You All May Go to Hell and I Will Go to Houston

By Kathy Bates, MiKayla Millard, and Irene Vázquez

Issue 111, Winter 2020

November 11, 2020

Illustration by Three Ring Studio

Houston, City of Sprawl, Hallowed Be Thy Name. Gumbo pot of South and West, Bayou City, unceded lands of the Karankawa and Atakapa peoples, haven for a people made refugees by Katrina, and unlike what the youths on TikTok might tell you, the compass rose of Chopped and Screwed. Chicago, Manhattan, Santa Barbara, Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco all could fit within the boundaries of the incorporated area of Houston. According to 2016 Kinder Institute study, the most diverse city in the country, one with no ethnic majority and where nearly one-in-four residents are foreign born. Restless and always striving. Too often overlooked and still hospitable. Land of no zoning, of big trucks and bigger freeways. A city, besieged by petrochemical infestation, gentrification, displacement, a climate crisis that rears its head against the most vulnerable. A city where it won’t stop raining. A city that doesn’t know what to do with all its grief. A city that runs on CP time but will fix you a plate to take your mama. A city that called out to its children who drift away up North, crooning in their ears that it missed them a Texas Kind of Way, come home, I’ve saved a dance for you. At its worst disjointed; at its best, Tex-Mex, Afro-Asian, Viet-Cajun, a world inside of a hyphen. 

Houston laughs at your attempts at classification. Its music is no different.

Kathy Bates, MiKayla Millard, and Irene Vázquez

Kathy Bates, MiKayla Millard, and Irene Vázquez are the fall 2020 Oxford American interns.