Rio Grande

The buzz around the Bumble ad controversy

The border buoys case in court: Why the arguments surrounding Texas’ river barrier were not about immigration.
El Paso County residents are concerned a proposed highway expansion project could imperil the Rio Bosque – a marshy area along the Rio Grande that has been “re-wilded” to support native plants and wildlife.
What will soon be one of Texas’ biggest gas pipelines is raising both environmental and safety concerns from the residents along the path.
The new book “They Came for the Schools” takes us further into the story of the Carroll Independent School District’s battle over what’s on library shelves and in classrooms.
And: Austin-based dating app Bumble apologized this week for an ad campaign that some believed mocked the choice not to date, or to remain celibate. Tech expert Omar Gallaga shares more.

The Rio Grande is getting saltier. What’s that mean for agriculture?

The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on SB4, the controversial Texas law that allows state and local police to arrest and prosecute migrants who enter the state, after delaying implementation of the law last week.
A lack of medical insurance and access to treatment is making life in rural Texas tougher than many might imagine.
Energy insider Matt Smith has the latest on rising gas prices as many Texans hit the road for Spring Break.
The Rio Grande, the body of water that outlines the border between Texas and Mexico, is becoming saltier – affecting people, farmland and livestock on both sides of the border.
And: Amid a statewide teacher shortage, one Central Texas school district is trying to turn things around by creating its own pipeline of new recruits.

State has seen rise in teen births since abortion ban was enacted

After Donald Trump’s win in the New Hampshire primary, what are the implications and ripple effects as Texas’ primary day approaches?

The Republican Party of Denton County has issued a resolution calling for Brent Hagenbuch to drop out of race for District 30 of the Texas Senate. At issue: allegations that Hagenbuch doesn’t live in the district.

A federal appeals court has given a second chance to Mexico’s $10 billion lawsuit against gun manufacturers, one of the biggest potential setbacks for gun manufacturers in recent memory.

A new study from the University of Houston finds a rise in teen birth rates a year after Texas’ six-week abortion ban went into effect.

And: Analysis of the Supreme Court’s ruling on razor wire at the border.

The Gift of the Tidelands

Texas Standard commentator W.F. Strong has a little holiday tradition. Every December he likes to count our collective blessings as Texans by highlighting a great gift to Texas.

He says the tidelands were special because the giver didn’t realize how much goodness would continue to flow from them.

Why Will Hurd didn’t make the cut for the first Republican presidential debate

The Feds push back in court over Gov. Greg Abbott’s deployment of buoys in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass.

The City of Dallas has received $1.5 million in federal dollars for a major cleanup of contaminated sites. But will it be enough?

Researchers in El Paso are trying to tap another source of potential alternate energy, inspired by the prickly pear cactus.

There are growing concerns about challenges faced by deaf kids in the Texas foster care system.

Plus, San Antonio native Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post shares the latest on tonight’s GOP primary debate – and why former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas won’t be there.

Examining the skills gap in a post-pandemic workforce

Border Patrol agents say Texas efforts to address migration are disrupting their work. Troopers say complaints are overblown.

We’ll have an update on the state’s wildfire risk as the dangerous pattern of hot and dry conditions continues.

How one Texas school district spent the the summer addressing safety concerns.

Reports of a concerning trend in the workforce: new employees that just aren’t ready to do the job.

There’s bipartisan support for rolling back some environmental regulations to speed up the production of U.S.-made semiconductors.

And we’ll hear from Kiana Fitzgerald, author of the new book “Ode to Hip-Hop: 50 Albums That Define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music.”

Heat and the next Great Migration

An exemption to Texas’ abortion ban is on hold after an appeal by the state attorney general. What comes next?

Just how powerful are social media algorithms? Texas researchers test whether changes could help defuse political polarization.

Texas Public Radio’s David Martin Davies got in a kayak to take an up-close look at Gov. Greg Abbott’s floating wall in the Rio Grande.

And a warning that climate change could reverse demographic trends showing major population growth in places like Texas: Could there be a great migration northward?

DPS whistleblower says troops at border have ‘inhumane’ policies toward migrants

A new report says Texas troopers were told to push back migrants and deny water amid soaring temperatures.

How a redistricting case from Alabama could have ripple effects on Texas’ Galveston County and beyond.

A Sriracha shortage is putting the squeeze on people who love the red sauce, and some Texas restaurants are getting inventive.

How the writers’ and actors’ strikes in Hollywood could play out close to home.

And a reconsideration of the baseball team that won it all in 2017 but was accused of stealing signs: A talk with the author of “Astros and Asterisks.”

Quinta Mazatlan

Cicero said, “If you have a library and a garden, you have all that you need.” Texas Standard commentator WF Strong says you can begin to understand that wisdom when you enter the gates of Quinta Mazatlan. It’s an urban oasis in south McAllen.

Falcon Lake

There’s been a lot of concern focused on Lake Mead in Nevada. It’s the largest reservoir in the United States and is the water source for more than 25 million people. But it’s fallen to just 25% capacity and is dropping rather rapidly. In Texas, Falcon Lake is at just 12% capacity. Commentator W.F. Strong says it’s beating Lake Mead in a race to the bottom.

Texas Standard: March 7, 2022

The first big test of new changes to voting rules and restrictions in Texas. What did the primaries tell us about SB1? We’ll take a closer look. Other stories we’re tracking: a Texas challenge to a federal law designed to keep indigenous kids removed from parental custody with their families and tribes. We’ll hear the story behind the story. And the war in Ukraine already hitting the home front with Texans paying more for gasoline, and pump prices could reach record levels within days. We’ll have the latest. Also the search for the anonymous person paying tribute to Sam Houston with an annual offering at his gravesite. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 10, 2021

Politics as unusual? Republicans not exactly in lockstep as the legislative session races to a conclusion, we’ll hear why and the potential implications. Plus a foster care system so dangerous is was once ruled unconstitutional. A new report finds young Texans still dying from abuse and neglect. Also why quinoa could become Texas’ next big cash crop. And turning hemp into another kind of green…the Texas Rangers asking questions. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

How Texas Became A Desert

By W. F. Strong

To much of the world, and to many people in the U.S. who have never been to Texas, the state is a vast desert. It is not the Sahara, but instead a high-plains arid region studded with rocky mesas, sweeping wall-like cliffs, dusty canyons, and sometimes adorned with thousands of Saguaro cacti – native to Arizona, not Texas. Certainly there are parts of west Texas that have some aspects of these images, but more than half the state is green with rolling hills, lush forests and vibrant coastal plains. Yet the desert images dominate minds in distant lands. For that, we can thank Hollywood. 

There are many John Wayne westerns with story lines that weave through Texas, but the films were shot in Utah and northern or southern Arizona. The most jarring example to me is The Searchers. To my mind, The Searchers was John Wayne’s best film. Here’s a clip where Mrs. Jorgensen, a tough frontier woman, defines these early Texans: 

It just so happens we be Texicans. Texican is nothing but a human man way out on a limb. This year and next, and maybe for a hundred more. But I don’t think it’ll be forever. Someday this country’s gonna be a fine, good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come.” 

As she says this on her front porch, she is looking at a view of Monument Valley, Utah.  Wayne made five movies in Monument Valley, even though two of them, The Searchers and Rio Grande, had storylines that based them in Texas. Wayne actually said, “Monument Valley is the place where God put the West.”

Another Wayne film that is shocking to a native Texan is The Comancheros. The plot has Wayne playing Texas Ranger Jake Cutter. Great name. He arrests an outlaw for murder on a boat arriving in Galveston and tells him he will return him to Louisiana: 

Regret:   Well, I’ve committed no crime in Texas.

Cutter:    Right. But you killed a man in Louisiana. My job’s to take you to the Ranger Headquarters where a Louisiana Marshall will pick you up. They’ll take you back to New Orleans and the gallows. You know we’re getting real obliging to the states down here in Texas. A lot of folks want to join the Union. 

Regret:  I have a couple of hundred in gold in that jacket. That give you any ideas,  friend? 

Cutter:   I’ve got what you might call a weakness. I’m honest. 

As Cutter exits the boat in Galveston with his handcuffed prisoner, Paul Regret, in tow, he walks right into Southeastern Utah where the film was shot in Professor Valley and the La Sal Mountains, among other places near Moab. Stunning country for cinemascope technology to capture, but not Texas.    

Rio Bravo and El Dorado were two John Wayne Films with Texas settings shot in and around the Sonoran Desert west of Tucson. The landscape there is dominated by thousands of saguaros, enormous 40-foot cacti that look like sentinels of the desert.  Such sights don’t exist in Texas.  

Clint Eastwood’s For a Few Dollars More is set in and around El Paso, but it was actually shot in the Tabernas Desert near Almería, Spain. Fort Bravo, also called Hollywood, Texas, is a movie set town built there in the sixties and has served as a backdrop for many classic Western films like Once Upon a Time in the West and the famous Spaghetti Westerns. Not all of those have Texas storylines, but some do. For a Few Dollars More does, and at least in this case, the landscape of Almería is a good match for the El Paso region.  

Two films more true to Texas in landscape were Giant, shot almost completely around Marfa, and No Country for Old Men, filmed mostly in Texas, but some in New Mexico.  Texas Rising troubled some Texans for two reasons: one, being shot almost entirely in Mexico, which seemed sacrilegiously ironic. And two, for scenes of rugged mountains around Victoria, Texas. I think they got their Victorias mixed up. A more recent film called Hell or High Water, starring Jeff Bridges as a Texas Ranger chasing bank robbers in the Panhandle, was largely shot in New Mexico.  

So you see, movie-Texas depicts a greater land of diversity than Texas actually has within it. To much of the world, we are Arizona and Utah and New Mexico, and we are Mexico and Italy and Spain. Mostly desert. Everything is bigger in Texas because Hollywood has subconsciously created a much wider world in the collective mind of moviegoers. 

El Rio Bravo

By W.F. Strong

Ten years ago I was touring the great Catedral de Sevilla, in Spain, when I got into an unexpectedly informative conversation about Texas with an 80-year-old guide of that majestic church. When he discovered that I was from South Texas, he asked me, in perfect British English, “Did you know that your river there in Texas is named after our river, the Guadalquivir?”

I said I didn’t understand how that could be so. How do you get Rio Grande from Guadalqivir? He said, “Guadalquivir is a Spanish distortion of the Arabic, meaning “the brave river” or “the great river.”  So, when the original cowboys of Andalucia from southern Spain settled in northern Mexico, they thought the river looked like the Guadalquivir, so they called it the “Rio Bravo.”

Well, that was one more origin story to add to many others that claim to tell how the Rio Grande River, or the Rio Bravo – as it is known on the Mexican side – got its name. I can’t speak for or against the veracity of the guide’s story, but as a story, it’s interesting, which is the first rule of stories.

Some say Álvarez de Pineda first named the Rio Grande, El Rio de Las Palmas, in 1519.  But others say he was really at the mouth of the Pánuco River near Tampico – much farther south in Mexico – not the Rio Grande. But we have to consider the Pineda Stone as evidence, which was found deep in the sand near the mouth of the Rio Grande in 1974, with his name etched on, along with the number of men and ships he had with him. Many believe it is fake, but just as many feel it’s real.

We do know that explorer Juan de Oñate called the river El Rio Grande in writing in 1598. Strangely, Cabeza de Vaca crossed it 70 years earlier on his wild trek across Texas and Mexico, but never mentioned the river at all.

The river has also been called Rio Grande del Norte and Rio Bravo del Norte. Today, we know for sure that it is called the Rio Grande on the Texas side, and the Rio Bravo on the Mexican side. At one time it was certainly brave and grand, with steamboats piloted by Texas legends like Richard King and his business partner Mifflin Kenedy, who traveled 130 miles inland all the way to Rio Grande City, and in a rare case, all the way to Laredo.

Though the river, once half-a-mile wide at some points, certainly earned its name, now we might call it El Arroyo Valiente, or Courageous Creek, because, along its 2,000-mile journey from Colorado to the Gulf, it’s often no bigger than a creek. So, many cities and towns along its bank pull water from it that is a mere trickle of its former self.

No wonder Will Rogers once said that the Rio Grande is the only river he “ever saw that needed irrigation.”

And down toward the mouth, the river is incredibly crooked, like an enormous water moccasin sunning itself in lazy loops and curls. Gen. Zachary Taylor said his soldiers believed it was so crooked there seemed to be only one shore. I can attest to this myself. I once rode my motorcycle along the northern trails that follow the curves of the riverside, but my eyes told me otherwise. It’s terribly disorienting. Riverboat pilots said it was 100 horse miles from Brownsville to Rio Grande City, but 175 river miles.

The river is to Texas and northern Mexico what the Nile is to Egypt. It is quite simply life itself, and always has been. And there are still quiet, isolated spots along the river. Ones where I found myself looking north across the water, even though I was not on the Mexican side where enormous canyon walls rise toward the heavens 2,000 feet overhead. Where exotic parrots fly in screeching flocks through the wild palm orchards – places you can sit and channel the words author John Graves wrote about a different Texas river: “If you are lucky and reverent, and hush for a moment the doubts in your head, sometimes God will whisper in your ear.”

Texas Standard: October 15, 2019

A Fort Worth police officer now charged with murder in this weekends shooting of a woman inside her own home, we’ll have the latest. Other stories we’re tracking: what some think could be the final presidential debate with two Texans on the stage this campaign season. And how water factors into the immigration debate. Plus a meeting at the state capitol in June, surreptitiously recorded at the center of a big political scandal. Now: the tale of the tape. What it means for Texas politics and much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: April 16, 2019

The images captured the world: Notre Dame on fire. Yellow smoke billowing, the spire falling. We’ll have the view from Texas. Also, could a voting error land you in jail? The Texas Senate just passed a bill to increase the penalties of so-called voter fraud. We’ll explore. And more states are allowing certain teachers and staff to carry guns in schools, but there’s no federal standard to govern the trend. Plus, off the coast of Texas: old oil rigs actually contributing to the environment, and what’s causing ship wreckage that’s been around for more than a century to disappear now. All those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Big Bend

It’s feeling like summer — time for a Texas road trip. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Cabeza de Vaca: The First Texas Tourist

The first person to waltz across Texas – okay, waltz is the wrong word (just tipping my hat to Ernest Tubb there). The first European to walk across Texas was Cabeza de Vaca. And he did it barefoot and mostly naked. Why? We shall see.

His full name was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Bet they just called him “Al.” “Alvar” means “guardian.” Turns out that he tried to be just that for the indigenous peoples of all the Americas, North and South.

He started out as a Spanish Explorer in the New World, with an expedition of 300 people in Florida in 1528. Within a few months, Indian attacks and starvation had driven the Spaniards to the coast where they quickly built 5 crude rafts to escape into the Gulf. They hugged the coastline and made it to the Mississippi River, which pushed them out to sea where they were separated by currents and storms. Many died from drinking sea water. Many fell overboard and drowned. Cabeza de Vaca’s raft and one other, along with about 80 survivors, washed up just south of Galveston Island.

Aboriginals on the island saved them from starvation, but many of the Spaniards still died of malnutrition and illness. Many of the native Texans died, too, likely from European viruses that Cabeza de Vaca’s group carried. Within months, only he and three others of his expedition were still alive. That was out of the original 300, a 99 percent death rate. Not exactly a confidence builder.

And then the fun really began. The tribe turned hostile. They made slaves of these castaways – forced them to dig for edible roots, gather firewood and keep fires going all night to ward off the swarms of mosquitoes. They were beaten if they didn’t work hard and sometimes they were beaten just for fun. The castaways were stuck in captivity for several years, though Cabeza de Vaca himself got some relief as they allowed him to trade with other tribes on their behalf.

Despite the horrors they endured, a tiny hope sustained them – Cortés was only 1,000 miles away down in Mexico. Maybe they could reach him and their countrymen. Finally, as their tribe migrated south one summer, they seized the opportunity and escaped.

They headed southwest, following the coastal route that is today highway 35. They had no clothes and no shoes. They walked mostly naked and barefoot through increasingly brutal terrain of mesquite thickets and cactus and sharp coastal grasses. They ate pecans, at what Cabeza de Vaca called the “river of nuts,” which ironically was not the Nueces River – nueces meaning “nuts” – but the Guadalupe. They also ate prickly pear fruit, prickly pear itself, mesquite beans and roasted corn (elotes). Bet they would have given about a million gold Escudo coins for a Whataburger.

One thing they did have going for them is that they became known as shaman or healers. They were called The Children of the Sun by tribes in the region. Many in these tribes flocked to them to be healed. They did the best they could, blowing gently on their patients’ bodies and making the sign of the cross over them. Sometimes they recited rosaries. Fortunately, most people they treated were cured, or at at least reported feeling much better.

Their reputation preceded them and the tribes they encountered greeted them as holy men and demigods. This was quite a welcome reversal from their lives as slaves.

Despite the difficulties of their journey, Cabeza de Vaca still marvelled at the beauty of the coastal plains of Texas. He saw buffalo, which he called huge cows, and even tasted the meat once or twice. He declared it better than European beef. He later wrote: “All over the land there are vast and handsome pastures with good grass for cattle, and it strikes me that the soil would be very fertile were the country inhabited and improved by reasoning people.” He was a bit ethnocentric on the criticism, but it turned out he was a healer AND a prophet – predicting the great cattle ranches that would flourish in Texas 300 years later. Back in Spain, he would argue for peaceful coexistence and cooperative colonization with the American Indians. The Crown was so amazed by his idea that they imprisoned him to kill it.

Though the exact route is not known, many believe that Cabeza de Vaca and the castaways trekked southwest through present day Falfurrias and Roma where they crossed the Rio Grande and then turned Northwest. They walked all the way to the Pacific Coast. Ten years after they left Spain, they made it to Mexico City.

Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to get a good look at the magnificence of Texas and to leave behind a record of what it could become. He was Texas’ first tourist and he was Texas’ first travel writer. He gave Texas a five star review for its potential. And in terms of making the most of the land, our ancestors fulfilled his prophecy. In terms of getting along with the native Texans, well, not so much. Let’s just say, it’s complicated.

Texas Standard: May 17, 2017

What did he know and when did he know it? That’s so 1973. Today’s question: did president Trump attempt to obstruct justice? We’ll explore. Also: it’s been two years since the biker shootout in Waco, more than a hundred 70 arrested and charged, but not a single opening argument yet. What’s the explanation? We’ll take a look. And a laptop ban said to be in the works for travelers coming to the US from Europe. Does a laptop ban make sense? Also teen pregnancies hit a record low nationwide, but not here. Why Texas is bucking the trend. Also police chiefs claim there’s less crime in so-called sanctuary cities. But is that a fact? All those stories and much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: February 15, 2017

President Trump calls it nonsense but the New York Times says Trump’s aides and close associates were in constant contact with Russian intelligence, before the election. Also day 27 of the Trump administration. We’ll break down the latest developments with a Texan who served on the National Security Council. Plus, a group of former US Ambassadors to Mexico ask the president to change his tone with our neighbor to the south. The foster care system is dysfunctional but what’s it’s like inside the system? We’ll hear from a young person who lived through it. And the forgotten african-american cowboys of Texas, saddle up, it’s Texas standard time: