The United States is home to 50 million Hispanics, 37 million of whom claim Spanish as their first language, which makes the U.S. the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. There are Hispanics in every single state of the union, from Florida to Alaska, and every major city has sizeable and diverse Spanish-speaking populations.
Texas is among the states with the highest numbers of Hispanics: one in three people in our state is a native speaker of Spanish, and four of the ten US cities with the largest Latino populations are here (Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, and Dallas). In many Texas counties, Spanish is the preferred language of a majority of residents. Moreover, Spanish is important for the economy of our state, since surface trade between Texas and Mexico is worth over $100 billion. All these figures are likely to grow in the near future, given the state’s proximity to and close connections with our neighbors to the south.
The relationship between Texas and Spanish is nothing new, of course. It started in 1542, when Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s expedition came in contact with the natural wonders of the region and provided the earliest accounts of this encounter for European audiences – in Spanish. The importance of Spanish-English bilingualism was well understood by none other than Stephen F. Austin, who in the 1830s stated in a legislative bill that “public schools for the teaching of modern languages, and especially that of Spanish, are of prime importance” (Blanton 2004). His words ring as true today, almost 200 years later.
Understanding Spanish is essential to fully understand the past, present, and future of Texas. The Department of Hispanic Studies is committed to foster Spanish language proficiency and cultural competency and to prepare the next generation of scholars in the field. On this website you can read more about how our research, teaching, and service to the university and the community help to create and disseminate the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in an increasingly multicultural state and a globalized world. We hope you find this information helpful and look forward to hearing from you.