Still Coming Together…60 Years Later

Liverpool is a shipping town on the western coast of England. With a long history of importing and exporting of goods by sea, its quite unique that their biggest export ended up being the music of four local kids. The Beatles left their undeniable mark on the world when they introduced and entirely new genre of music, ushering in an era of teen Beatlemania, rock and roll and the idea of a “boyband”.

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The Beatles not only changed the course of music history and shared their culture with the rest of the world but they forever changed the future of a the northern shipping town they called home.

As soon as you step foot in this town, their imprint is obvious, from the “Fab 4 Cafe” to the larger than life statue of them walking through town, its clear The Beatles never really left.


The biggest and most well known of these “attractions” is The Cavern Club, a tiny club on Matthews Street that was the starting point for the Fab 4 and has hosted countless major artists like Liam Gallagher, Adele, Arctic Monkeys and more. While it has been rebuilt as a sort of replica/shrine/gift shop for Beatles fans, the history and legend lives on within those walls.

We spent our one night in Liverpool drinking, dancing and enjoying the history of this legendary club. While in the middle of around the 60th Beatles cover by the man on stage, it hit me that every single person in that room was searching for something bigger than themselves. They were all trying to reach back in time 60 years to feel apart of it all. Everyone is reaching for just a hint of the mystery or fame or notoriety to rub off on them so they can say “I was there”.

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I’ve long thought The Beatles were a vastly overrated band with their talent and influence given far too much credit but that night, in that bar I saw people from all over the world, ages 18-80 dancing and singing and feeling something. Together.

Yours Politely, Natalie

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“Can We Split The Check?”: And Other Ways to Spot An American in London

It’s easy to come to London from America and forget that you are coming into an entirely different culture. The clothes, although more stylish, resemble those in New York or LA. Thee people speak the same language although its much harder to understand, and the overall customs are similar enough to where you can not so much fit in as not stand out.

Walk into any restaurant with a big group or chat to your local supermarket employee, however, and you’ll soon realize that this is not America.

What is a simple “did you find everything okay today?” or “all together or separate?” in America is an unfathomable inconvenience in England. Who would have thought I would be sitting in a nice Italian restaurant, doing math on my phone calculator in order to figure out my portion of the over 100 pound bill (all while the waitress stares at you impatiently, as if she has better things to be doing than humoring a bunch of Americans who can’t handle a single check).

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It’s more than just these small cultural differences, however (of which the list is long and includes things like accidentally ordering a 7 pound bottle of tap water and expecting that when you order pizza you won’t have to cut it yourself with a butter knife), its in the more subtle and nuanced ways of life that really show the difference in values between the two countries.

While things in central London move at an accelerated pace with little time for stopping to think, things also move much slower. People take the time to sit in one of the countless parks scattered around to just enjoy life and the city they live in. And while the tube is hectic and overwhelming from the outside, there is a sort of peace in thousands of people from all over the city, sitting silently together on a train and reflecting on their day or just enjoying being alone in a crowd.

IMG_0012.JPGThese are things that I don’t think Americans experience or appreciate. When’s the last time you just hopped on a bus and took it across town alone? Before this trip, I can say never and now it is something of a daily necessity and something that allows for a lot of self-reflection and self-reliance. Our parks sit empty, save for the kids playing sports or the random picnic or event while these are filled to the brim even in the middle of a workday.


While America’s priorities lie in free refills and 24 hour shops and restaurants, London thrives on human interaction getting shit done with enough daylight left to enjoy life. New York may be the city that never sleeps but London is the city that can do an entire days worth of work by noon and be home with the groceries by three.

It might take a little looking to really see what drives this city and after just over a week here, I can’t tell you exactly what it is but I can tell you that when America figures it out, we shouldn’t hesitate to realign our priorities with those of our allies across the pond.

Yours Politely, Natalie

UK Election: What is going on?

Last Thursday, June 8th, the United Kingdom held their general election. This vote came three years earlier than planned as Prime Minister, Theresa May, called for it in an attempt increase her majority and “strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations”, fearful that minority parties would complicated things in Parliament.

“I’m probably going to vote Conservative because they are the lesser of two evils.” Wesley, a 42-year-old shop owner said. “This election is going to make Brexit dealings more complicated but I think it’s better for May to have screwed up now than in two or three years when the regular election is.”

Election day in Westminster was one of excitement and suspense. News crews were stationed everywhere around Parliament while the white signs of polling stations could be spotted throughout the whole city. While May, current Prime Minister and Conservative Party (or “Tory”) leader was favored to win her majority with ease, in the days leading up to voting, her lead shrunk exponentially. Suddenly, Labour leader and favorite among young voters, Jeremy Corbyn, had a chance.  One exit poll for NME showed voter turnout for 18-24 year olds at 53% and two-thirds of them voted Labour (according to Channel 4).

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“Young people are fed up with the austerity of the Conservative party and, especially people in London, are disillusioned with Theresa May,” Lauren, a 21 year old native Londoner said. “The mainstream media really vilified Corbyn but the young people really questioned that and made up their own minds.”

The election continued late into the night with the final unofficial results from Thursday showing that the Tories would not gain enough seats (326) to clench a majority, resulting in a “Hung Parliament”. (In order to claim the seat of Prime Minister, their party must gain a solid majority of seats in the House of Commons. The Tories only have 318 after Thursday’s election.)

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What this means is that in order to maintain Conservative control of the government, block Corbyn and Labour’s influence, and to protect May’s position as PM, the Tories must join forces with another party, in this case the Democratic Unionist Party, and form a new integrated government. May met with the Queen Friday to discuss this and other things resulting from the election.

“This election really wasn’t as unpredictable as people made it seem but then again, I study politics,” Ivan, a 35-year-old politics student said. “May is probably the most uncharismatic party leader ever, she makes David Cameron look like a beloved PM. Some good things did come out of the election though, like the collapse of UKIP and the push of the Scottish Referendum.”

So what now? It is a little unclear of what is actually going to happen as the different parties are all still pushing their agendas. May claims she will form her new government with DUP help while Corbyn claims he still has a shot at Prime Minister. Others are hoping for May’s resignation which would forced Conservatives to a elect someone new and others still are holding their breath for a possible second “snap” election. All will become clear in the next few weeks but until then, the future of Brexit and the UK government is anyone’s guess.

Yours Politely, Natalie

 

*None of my interviewees were comfortable with having their picture taken.*

Where to find more UK Election 2017 information:

BBC: Hung Parliament: Q&A guide to what happens when no-one wins the election

BBC: Election 2017: What you want to know about the result

Channel 4: The General Election in 5 Graphs

 

Creating Our Own Reality?

Everyone is guilty of flipping channels only to find that the only thing on is Kardashian or Teen Mom reruns and getting sucked into a multi-episode reality TV spiral. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of, in moderation.

Reality TV is addicting. I don’t know if it’s the yelling or the fancy hair and clothing or maybe just the way it allows us to look into the lives of people we would never otherwise cross paths with. Whatever it is, it lets us escape the world of mundane schoolwork or family life and enter into one of stolen boyfriends and intense girl on girl drama.

I’m not someone who denounces all who watch as anti-feminist drama queens but I can recognize the impact these shows have on our society. By portraying “real” women as catty and men-obsessed its not only setting a bad example for young girls and women but for grown men who then view women that way; and in a male-dominated society, this can be a big problem. 

When media corporations think that all women want from TV is petty trash TV and lifetime movies about unrealistic love stories, they are denying that women are complex, intelligent and capable members of society. When we watch these shows weekly and with the vigor of some Twitter superfans, we’re telling them their right and that it is profitable.

Women are interested in politics and math and the future of our world and we need to show these old white guys sitting around a table at CBS that we want more than just another season of The Bachelor. We want strong female leads and multidimensional characters who aren’t afraid to be a bad ass.

But that doesn’t mean that occasionally, we can’t snuggle into our couches, grab a bottle of wine and find out what exactly went wrong between Kourtney and Scott.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Where Have All The Female Journalists Gone?

I’m currently taking an opinion writing class as part of my major and in it, we talked about the discrepancy between the amount of women and minorities in journalism schools versus the amount that are actually working in newsrooms across the country. This has really stuck with me since then seeing as I am a minority female journalist (looks like I hit the jackpot). 

What my professor said was that although women overwhelmingly outnumber men in schools like mine, UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism , when they get to the newsroom, something makes women leave.

This isn’t that surprising when you look at the history of media industries. With the “Mad Men” past of the advertising world and the “Boys Club” that was (is?) the print media world, it’s no wonder women and minorities feel unwelcome, perhaps they still are.

I decided to look this up after listening to my Race, Gender and the Media class discuss how unfair the media world portrays women. If we don’t have women in newsrooms, how will we ever get accurate representation?

According to an article published by The Washington Post, my professor was right. They looked into the annual newsroom census (below) and discovered that newsrooms are still about two-thirds male and as for supervisors, 65.4% are male.

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Taken from The Washington Post, “Is journalism really a male-dominated field? The numbers say yes.” Amy Joyce

This is bad news for thousands of aspiring female journalists like me and should be worrisome to everyone. Without female an minority voices, you’re not getting the whole story.

What I want to know is why. Is it the lack of support from male bosses? The threat of sexual assault? Or is it something far too common in all fields, we just don’t make the same kind of money.

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Taken from BuzzFeed, “Here’s What Female And Male Journalists Actually Make”

According to BuzzFeed, its the latter. Just like in Hollywood and your local doctor’s office, women just can’t seem to get equal pay, an isn’t it about damn time we do something to change that?

Yours Politely, Natalie

Miss Representation: A Response

We watched the film Miss Representation in class this week and it discussed many issues and topics that we have discussed in class previously, but gave a more personal take on it.

This film by Siebel-Newsom explores all the ways that society and mainstream media effects young girls and how this impacts the course of the rest of their lives.

From the oversexualization in advertisements and music videos to the lack of political efficacy due to low female political representatives as role models, our society is built to let girls fail, or at least stay home and leave the real work to men. 

I had seen this documentary before but every time I watch it I am reminded of how many things in our society are stacked against women. Were told that the way we look is the most important thing and that the only reason we don’t see more female doctors, politicians and engineers is because we just aren’t interested. 


This couldn’t be more wrong. Girls are conditioned to see these industries as reserved for men and that math is stupid or too hard. If, however, girls had strong, intelligent successful role models to look up to, maybe they wouldn’t feel this way. 

Women make up 51% of the US population but only 17% of congress, according to the documentary, but if you talk to elementary girls, they are just as interested in politics, it’s only later that they realize this isn’t “realistic”. 


Because of this and because women don’t produce the majority of media, women grow up with dangerously low sense of competence and self-esteem. The film states that 65% of women have an eating disorder and it’s no wonder when the women we look at on the cover of magazines and on TV shows look nothing like the average woman.

This documentary is vital to understanding the complex struggles of being a woman in a patriarchal society and how to navigate this and come out the other end a better person. Allowing yourself to be aware of these issues and to treat them as real, harmful problems within our society is something we must all do and is something that can only help everyone in the long run.

Yours Politely, Natalie

In Defense of Twilight – A Feminist Success

In class a group presented a summary of an article explaining all the ways that Twilight, the teen movie about vampires in high school, is an anti-feminist train wreck.

I disagree.

Not only do I disagree because the teenage Natalie who spent her 16th birthday in Forks is begging me to defend Bella and Edwards love story but because of all the teen blockbusters of the last 20 years, this one got the short end of the stick.

When Harry Potter came out, it was heralded a major success on all accounts and now boasts theme parks, multiple movie franchises and even a online subscription site. No one talks about how the main character is a cis-white male or that the main female lead is portrayed as a bratty know-it-all who puts her nose where it doesn’t belong.

Twilight was branded “cheap fiction” from the time of its publication but with the release of the somewhat cheesy movie adaption, it entered the realm, for some, of worst franchises of all time.

The problem I have with this classification is that, thanks to the hype surrounding its release and the hoards of teenage girls showing up to the premiere, people forgot to look at it for what it is, a low-budget, independent film that was the result of three bad ass women making a movie they believed in.

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Catherine Hardwicke, Kristen Stewart and Stephanie Meyer on the set of Twilight

Director Catherine Hardwicke, along with her good friend (and indie darling of 2008) Kristen Stewart created a film with an up and coming studio that was never meant to be a global commercial success.

But it was. And because of that, it was judged on the same level as films with triple the budget and the backing of a major studio. This meant that all the things that this film, and most indie films in general, do right were overlooked.

“[Twilight] made $400 million on a very tight budget… there’s just no reason why I couldn’t have been in the club of successful directors, getting offers. Why wouldn’t I have gotten offered a three-picture deal? Or a one-picture deal? Or a development deal? Or an office at a studio!” – Catherine Hardwicke on sexism

One complaint that is often raised is how white the cast is. I’m sorry but vampires are pale and it takes place in Forks, Washington, a town of less than 1% African-Americans and over 67% whites. Additionally, people seem to forget that the sequel, New Moon, features exponentially more minority characters and screen time than the white cast members. Every single actor portraying a member of the Quileute tribe had to have documented proof of their Native American ancestry as to not lead to white-washing a tribe of indigenous people, which by the way, make up more than five times the amount of people in Forks than African-Americans.

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Could Bella Swan have been a stronger or more vibrant lead? Sure. But she’s not supposed to be a symbol of feminist success, she’s a sad teenage girl who gets thrown into a mystical world of sexy vampires and true love. She’s bookish and awkward and plain but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad role model. Not everyone can be Lena Dunham.

This is not a case of white-washing and this is not a case of romanticizing harmful relationships. This is the story of a girl falling in love with a freaking vampire and if you are upset about their relationship because he’s “controlling”, you’ve got other issues.

If you look at this movie for what it is, a multi-million dollar blockbuster starring a relatively unknown actress, directed by a relatively unknown female director and based on the bestselling novel of a first-time female author, I’d say feminists should be pretty damn pleased, if only they could look past their own self-important biases.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Hear the World: UNT’s Ethnomusicology Graduate Student Concert

The UNT College of Music is one of the most inclusive and diverse music programs in the country,  along with being one of the most prestigious. This is never more clear than when looking into the Ethnomusicology graduate program. This program, which began in the spring of 2016, features areas of study in music from all over the globe and gives students the opportunity to be exposed to different music styles and the cultures that created them.

Their graduate recital “Hear the World” was a representation of this philosophy. Featuring students performing music from Mexico, China, India and Africa, the event was a night of cultural exploration and celebration.

While I had very little exposure to these styles of music prior to attending this event, I didn’t feel as out of the loop as I expected to feel. Music is music and no matter where it originated, it has the power to connect and make people come together. And that’s exactly what these four extremely varied music types did, they came together and put on a great show.

The first group to perform was the Modern Mariachi group headed by Jose Torres, a graduate student and professor. He told of how mariachi tradition has evolved over time and that the modern costumes that have become synonymous with this style of music are actually borrowed from the Mexican Charro culture and hold very specific symbolism and rules. He told the audience to get loud, stand up and show them that their enjoying the music, as is tradition in Mexico, and the crowd listened. While I have heard authentic Mariachi before while visiting family in El Paso, it was a different experience hearing the traditions and the stories behind the songs sung in a language I can’t understand. He told about the heartbreak and emotion that the composers put into every song and how they all tell a story, making them more than just a pretty song you hear over dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

Second up was the traditional music of China, directed by graduate student, Yuxin Mei . She began this section with a pipa (pronounced pee-paw) solo, an instrument that resembles a guitar but sounds much pluckier. She played a fairly long piece that she explained told the story of an emperor whose favorite concubine killed herself and thus resulting in his own tragic suicide. You could hear the passion in every note, she put her heart into that piece and transformed it into something so much more than just a woman on stage playing music. You felt the pain and heartbreak and the passion of the notes. Her hands fluttered around the strings so fast your eyes couldn’t keep up, all the while she made it look as effortless as telling a sad story to a group of friends. A few more people joined her for other pieces but none as beautiful or resonant as the first.

Third was music from India and a change of pace. The contrast of the fiery, loud instrumental music from China to the softer vocal-heavy traditional Indian music really highlighted their unique differences. Thanmayee Krishnamurthy was the vocalist and lead of this trio and her voice truly was the centerpiece. With the help of two others playing variations of drums, her voice filled the recital hall and demanded attention. Each “raga” they performed had a story and her voice told that story in a powerful way. The first song ended with a long drum solo that really let the two drummer’s – one of which is a high school student, the other a professor – talent shine. The contrast of the instrumental Chinese music and the lyric filled songs from India worked to show that no matter the style or instruments, music is powerful and beautiful.

The night ended with a short performance by the members of the African Percussion Ensemble directed by Nate Ash-Morgan. They played two songs and while entertaining and interesting, lacked the uniformity and precision of the other three groups. The highlight of this performance, ironically, was not a musician but rather the traditional African dancer who showcased a war dance and then a lively “recreational dance”. While the drummers drummed, looking slightly confused and bored, she was the one who brought the culture and communicated what these songs are meant to say.

Overall, the night was one of eye-opening musical experiences that really explored all that this program has to offer while sharing their passion with the crowd. I had never heard of “ethnomusicology” before this but now I know that our university is better for having them as part of our community as they truly embrace the diversity that makes our school great.

It Didn’t Start With Trump…But He Sure Made It Worse

In his first few weeks in office, President Donald Trump has already issued around seven executive orders, arguably the most controversial being dubbed the “Muslim Ban”.

This order “suspend[s] entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order…” according to CNN and the official document.

US President Trump swears in General Mattis as US Defense Secretary . DC

This decree meant that foreign-born U.S. citizens and green card holders from the affected middle eastern, Muslim countries were held in questioning for hours last Friday when they tried to reenter the country in airports across the nation.

This, of course, led to nationwide (or at least Democratic) outrage as mothers and sons and husbands and wives were separated, and entry was withheld. Protesters gathered in inspiring numbers and stood up for those who needed a voice.

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Although maybe not illegal, this order is un-American. Yes, it isn’t technically a “Muslim ban” (despite Sean Spicer and President Trump using this term numerous times before calling it “media propaganda”) as Muslims from countries like Saudi Arabia (an oil exporter and country which Trump has business ties) are still welcome.

America was founded by people escaping persecution yet throughout all of our history, we boast examples of hatred toward immigrant groups doing the same thing. First it was the “unskilled, uneducated” Irish Catholics escaping famine, then the German Jews hoping for a more accepting place to live, and now the “terrorist” Muslims seeking refuge in the nation of immigrants.

Despite our beginnings, it’s clear that we haven’t been a welcome harbor for immigrants of any race or creed for quite some time, but now we have our racism legalized.

Donald Trump represents a significant percent of Americans, so saying that he is just a madman who needs to be stopped is only half the battle. Mosques are burning, hijabs are being ripped of women’s heads and Muslims are being profiled at airports all across the country. And none of this began when Trump wrote it down.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Mexican Is Not A Dirty Word

Growing up as a half-mexican in America has forced me to reflect on my own identity in ways I would not have otherwise. As a middle schooler, the worst insult I could receive was “mexican”. I had hoped, thanks to my above average height, lack of accent and half-white features, that people would assume I was Spanish or Italian or something even more “exotic”.

I remember being teased by some of my male classmates, as all awkward, middle school girls are. They were making fun of my dress, which featured a rather obnoxious zebra print. One of the boys said “that dress makes you look like a zebra. Wait, you’re a Mexican zebra!” Creative right?

Now looking back on this moment, which ended up becoming one of the most significant moments that has led to my culture hatred, I see that it was nothing more than a few bored middle schoolers picking on a classmate.

But this is just one example of how I grew up thinking that “Mexican” is a bad word. I still cringe at the sight of it sometimes (I rewrote the first sentence of this post about ten times because calling myself mexican makes me tense up).

I spent the majority of my childhood convincing myself that I looked white enough that people would never know or that, if they did notice, they’d think “I mean, she’s not like other Mexicans, she doesn’t speak Spanish or wear hoops so she’s basically white.”

Now I spend a good amount of my adulthood defending the culture I shamed for 15 years. I get offended when people tell me I’m practically white and I look up to idols like Selena and Frida Kahlo, who as a child made me uncomfortable in their confidence in their culture.

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Self Portrait Along the Border Line Between Mexico and the United States, 1932 by Frida Kahlo

It took me a long time to realize that the only problem with being Mexican is in the way people see us. We as a country have this association of Mexicans being stupid or criminal or trashy when in reality, they come from a culture centered on family and hard work and providing the best life possible for those around them.

My group was assigned the article on immigration and through doing this project and speaking to the class, I realized that I am not the only person who grew up feeling this way. Mexican-Americans are taught from birth that if they drop the first half of their identity, they become a better, more important person. We must learn from classes like this one and change the way America views the Mexican culture and tell ourselves that Mexican is not a dirty word.

Yours Politely, Natalie

A Love Letter to Austin

When planning for a city, you don’t expect it to become the 11th most populated and fastest growing city in the country, 182 years after its founding. You also don’t expect it to be among the top ten best places to live year after year but that’s exactly what’s happened in Austin, Texas.

Austin is a city of contrasts. Intertwined with tall brown buildings and traffic-filled paved roads sits a winding blue lake separating one half of the city from the other and large, lush grassy areas like Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores.

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At night down on 6th street, you’ll find twenty-somethings bar-hopping through dance-music filled hole in the walls while over on Rainey Street, thirty-somethings are too busy discussing world politics and sipping their craft beer or local vodka to notice. If you go too far to the south end of downtown, you hit “South Congress”, a world all it’s own full of knick-knack shops, vintage stores and legendary local restaurants. If you go too far north, you enter the world of the University of Texas and all its collegiate glory, frat houses and all.

This city is ever expanding and changing. What once was home to the state’s most eclectic of hippy’s during the 70s is now shared with technology executives and more millionaire than you could count, although you’d never know it. A running joke in Austin is that if you’re trying to find the richest guy in the room, just look for the one in jeans, flip flops and a t-shirt. Status is determined not by what clothes you wear or what car you drive but by how ethical your company is and how beautiful the view from your backyard looks.

This is thanks to the fact that through the years, as Austin’s population has skyrocketed, it hasn’t forgotten its history or its culture. In between the ever present construction of new residential towers, like The Austonian, which recently overtook the 360 Condominiums as the tallest building in town thus breaking the record for tallest residential building west of the Mississippi river, there lay secret nods to its history, only obvious to those who know where to look.

Down MLK, on the “local” side of town, in between college coffee bars and upscale boutique restaurants, is a tall metal tower that one might mistake for just another piece of construction clutter. This narrow, thin metal frame holds a circle of large lights on its top, which at night illuminates the entire block on which it sits. This tower, and the 16 others that remain scattered throughout the city are all that remain of America’s moonlight towers, an invention brought on by the high cost of street lamps in the late 1800s and early 1900s as they could shed light on up to 1500 feet. These 17 towers are the sole survivors of their kind, as all other cities have taken theirs down in favor of expansion.

Hawk on a Moon Tower

Austin not only still has standing towers that turn on nightly, the locals are proud of them and consider them an integral part of the city’s culture. At Austin City Limits Music Festival, one of the city’s biggest outdoor music events, the sides of the stages are covered with photos different city landmarks, like the capitol building and longhorn statue. One stage every year is covered with pictures of the moonlight towers, an incredible honor for something that went out of fashion over a century ago.

Along with towers from the past, there are other historical sights sitting right alongside the newest and most modern of constructions. On Embassy Road on the east side of town, near the Texas State Cemetery is a small house surrounded by, you guessed it, residential construction. This house once was the home of the French Embassy, back when Texas was its own country. It is also, coincidentally, the oldest home in the city, celebrating 175 years, and is now a museum.

With artifacts like these and others like the Treaty Oak (which has a long history filled with Native Americans, protest, attempted tree murder and much more), it’s obvious that Austin is set on preserving as much of its rich and unique history as possible. It also stands as an example to other major cities that its is possible to expand at a rate of nearly 50 people per day and still have the ability to preserve the essence that made the city great.

Ask me about this in another decade, however, and you may get a different response. With the extreme growth and booming economy comes a need for  newer, more upscale attractions and with this comes higher rent. Higher rent means that the original hippies and hipsters no longer can afford the town they helped to shape. With more and more of them being pushed out, it will be up to the city to continue to stay true to their roots and not let the growth overtake the culture and help preserve the people who make the city great in the same way they have preserved its landmarks.

Yours Politely, Natalie