Austin College’s Bordering Cultures Symposiun began on Tuesday morning with a panel lecture by two Texas historians inside the historic private school’s newest building, the Idea Center. John Morán González, professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin and Stephen Hardin, professor of History at McMurray University, delivered lectures to kick off the three-day symposium.

Austin College’s Bordering Cultures Symposiun began on Tuesday morning with a panel lecture by two Texas historians inside the historic private school’s newest building, the Idea Center. John Morán González, professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin and Stephen Hardin, professor of History at McMurray University, delivered lectures to kick off the three-day symposium.


Both professors highlighted surprising facts and new perspectives on Texas history ranging from linguistic novelties to ethnic divides with larger social implications.


"Nowadays, most are familiar with the term ‘Mexican-American,’" Hardin said during his lecture, "but (Stephen F.) Austin (and his friends) were pleased and proud to call themselves ‘American-Mexicans.’"


Hardin spoke to the assembly of Kangaroos about the demographic and social pressures leading up to the war called the Texas Revolution, which made Texas an independent republic for a few months before the foundering Texas government entered the United States in 1845.


Hardin said at that time in Texas history, "The Americans were flooding into Texas, and demonstrated little or no willingness to learn Spanish, follow Mexican laws, or in any way assimilate into Mexican society."


Hardin said he saw many parallels with the modern immigration issues facing Texas’ citizens and government: "It’s a delicious irony that in the 1820’s and 1830’s, Mexico had a problem with illegal immigration, and it’s the same sorts of issues: immigrants did not wish to assimilate."


González also said he saw some echoes of Texas’ racially charged history in modern politics. González said that the immigrant-marginalizing and racist attitudes of the past are sometimes still present today: "What’s interesting is that the issue (of immigration) seems to have become a national one. You hear the same echoes of that anti-immigrant discourse today: ‘they’re a menace, they don’t assimilate, their labor is necessary but the U.S. doesn’t need their cultural presence. In certain ways that issue has gotten nationalized in the debates over undocumented migration."


Hardin, a McKinney native who said he has visited Sherman all his life, is a tall Texan with a storyteller’s deep voice and a taste for linguistic peculiarities, calling Stephen F. Austin, "The most respected Texian of his time." Hardin explained his use of the word throughout his speech:


"Texian… that was a term of self-identification during the colonial period and well through the period of statehood. After statehood, the term ‘Texan’ began, but you know, nobody really was sure, ‘what do you call these people?’ but Texan seems to have been the most widely accepted, but it was by no means the only one; ‘Texasian’ was one. A ‘Texonian,’ I think that’s my favorite."


González and Hardin both drew parallels to Texas’ current political and social issues with the state’s historic past, but the professors had different ideas about talking modern Texas politics. Asked about Texas’ newly implemented and controversial voter identification laws and the laws’ impact on Mexican and minority voters, González said, "It’s actually a very new and specific to this moment kind of issue. I think it’s an instance in where this kind of debate over undocumented migration has found its way into domestic policy. I think in many ways it is a kind of response by certain political parties to demographic change."


González also argued in his lecture that Mexicans in Texas had coped with the ways they were marginalized in Texas society by restricting open expression of Mexican culture to more private spaces. González said he thinks that historic dichotomy is disappearing: "I think in part what we’re seeing is the collapse of that (distinction), thanks in part to this recent migration where the idea of insisting upon citizenship as a public practice is collapsing again in many ways. I think in many ways that kind of reassertion of a transnational identity is occurring,"


For his part, Hardin wouldn’t say whether he saw the shifting demographics in Texas leading to a political upheaval: "Don’t ask me. I do history, I study what’s already happened. I cannot predict the future."


Austin College’s symposium, titled "Bordering Cultures: Crossing the Lines of History and Myth," will continue with another lecture panel on October 16 at 4:30 p.m. in room 231 of the Wright Campus Center on the AC campus. At 11 a.m. in room 231 of the WCC, AC students in the Austin College Theatre in Spanish group will perform a bilingual reading of poetry about the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday.