Getting to Know the East End


Getting to Know the East End’s German and Mexican Roots

Houston is continually reinventing itself, and as one of the city’s oldest residential and business hubs, many groups have called the East End home since before the Civil War. Though immigrants from many countries settled in the area, settlers from two countries played significant historical roles in the area’s growth: Germany and Mexico.

German Influence

In the mid-to late 19th century, the Second Ward became “an unofficial hub of German-American culture and social life,” according to Houston History Magazine. During that time, German settlers and their families populated the area and celebrated their heritage with parades and festivals.

The onset of World War I in 1917 and 1918 and the ensuing anti-German sentiment effectively halted the growth of the East End’s German community, but some remnants—like street names Bering, Engelke, Freund, Rottman, Lemke, Schroeder, and Merkel—stand as reminders of the past.

Mexican Influence

In the early 20th century, Mexican settlers and their families became a significant part of the Second Ward’s growth. In 1908, the first social group was established to serve the Mexican-American community, “El Campo Laurel.” According to Houston History Magazine, it became an important “parent organization for the many Mexican social and benevolent aid groups” that continue today.

In 1912, the Roman Catholic Diocese established Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, next to St. Vincent’s Cemetery, and it became Houston’s first church to offer services in Spanish. The church still serves parishioners today alongside historic St. Vincent’s cemetery.

Following World War II, the Mexican-American population continued to expand to various neighborhoods in the East End, opening bakeries, restaurants, and tienditas, contributing to the vibrant Latinx community we see today.

Mexican culture lives on through favorites like Talento Bilingue de Houston, the largest cultural arts center in Houston, the original Ninfa’s restaurant on Navigation, and Old Town Harrisburg, a market square that reimagines and preserves the area’s past residents.