The soul of Guadalupe Park (now Republic Square) is food, and that food is TexMex. 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, some people were using “Tex-Mex” (with hyphen added) to describe people of Mexican descent living in Texas—more accurately called Tejanos—and eventually the label would be applied to the Mexican-style food typical of the region.
San Antonio is often credited with creating (or popularizing) this cuisine. But, Austin had an equally critical role in its ascendancy. TexMex, certainly Austin's variety, began in the cocinas of Tejano women who lived around Guadalupe Square. Families in the neighborhood would would make tamales and Mexican candies to sell along Congress. These kitchens were the beginnings of the TexMex industry that helped shape American cuisine, and that thrives in Austin still.
Walker's Austex Chile Company, established in 1910, distributed its Mexene chili powder throughout the nation. Many of the local residents worked at the factory that bordered Guadalupe (also known as "Mexican" or "Chili") Park. Their kids would play in the square as their parents worked in the factory canning tamales and other foods for the national market.
The food tradition continues today with the Sustainable Food Center's farmers’ market, held each Saturday morning at the square.
Please share with us your stories and memories of the foods of Guadalupe Square. AusTex Chile Company continued to operate in Austin into the 1960s, so there are many people still living here with parents who worked at the factory during that time. No story is insignificant! We want to hear them all!