Cultural life and Latin imprint: the most surprising face of Houston

Cultural life and Latin imprint: the most surprising face of Houston
Cultural life and Latin imprint: the most surprising face of Houston

Landing at the George W. Bush International Airport in the city of Houston is entering one of the most diverse territories in North America. Some experts claim that more than twenty languages ​​can be heard in the streets of this city, which according to data from the United States Census Bureau, is home to 43% of its inhabitants, exactly 1,013,423, Latinos. The figure increases to more than 2.5 million Hispanics when the metropolitan area, with The Woodlands and Sugarland counties, is included.

At the extremes of the table, the Mexican community occupies first place, with 70% of the pie, and at the bottom, the new and striking Venezuelan diaspora, with almost 3%. The Latin melting pot of the city is completed with communities from Honduras, Cuba, Peru, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Guatemala.

First impressions of Houston

Unlike New York, San Francisco or Washington, Houston is crisscrossed by freeways. The distances between one place and another are great so getting around the city involves long car trips. It is not a city that is shown as a fan, but rather you have to discover neighborhood by neighborhood, and in which walking can only be done in sections, and as long as the weather permits it. Temperatures can be extreme in this city, famous for its intense heat and humidity for much of the year.

If time is short, a must-see is the Johnson Space Center, one of the city’s main attractions since its opening in 1992, with more than a million attendees each year. The tour includes more than 400 space artifacts, the collection of lunar rocks and samples brought back from the Moon, and permanent and temporary exhibits with the entire history of United States space exploration. Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost $29.95 for adults and $24.95 for children ages four to eleven. Children under three years old enter for free, and adults over 65 years old enjoy a rate of $27.95.

Mexican neighborhoods

The East End is one of these cultural districts of the city and one of the most Mexican neighborhoods in Houston. Also the Wynwood of Texas, with a huge collection of graffiti and urban outdoor murals. It has 30 art-promoting institutions such as The Orange Show park, and numerous restaurants with authentic Mexican food. In this sense, chef Hugo Ortega, born in Mexico City, is one of the greatest representatives of Aztec gastronomy and one of the most famous chefs in the city, with four restaurants: Hugo’s, Caracol, Xochi and Urbe. The latter dedicated to street food.

To the north of Houston, there is the richest Mexican immigration, in Woodlands, a neighborhood surrounded by forests where houses can cost up to 16 million dollars. It is the oasis of Mexican millionaires in Texas and has a first-class hospitality offering.

The Alegría Mexicana Folkloric Company rehearses at the Talento Bilingüe cultural center in Houston’s East End, in 2021.Brett Coomer (Getty Images)

The city of Katy or “Katyzuela”

According to data based on the American Community Survey (ACS), prepared by the United States Census Bureau, around 60,000 Venezuelans live in Houston, The Woodlands and Sugar Land counties, and more Half of them settled in the city of Katy, renamed Katyzuela.

“The Maracuchos are fascinated by Houston,” comments one of the residents of the area, referring to the natives of the city of Maracaibo, and adds that it was two Venezuelan real estate agents who took on the task of selling lots of houses among their compatriots and achieved the identity of the neighborhood, one very similar to Doralzuela and Westonzuela in Florida.

A child carries a Venezuelan flag during a political protest in February 2019 in Katy, Texas.Karen Warren (Getty Images)

For lovers of arepas and other dishes from the Caribbean country, you can visit local restaurants such as El Kourmet (Calle 3939 Fry Norte), Nuestra Casa Bakery (Calle 1830 Mason Sur) and Los Andes Foods (Calle 19308 Morton, local 101A-B ).

The Menil Collection, the Rothko Chapel and the Fine Arts Museum

Lovers of the visual arts have one of the best offers in the United States in Houston. The Menil Collection, located in the so-called Art Quarter (1533 Sul Ross Street), is one of the best museums in the city. John and Dominique de Menil’s private collection, made up of some 17,000 works, includes artists such as René Magritte, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, Man Ray and Jackson Pollock, among many others. As if that were not enough, the museum building was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and is another work of art to enjoy during the visit.

The facade of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, in December 2023.Brett Coomer (Getty Images)

Just steps away, the Rothko Chapel invites people of all beliefs and religions to live an experience that blends both aesthetics and spirituality. It was included in the United States National Register of Historic Places and features 14 monumental paintings by the master of Abstract Expressionism, Mark Rothko. The most recent renovation of the space reconfigured the natural light inputs in accordance with the original concept.

To close the cultural tour, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is the jewel in the crown and one of the ten most relevant museums in the country. Located in the heart of the Museum District, it consists of three gallery buildings. The Audrey Jones Beck building, designed by Rafael Moneo; the Caroline Wiess Law Building; and the newest facility, the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, opened in November 2020 and designed by Steven Holl Architects. With works of art from around the world, dating from Antiquity to the present, this institution also houses one of the most important collections of Latin American art, with works by Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo, Gego, Jesús Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez , Lucio Fontana, and more. Houston is a surprise and for the better.

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