This is my experiential essay that focuses on communities. From a personal point of view, a community is a social unit of people with common characteristics and values. Therefore, communities can be a small or a large group such as local, national or international communities and lately the virtual community. This shows that we can categorize communities into various types based on geography, cultures and organizations. While all these types of communities are important and have distinct features, in this experiential essay, I will explore a community of cultures that represent ethnic groups with their diverse characteristics. Specifically, the essay explores Hispanic, White and Vietnamese communities in Houston, Texas. These communities are not exhaustive but they represent a significant section of the larger Houston community.
Primary ethnic communities in the home state
This part of the essay will highlight three major ethnic communities in Houston. Houston is a highly diverse County with many ethnic communities. For this purpose, I will explore only three ethnic groups namely, Hispanics, White and Vietnamese.
Over the years, I have watched the number of Hispanics in Houston increase significantly. I believed that the rise in the number of Hispanics is related to many immigrants who come to Houston to look for work. At the same time, there are also a significant number of illegal immigrants in Houston, particularly from Mexico but there are also Latinos from other Central American countries.
Majorities of Hispanics are foreigners and not American citizens. This situation has affected their overall representation in the County, particularly in local government offices. From my investigation, I found that many Hispanics are found in certain areas such as Houston Heights. However, this has changed today as many Hispanics have started to move in every neighborhood in the County. Houston, therefore, lacks highly segregated neighborhoods. Nevertheless, there are other parts of the County with a large concentration of specific ethnic communities and their businesses.
The Hispanic community is the fastest growing among other communities in Houston. It is imperative to note that I did not find major differences between Hispanics and Latinos, and therefore both terms may be used interchangeably.
The White community is predominant in Houston County. Initially, it was believed to be composed of British and Germans who founded the City. However, I realized that there are many White Americans with diverse origins, including Houston-born White Americans. Although the White community is still the largest ethnic group in Houston, a section of this community moved away to other locations when populations increased.
Today, there are Norwegians and Swedish communities in Houston. I found out that there is no place, which one would refer to as White town in Houston. However, one can find various retail outlets and stores that cater for White people in the area.
A section of the White community moved to suburbs to avoid the growing populations. It has been difficult to convince such people to return to certain neighborhoods in the County. As a result, the current White community in Houston emerged from a deliberate attempt by White people to establish their own residential area. They had common economic, political and social interests, as well as greater responsibilities of protecting their neighborhoods from foreigners. Nevertheless, the White community has continued to be a part of the greater Houston diversity and constituted a significant representation in the municipality.
The Vietnamese American community in Houston represents the large Asian community in the County. After the end of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese immigrants arrived in Houston. I found out that the earlier groups of immigrants were educated and had resources. However, subsequent groups that came later were mainly refugees. They received housing, welfare assistance, aid, health care and training for jobs from the American government. They were mainly ethnic minorities in the County and many of them were born outside the US.
Over the years, the number of Vietnamese immigrants has increased steadily as political prisoners and detainees arrived. Today, many Vietnamese immigrants come to look for better opportunities and pursue quality education in the US. They have continued to receive official recognition in Houston County when the consulate was established.
Historical developments and trends of these communities
Hispanics or Latinos in Houston are mainly illegal immigrants from Mexico. During this research, I found out that Hispanics have often occupied certain areas of Houston, such as Denver Harbor, Magnolia Park and Heights. As their numbers continue to increase, they have moved to other parts of the County, but have generally avoided rich neighborhoods occupied by White people such as Memorial and Uptown and some sections occupied by African-Americans.
Today, they are a part of the predominant ethnic groups in Houston and can be found almost anywhere within the County. As their numbers continue to rise, Hispanics have sought greater representation in politics. Hispanics are aligned with the liberal party as demonstrated in the previous elections.
In some cases, Hispanics have continued to maintain their traditions. For instance, one may notice men riding bicycles while women trekking or boarding buses. In addition, some sections of Houston, Hispanic and Latino populations have converted to Islam and they may be mistaken for immigrants from the Middle East.
Apart from Mexico, some Latinos have continued to arrive from other countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala among others.
Historically, not many Vietnamese lived in Houston. However, this scenario changed after the end of Vietnam War when they started to arrive in large numbers. The first wave of immigrants consisted mainly of soldiers, businessmen and politicians. They received support from the American government. It is believed that Vietnamese chose Houston because of its warm climate and the ocean for fishing that supported a growing economy. Religious and charity organizations played greater roles in resettling Vietnamese communities in Houston.
Another group of Vietnamese came to Houston through boats. This group consisted of socioeconomically disadvantaged people with poor education. Hence, their number continued to rise in Houston. The third wave of immigrants consisted of released political prisoners and refugees. They had various challenges, including mental conditions and had difficulties in adapting to the greater American modernized culture.
Today, many Vietnamese come to Houston to seek for employment and further education, but they have remained ethnic minority in Houston.
I found out that Germans and British established the City of Houston, but there were also other late White immigrants from France, Canada, Scandinavian countries and Ireland among others. In this respect, White people have been the dominant group in Houston and outnumbered other ethnic groups. They have continued to define cultures and facilitate modernization in the County. They also have larger representation in various organizations.
White people began to move to other areas. They did not want to mix with other races and strived to avoid sharing public facilities. Consequently, there are few White people in areas such as Alief, Gulfton, Inwood Forest, Spring Branch and Sharpstown among others.
Today, many White people are mainly found around Clear Lake City, Beltway, Loop and Kingwood among other suburbs in Houston. I also noted that Houston has continued to receive White people from other countries over time. For instance, there are White people from Greece, Italy, and Russia among others.
Core cultural constructs of the specific ethnic communities and their unique institutions
As the number of Hispanic immigrants continued to increase in Houston, they also started to define their core cultural constructs. For instance, there are foods associated with Central American natives. I noticed the presence of certain foods like pupusas. At the same time, many Hispanics prefer their traditional foods since there are many food retail outlets that sell only Hispanic foods. Pollo Campero only sells foods from Central America.
Earlier Hispanic groups to arrive in Houston have claimed that new immigrants are giving them poor reputation because they are mainly illegal immigrants. Nevertheless, these two groups have maintained close ties. Today, there are many consulates to serve Hispanic communities in Houston. In addition, there are refugee centers for offering legal services to new immigrants. They also address other issues that affect refugee communities in Houston.
As the number of Latinos continued to increase in Houston, they also introduced their languages such as Garifuna and Guatemalan Mayan. These languages are today spoken in Houston. In addition, people also speak Spanish. To keep with modernity, there are churches like Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church for the Hispanic community in Houston.
One major reason that led Vietnamese to settle in Houston was its proximity to fishing water. Vietnamese communities have continued to fish for shrimps and crawfish. In addition, they also sought for economic prosperity in Houston and focused on developing Vietnamese restaurants. Such restaurants serve various Vietnamese foods and local delicacies for Vietnamese Americans.
From my studies, I learned that many Vietnamese communities who first arrived in Houston were mainly Christians, specifically Catholic but later immigrants brought along Buddhism religion. In fact, one can observe the presence of Temples like Guandi, which is open to people from all regions.
Many Vietnamese have continued to recognize the US as their home, particularly political prisoners and refugees. Vietnamese mainly attend many Catholic churches in Houston. However, some have persisted with their traditional religion, ritual practices and medication.
Vietnamese immigrants have continued to live like a large family in Houston. One can observe that these areas are mainly referred to as villages and they tend to house several families.
The White community in Houston is mainly associated with the Western culture of modernization. Given it dominance, the Western culture has continued to define almost all aspects of life in Houston. For instance, White people are associated with the automobile culture in Houston. They established edge cities in Uptown and Greenspoint, as well as streetcar suburbs in Sharpstown. Today, many residents participate in car culture in Houston. This is particularly common in the annual Art Car Parade.
White people are also associated with modern education. For instance, the British education is prevalent in city suburbs where affluent individuals live. In addition, they have observed Christian values, Western medicine and other modern practices.
The processes for integration or detachment from the greater society of these communities
During my research, I discovered that many Latinos in Houston converted to Islamic religion. This is a process of integration into a society to feel a greater sense of belonging. As the number of Hispanics continues to rise in Houston, many of them have moved into other neighborhoods initially occupied by other ethnic minorities. For instance, one can notice the presence of many Latinos in African American neighborhoods. This trend has continued steadily, but Hispanics have not been able to gain access to rich neighborhoods occupied by wealthy White people.
Politically, I noticed that Hispanics have strived to participate in democratic processes in the US. For instance, during the 2007 election, many Hispanics participated in elections and freely supported their preferred candidates, but they were generally aligned with the Democratic Party perhaps for their minority status. Today, Houston City Council District has changed to reflect the new changing status, ethnic compositions, demographics and representation of Hispanics and other communities. In addition, the city has some specific retail outlets like the Supermercado de Wal-Mart to cater for Hispanics and other minorities from Central America.
Hispanics tend to keep in touch with the larger community in Houston. However, others have distanced themselves from illegal migrants whom they have accused of tarnishing their reputation.
In this essay, I have established that Vietnamese arrived in Houston in three distinct periods. They had different needs and socioeconomic status. The first lot sought for wealth in the fishing industry in which they later employed others. Economic activities have played critical roles in integrating the greater Vietnam communities in Houston.
Today, there are many Vietnamese immigrants and Vietnamese born in the US in certain locations, such as Northwest, Southwest and Southeast of the city. In these locations, business activities have integrated Vietnamese in Houston. One can notice churches, restaurants, community centers, welfare centers, temples and health centers that mainly serve this community.
Later Vietnamese immigrants have created certain village complexes with several families. Many of these large villages are mainly found in Southeast Houston. Such villages have integrated the community and resulted in strong cultural developments. Many Vietnamese leaders have spearheaded their rights and struggled to ensure representation in businesses.
The White community in Houston has engaged in several activities to ensure its integration and detachment with the larger Houston community. For instance, during earlier periods, many White people moved out to suburbs to avoid integration with the entire communities of immigrants. In addition, White people in Houston have specific activities that bring them together. There is the Ladies Reading Group of Houston. Reading among women is seen as a literary culture in Houston. There are also other activities, such as Art Car Parade, baseball games and other sports, which have brought several communities together in Houston.
Unique cultural institutions and contributions of these ethnic communities
As I have noted earlier, White people are associated with several major modern institutions in Houston. For instance, Houston has one of the best Theater Districts in the US. The Theater District has promoted performing arts and other cultural organizations in the County. In addition, many local businesses have created a culture of supporting arts, charities and museums. They aim to create an attractive city for residents.
Many have known Houston for its classical music. It has achieved this reputation because of community support and dedication from residents. The Houston Symphony has endured over a century to become among the best professional orchestras. In addition, there are also other options when one is interested in professional orchestras.
There is a full period of operas in Houston in the city theaters. Both small and large communities have various destinations to enjoy live performances.
Museums in Houston have integrated many communities and presented various pieces of art works from various parts of the world. The Museum District has made Houston a major city with several different museums for the entire Texas and other visitors. Millions of people visit the Museum District every year. In addition, the culture of arts is also thriving in Houston. Given the diversity nature of Houston, there are multicultural arts centers and organizations for various communities.
Vietnamese have established unique cultural institutions that have transformed the city economic status. The community has spread its businesses across the city to their clients. I noted that over the years, Vietnamese population has increased. They have also become highly educated with modest household incomes.
One major outstanding contribution of Vietnamese community in Houston is the business of restaurant. It originated from a culture of crawfish and shrimp business. As a result, restaurants have become a significant, well-established culture of Houston. Today, there are many Vietnamese Americans and immigrants in the business of frying and selling crawfish. From this trade, they have developed various cuisines for different tastes in Houston.
However, Vietnamese communities may not be well integrated in the fishing industry, but majority of them are in fishing and other related economic activities. They have developed a culture of fishing and frying crawfish ever since they arrived in Houston. Restaurant business has truly made the community to standout from the rest. Today, Vietnamese have ventured into other businesses in the city.
Vietnamese have also set up the famous village complexes to reflect their attempts to integrate among themselves into the larger Houston society. These village complexes offer shelters to several families.
I have noticed that just like Vietnamese, Hispanics have also established reputable restaurants in Houston. Today, many city residents tend to eat from these restaurants more often than in their homes. The most popular cuisines are related to Hispanic communities. Restaurants in the city are mainly popular because they appeal to culture of the city and its residents.
From my observation, I would like to point out that Houston has played a critical role in community formation and integration. For instance, when immigrants arrived in the city, Houston offered several services, such as welfare, aid, legal, shelter and others with the aim of promoting social well-being of its community members. As a result, new immigrants have been able to integrate well into the larger Houston community. At the same time, city residents have also offered their efforts to ensure community integration. For instance, new immigrants tend to keep in touch with earlier immigrants to provide them with skills they need to find jobs. As social circles grow large, immigrants have formed larger social networks to improve their welfare and representations in Houston. Therefore, I realized that it is imperative to recognize community development and integration alongside the role of the city and its residents in promoting social well-being and cohesion.
Problems and relationships between the ethnic communities and the greater society
I have noted that communities in Houston have demonstrated various forms of relationships. For example, the White community has demonstrated a grounded community relation in Houston. White people have tended to protect themselves from other communities and immigrants. As a result, they have moved to secluded city suburbs. Nevertheless, they show strong attachment to Houston as its founders. They are dominant and influence many city fundamental concerns and identity. In fact, many practices and city attractions originated from White community’s activities. Illegal immigrants from Central America countries have created problems for the White community in Houston.
On the other hand, immigrants have sought for projected community relations. Both Vietnamese and Hispanic communities have sought for re-establishment in Houston. In many instances, they are individuals who constantly demand political, economic and social integration into the wider Houston community. Immigrants look for support from their leaders to promote their individual aspirations, autonomy and mutuality. Vietnamese and Hispanic communities tend to project themselves self-consciously as they seek for integration. As a result, they have gained greater integration and reduced several socioeconomic challenges that have hampered their well-being in Houston.
Given the location of Houston, it has created geography of community for all its residents and therefore, there are several ethnic communities. In fact, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the US. Today, many city residents have formed lifestyle community relations to reflect their preferences and city life. They prefer certain ways of life, such as dining out, shows, sports and other recreational activities. These are usually interest-based relations brought about by specific goals in a given location of Houston.
I also established that as needs of communities members become integrated, Houston has established multi-ethnic communities to deliver different services to its population. Such centers do not only support the predominant ethnic groups, but also offer support services to other ethnic minorities from Sudan, Congo, Somalia and other countries. Such community support services strive to ensure safety and social well-being of new immigrants with various challenges. Community centers want to ensure that immigrants get support during transition periods in Houston.
One must recognize that as Houston strives for greater integration of immigrants, it upholds significant values. For instance, support services consist of diverse partnership, which recognizes and advocates for family values, traditions and shared responsibilities to create a supporting community atmosphere for new immigrants.
In this experiential essay, I have explored three communities in Houston, TX. Houston is known for its several ethnic communities and its diversity. For the purpose of this study, I chose White, Hispanic and Vietnamese communities. The essay has shown that these communities in Houston were mainly immigrants who founded the city and later inhabitants who moved in as refugees, political prisoners and others who were seeking for economic prosperity. These communities introduced their core cultures and developed institutions to reflect their ways of life. Such institutions led to integration of various communities in Houston.
While earlier immigrants who founded the city are grounded communities, later immigrants have sought for inclusion through political, economic and social projections. Today, Houston remains one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the US with rich history. Overall, I conclude that community formation is a process of integration through various means, including social, economic, political and geographical means among others.