HOUSTON (FOX 26) -
The early history of Houston and its industrial beginnings are rooted in the historic east end when a section of the area, known as Harrisburg, was the capital for the Republic of Texas in 1836.
Now retired, University of Houston professor emeritus Tatcho Mindiola grew up in the east end. He taught Mexican and Mexican American studies.
"They used black slaves and the Mexicans who had been captured at the Battle of San Jacinto to clear the land, so that's our first recorded history of Mexicans in the Houston area," said Mindiola.
"The Mexican Revolution sent a lot of Mexicans into the United States and that's how our community grew here in Houston," added Mindiola. "Houston has always been a very booming economy, primarily because of the ship channel. The ship channel played a major part in stimulating the Houston economy."
Not many people remember that the historic east end's first settlers were German.
"This whole area was called Germantown and it was the German street of the Germantown street," described former Houston City Council member Felix Fraga, who also grew up in the east end. He recalled that one of its main streets had a name change early on.
"When the first World War started, then we were fighting against Germany, I don't know how the City decided to or the country decided to rename that street Canal Street," explained Fraga. "On our paperwork for this house that street shows a German street." But the street's name change proved to be at an appropriate time.
"The name Canal, the name Navigation, that came because of its association with the port," explained Mindiola. "Until Houston developed the ship channel here, the major port of this part of the state was Galveston. But once they dredged the Port of Houston, then Galveston as a port, still an important port, but not as important as Houston though."
And because of the port, Houston's economy grew with the help of Mother Nature.
"What helped Houston was that there was a big tornado, oh yeah, a hurricane in 1900, that ruined Galveston," said Fraga.
The City of Houston took advantage of Galveston's misfortune and sped up the ship channel dredging, bringing thousands of new jobs.
"So it was labor, that's that work, in all of the industries that eventually evolved out of the Houston Ship Channel," described Mindiola. "All the factories, all the tool making industries, are still in existence, Hughes Tool, and those other industries that go up there. We were the labor force of that economy much like we are today."
Over time, the Germans and some Italian immigrants moved out and the east end became predominantly Hispanic, mostly of Mexican origin. But as the Latino middle class grew, many of them moved out of the area, although that is changing.
"They are gonna come back now because they're building townhouses here, which I never thought that would happen," siad Fraga with a laugh. "So I imagine as the jobs continue to develop in this part of town quicker than other parts, I think some of the people will come, be coming back and some will never think about leaving."