How Austin popularized Tex-Mex food

Kitchens and factories around Guadalupe Park helped kick off national trend.


Now the landscape of Austin will speak for itself.

The Downtown Austin Alliance in partnership with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department has embarked on a series of interpretive ventures — online for now with a street presence planned for later — about the city’s natural and man-made environments.

The first in this series is devoted to downtown’s original squares and can be found at Engage Downtown Austin. Your stories are invited at the site.

“The soul of Guadalupe Park, now Republic Square, is food, and that food is Tex-Mex,” writes Ted Eubanks on the website. “The term “TexMex” with no hyphen originally began as an abbreviation for the Texas and Mexican Railroad, chartered in 1875. In 1883, a bridge was built across the Rio Grande to Nuevo Laredo, making the TexMex the first Mexican-American rail connection.”

By the 1920s, folks were using the term Tex-Mex, Eubanks continues, to refer to people of Mexican descent living Texas. Eventually the hyphenated label was applied to the Mexican-style food of the region.

“San Antonio is often credited with creating — or popularizing — this cuisine,” Eubanks writes. “But, Austin had an equally critical role in its ascendancy. Tex-Mex, certainly Austin’s variety, began in the cocinas of Tejano women who lived around Guadalupe Square. Families in the neighborhood would make tamales and Mexican candies to sell along Congress Avenue. These kitchens were the beginnings of the Tex-Mex industry that helped shape American cuisine, and that thrives in Austin still.”

Among the best remembered of several food plants in proximity to Guadalupe Park was Walker’s Austex Chile Co. Founded in 1910, it distributed its Mexene chili powder nationwide.

Local residents worked at those factories that bordered Guadalupe, also known as “Mexican” or “Chili” Park, where their kids played while they labored in the plants.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

AUSTIN ANSWERED: Why don’t gas stations get credit card chip readers to thwart skimmers?
AUSTIN ANSWERED: Why don’t gas stations get credit card chip readers to thwart skimmers?

The ability to pay at the pump makes getting gas a quick, relatively painless chore. Unfortunately, it has also made it incredibly easy for thieves to steal your credit or debit card number and rack up hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of bogus charges. The devices used to do this are called skimmers. They’re so small they can...
Austin getting $350,000 in ‘talent hub’ funding for degree completion

Austin’s got talent, and the potential to develop a lot more. Hence, it comes perhaps as no surprise that it was named Monday as one of 17 “talent hubs.” Each of those communities is getting $350,000 to help boost education and training beyond high school. Funding comes from the Indiana-based Lumina...
Man accused of recording woman in smoke shop bathroom, groping another
Man accused of recording woman in smoke shop bathroom, groping another

The operator of a smoke shop near the University of Texas been accused by Austin police of using his iPhone to record a woman in a bathroom while groping another. Police have charged 22-year-old Manesh Vislavath with invasive visual recording and assault by contact. He was booked into the Travis County Jail on Saturday, with bail set at $5,000. According...
As AISD superintendent delivers bond update, protesters rally outside
As AISD superintendent delivers bond update, protesters rally outside

Austin district Superintendent Paul Cruz tonight is scheduled to provide trustees an update on the $1.1 billion bond, even as protesters against the bond measure prepare to rally against it. The administrative bond update is likely to include information about recent information sessions and last week’s media bond tour. The $1.05 billion bond...
New York Times op-ed claims ‘Texas is no longer feeling miraculous’
New York Times op-ed claims ‘Texas is no longer feeling miraculous’

An opinion piece published Friday by the New York Times starts off, “Call it the season of Texas’ discontent.”  Author and Texan Richard Parker offers reasons like Hurricane Harvey’s “$180 billion in damage”; a flawed and “ideologically driven” Legislature; and a troubled oil and gas...
More Stories