Italians in Texas
Most Italians coming to Texas in the seventeenth, eighteenth and early years of nineteenth centuries were mainly adventurers, explorers or missionaries. However in the 1880 and all the way to the 1920, Texas saw an increase of Italians immigrants mainly because of poor social and economic conditions that existed back in their native land. At the end of 1870, there were only 186 Italians residents living in Texas, but by the 1920s there was more than 8000 Italians in Texas.
Their primary goal was to provide a higher standard of living for themselves and their families. Sicilians mostly settled in the lower Brazos valley and on the Galveston County mainland, while Piedmontese built homes in Montague County. While Venetians, Modenese and Piedmonetese worked in rich coal mines at Thurber. Lombards were working on railway construction on either New York, Texas or Mexican Railway, the so called Macaroni Line between Victoria and Rosenberg. Over the years Italian settlements developed in Houston, Galvestone and San Antonio. Few early brave souls set the path while rest of them followed in their footsteps. In later years Italian Texans learned to grow cotton and corn on Texas soil, to speak the English language and to adapt to their new environment. Italian Texans acquired land, established business and started moving around looking for better opportunities. A majority of the earliest migrants were males between the age of fourteen and forty four, after first settling along the river in Brazos valley the Sicilians started moving towards the surrounding communities. Most of the Italians living in Thurber and Victoria County returned to their native land or moved to other places in America when they longer weren’t needed to mine coal or build railroads.
The main pillars of support in Texas were the immigrant church, the Italian language press and the fraternal organization. Parks, airports, streets, and communities bear the names of prominent Italian immigrants, among them Bruni Park in Laredo, named for Antonio Mateo Bruni; Varisco Airport in Bryan, named for Biagio Varisco; Liggio Street in Dickinson and Laneri Street in Dallas; and Varisco and Bruni, Texas. In 1980, 189,799 residents of Texas claimed Italian descent.