Border Flavors: The Rich History of Tex-Mex Cuisine

The origin of Tex-Mex cuisine can be traced back to the Texas-Mexico border region, where it developed as a blend of Mexican and Texan (American) culinary traditions. This fusion began centuries ago when Texas was part of Spain and later Mexico, leading to a mingling of cultural and food traditions.

Historically, the term “Tex-Mex” started as a nickname for the Texas-Mexican Railway, chartered in southern Texas in 1875. Over time, the term was adopted to describe the people and culture of Mexican descent living in Texas. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century, however, that “Tex-Mex” began to be commonly used to refer to the type of Mexican-American cuisine that had developed in Texas.

This cuisine reflects the ingredients and cooking styles common in the American Southwest, combined with those from Mexican traditions. It evolved from the dietary habits of Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) as they blended their traditional Mexican cuisine with the ingredients and cooking styles available in Texas, particularly those from Anglo and European settlers.

The border towns of Texas, like San Antonio, played a significant role in the evolution of Tex-Mex, serving as melting pots for these diverse culinary traditions. San Antonio was particularly influential because of its marketplaces and the establishment of “chili queens,” women who served inexpensive, spicy meals in public spaces, helping to popularize and spread Tex-Mex cuisine.

Thus, while the exact origin of Tex-Mex is not pinpointed to a single location, it is generally accepted that it originated along the Texas-Mexico border, with strong influences from the cultural exchanges in the regions’ border towns.