Our Beautiful International City

After the disaster of hurricane Harvey in 2017, I began to wonder if the population of the Houston metro area would begin to decrease. What happened here was unbearably horrific as virtually every part of town, every socio-economic group, was hit hard by the unrelenting rains. I knew so many people who had to flee from their homes as water gushed inside through the weep holes. Driving around in the aftermath was a harrowing experience as my husband and I witnessed block after block filled with the soggy debris from the storm that dropped a steady torrent of rain for three days. It was heartbreaking to witness, and the fact that my house had somehow been spared was little reason to rejoice in the midst of so much destruction. 

I suppose that there were some who saw the climate change handwriting on the wall and chose to move to higher, safer ground than the flat plane of Houston that is barely above sea level in most places. Those who could, departed. Most, like me, stayed hoping that the city and surrounding areas would rebuild and stay strong. It ends up that we did exactly that. There was too much to love in our hometown, especially the people who can trace their ancestry from all over the world. 

Houston has maintained its spot as the fourth largest city in the United States and the most diverse city of them all, including New York City. We are a place that celebrates and welcomes the international heritages of our citizens. Most neighborhoods are filled with a potpourri of races and ethnicities. Ours is a most interesting confluence of cultures that are apparent to anyone who travels here. 

We mostly live in peace with one another, but as with anything there are still dark sides to the conviviality. Some areas appear to be holdovers of segregation brought on mostly by economics. Those places are often devoid of the kind of services and stores that the rest of the city enjoys. Our homeless move around from one place to another as they are chased out when their presence openly detracts from the dynamic vibe of the city. Mostly though Houston is a friendly city where everyone can be whomever they wish to be. Our live and let live attitude is no doubt part of the attraction to our town in spite of its flaws. 

On a recent sunny day my husband and I rode around town just seeing the sights and sampling the diversity that is so abundant here. We started in the suburb of west Pearland which was once a farming area but has grown into the size of many small towns. Pearland is part of the metro Houston population and very much mirrors the diversity of the city as a whole. It is a narrow strip that runs east and west for miles. The original township was established in the eastern part of Pearland while the west remained mostly the domain of farmers. More recently the west has become home to hundreds of thousands of people with quick access to virtually every part of Houston by way of Highway 288 and Beltway 8. The residents often work in the Houston Medical Center or in the refineries of Freeport. Most of the people are well educated and have professional jobs. My cul de sac is a perfect example of just how international the citizenry is. On our tiny street we have Vietnamese, Blacks, Chinese, Whites and even recent immigrants from Slovakia. The entire neighborhood is home to an international group representing countries from all over the world. This kind of diversity is repeated over and over again in the greater Houston area. 

Houston still has sections that attract large blocks of people from certain places. Meyerland has historically been a mecca for those of the Jewish faith. Some parts of southwest Houston are home to a large Asian population. The near north side has attracted Hispanics from Mexico and Central and South America. South and east of downtown there are historic Black communities as well as Hispanic enclaves. For the most part though Houston is simply a happy mix of people much like my neighborhood and wherever we go, people love to smile and talk and let us know that we are welcomed. 

On the day that we were driving around we stopped for lunch at a barbecue restaurant that was filled with animal trophies and folks who appeared to be laborers stopping for lunch. We saw mostly white folks there but our waitress spoke with a distinct accent of some sort and a group of men who appeared to be descended from native Americans came in boasting long hair in the tradition of the braves of old. From there we travelled to the Houston Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods of Houston and possibly the most eclectic. Later we travelled to an upscale grocery store where we encountered the real international flavor of the city. Finally we ate dinner in a Turkish restaurant near Rice University where the food and the language spoken was really Turkish. As we ate, couples of every possible ethnicity arrived to sample the lamb and hummus and coban salad. 

During hurricane Harvey the real spirit of Houston could be seen on every television report. A famous photograph showed our citizens rescuing people without even thinking about who they were or what country or race they represented. We are family here in Houston and I suppose that is the reason why none of us want to leave. We like how welcoming our city is and we hope that other places will begin to understand how wonderful it is to embrace everyone without conditions. We even like our humbugs who would rather go back to a time when everyone seemed to look and sound the same. We are so far past that era that there will be no turning back. We like it the way that it just the way it has become. 


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