, the next top destination on my list was Texas. I must say, I love the Sudurn (that’s how you pronounce Southern, right?) culture! People are relaxed and negligee. They stroll instead of rush, look at you in the eye when you pass each other in the street, and are keen on starting and carrying on a conversation with strangers.

Cowboy cookbooks at a souvenir shop in San Antonio, TX

What made the strongest impression on me in San Antonio is the abundance of the Texas flag. I have been to many American states but have never before seen such evident display of state pride. Actually, I don’t think I even know what the rest of the state flags look like, other than the Massachusetts one (Massachusetts is probably the only other place where I’ve noticed similar state-patriotism).

The decorations on the Christmas tree in San Antonio, TX include: stars, cacti, cowboy boots, the outlines of the state, horse, longhorn, etc.

You can sense the Texas pride not only from the profusion of lone-star merchandise in the souvenir shops or the ambiance in touristy restaurants; it’s also in the decoration in public places, the flags on many of the private houses, and the way people dress. Yes, everything about the cowboy hats, big buckle belts and the string-like bolo ties is true. It’s as if Texas has its own culture, which is of course influenced by the American and the Mexican culture, but also has its unique features (read my post about the Tejano culture). That’s why the cuisine is predominantly Mexican and you can freely communicate with almost anyone in Spanish (this reminded me of my vacation in Miami).

I was even a little bit surprised at how many times I saw the Texan flag next to the American flag or even the former taking precedence over the latter.  It didn’t exactly become clear to me whether they two were like the two sides of one coin or if they were juxtaposed.

In Texas, I also became aware that each state has its own nickname, license plate, motto, animal, plant, etc.  For example, Texas is the Lone Star State, Massachusetts is the Bay State, Florida – The Sunshine State,  California – the Golden State, New York – the Empire State, etc.

Regional Pride in Bulgaria

The Seven Folklore Regions of Bulgaria

We do have regional pride in Bulgaria, but our regions are cultural rather than administrative, and are in no way semi-autonomous like the American states. There are no such things are regional flags, mottos, or license plates. However, regions are defined by their folklore. Basically our mountains shape the Seven Folklore Regions of Bulgaria.

Counterclockwise from West to East, they are: the Shopski region (around Sofia), the Pirin region (around Blagoevgrad and Melnik), the Rhodope region (around Shiroka Luka and Smolyan), the Thracia region (around Plovidv, Kazanluk and the Rose Valley), Strandjanski region (around Burgas), Dobrudjanski region (around Dobrudja and Varna), and the northern Severnyashki region (around Veliko Turnovo and the Danube river).

National costumes, musical rhythm and dances have some major differences in each of these parts of the country. Other than that, we have some unspoken opinions about the characters of people in each region. My mother is from the Shopski region and my father is from the Pirinski (also known as the Macedonian region), and people say that this is a dangerous combination!

Equipped with my cowboy hat and leather jacket, ready to ride the bull in Corpus Christi, TX

A postcard from the Riverwalk in San Antonio.Can you spot the lone stars?

The Alamo in San Antonio was the site of a battle between the Mexicans and the Texian Army

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