Texas Independence Day is celebrated on March 2 of each year. It is an official state holiday and all state offices are closed to celebrate. Texas Independence Day is (not at all coincidentally) celebrated on the same day as Texas Flag Day and Sam Houston Day.
In its earliest days, present-day Texas was known as Tejas, after the Native American peoples living there. During the European colonization of the Americas, population pressures forced both white settlers and native people living in Mexico to emigrate to present-day Texas. In 1820, about 3500 people were estimated to have settled in there. As Mexico gained its independence, because of the numbers of native people who had formerly lived in Mexico, the state was still considered to be a part of Mexico, and so from the independence of Mexico until 1831, present-day Texas was politically a part of Mexico, in a state known as Coahuila y Texas.
On October 4th, 1824, Mexico, having newly won its independence from Spain, adopted a constitution defining the country as a federal republic with nineteen states and four territories. Mexico was bankrupt following the war for independence, and so settlers in the territories were permitted to form their own militias to defend against hostile Native American attacks (for clarity, the Native Americans did not regard these as hostile attacks, but as attempts to retake land that had been taken from them by force). In an attempt to reduce the number of Native American attacks, Mexico freed Texas from certain immigration regulations, allowing citizens of the United States to settle there. Twenty-four empresario contracts were granted; only one empresario settled inhabitants of the Mexican interior. However, Mexican-born settlers soon outnumbered United-States-born settlers; President Bustamente, in Mexico, then prohibited further immigration from the United States to Texas, and required that all slaves be emancipated. Texians simply ignored these laws and began to evade taxes and customs duties.
Additionally, Texians were unhappy to be part of such a large state, and wanted to be their own state (still part of Mexico) with a capital closer than 500 miles away to help control the corruption in Texas, and they did not want convicted Mexican criminals to be allowed to serve in the Mexican militia in their state. Mexico also did not grant freedom of religion, and told each settler what crops or livestock he could plant, regardless of whether the crops might do well on that individual plot of land.
In 1834, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna began to seize power, dissolving state legislatures, imprisoning farmers who would not grow their assigned crops, abolishing the Constitution of 1824, and disarming the local militias, leaving the settlers without protection from the Native Americans, who were still fighting the settlers for their land. Mexico was itself divided into warring political factions: the federalists, who wanted to maintain the Constitution of 1824, and the centralists, who wanted all the power consolidated in a central government. The colonists, who were afraid of these changes, formed Committees of Correspondence and Safety, coordinated by an oversight committee in San Felipe de Austin, Texas.
Finally, in June, 1835, in a move reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party, the Texians staged a customs revolt and stole horses from Mexican officers, prompting the militia to send additional troops to Texas. Stephen F. Austin was imprisoned (although never charged) and later released, and Texians began making plans for demonstrations and armed resistance (although Austin was calling for a full-scale revolution). Before the Texans could take action, there was a showdown on October 2nd, 1835, in Gonzales, Texas, known as "The Texas Shot Heard 'Round the World" (after "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" in Lexington, considered as the start of the American Revolution), and Texas began a short-lived war for independence, which lasted until April 21, 1836. Texas formed a provisional government to coordinate the war efforts, and on March 2nd, 1836, Sam Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, written by the delegates of the Convention of 1836, on the occasion of his forty-third birthday, which is why Sam Houston Day coincides with the independence celebration. The war with Mexico officially ended in an eighteen-minute battle at San Jacinto, Texas, where General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who had established himself as the dictator of Mexico, was captured.
The Texas government forced Santa Anna to sign the Treaty of Velasco on May 14th, 1836. Despite growing unrest among those who wanted Santa Anna punished for his cruelty and usurpation of power, the Texan government sent him to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Andrew Jackson. However, in the meantime the Mexican government deposed Santa Anna, and therefore he had no power to negotiate on behalf of Mexico, and because of this, the Treaty of Velasco was never ratified in Mexico. Therefore, until well into the 1840s, although there were no more land battles, the Texas navy fought in numerous skirmishes with the Mexican navy, and the battles with Mexico finally ended with the Mexican-American War in 1846.
Sam Houston was elected the first President of the Republic of Texas, and Texas remained a sovereign nation until Texas was annexed to the United States on February 28, 1845.
The Fall of the Alamo
Robert Jenkins Onderdonk, 1903
Ways You Can Celebrate Texas Independence Day
- Fly the Texas flag
- Sing the Texas state anthem, Texas, Our Texas
- Adopt a mockingbird, the state bird
- or a Monarch butterfly, the state insect
- or a Longhorn, the state large mammal
- or an armadillo, the state small mammal
- or a free-tailed bat, the state flying mammal
- or a Texas horned lizard, the state reptile
- or a Guadalupe bass, the state fish
- Plant bluebonnets, the state flower
- or a prickly pear cactus, the state plant
- or a pecan tree, the state tree
- or a Chinese crepe myrtle, the state shrub
- or a sweet onion, the state vegetable
- or a red grapefruit tree, the state fruit
- Wear a Blue Texas Topaz, the state gem
- Find a lightning whelk shell, the state shell
You can also engage in one of the numerous traditional Texan pastimes, such as riding horseback, watching (or even participating in) a rodeo, singing cowboy songs, cooking on a campfire (especially chili, a stew made with meat and chili peppers), or telling stories of Texas heroes such as Cynthia Parker.