A night market put on last month in Houston by Asia Society Texas attracted more than 1700 patrons. The downtown area transformed, as it does annually, into an open-air market and art exhibition opening. The third event of its kind, it generated the largest crowd yet. Food and music were brought in from all corners of the Asian continent, and the featured art exhibit, entitled Drawn from Nature, showcased work by contemporary artists of Japan, Korea, Tibet, and Cambodia.
The Asia Society Texas is a frequent collaborator with local artists and musicians. Local musician DJ Sun was commissioned by the organization for Sun’s Revolution, a multimedia piece inspired by the DJ’s recent trip to his ancestral home of China. The aim of the night festivals and other Asia Society Texas efforts is to expose Houston to Asian traditions and increase Texan interest in Asia.
Houston already boasts a rich exchange of goods, traditions, and friendship with countries in Asia. Five different Asia Pacific locations enjoy sister city relationships with Houston: Chiba, Japan; Karachi, Pakistan; Perth, Australia; Shenzhen, China; and Taipei, Taiwan. Boasting the 3rd largest Korean population among American states, last year Texas became the 12th US city to provide direct flights to Seoul. The Lone Star State also welcomes more Asian refugees each year than any other state.
The relationship is by no means one sided, as Asian investment in Texas has grown increasingly robust in recent years. The state recently welcomed delegations from Japan, China, and other parts of the continent, with the Houston metro area being the greatest recipient of Chinese investments statewide. Owing to the fact that many of its car parts are manufactured in Texas, and to the state’s friendly business environment, Toyota recently relocated its headquarters there. Currently, exports to Asia support more than a quarter of a million jobs in Texas.
With well-established business ties, cultural exchanges like the night market are important events to highlight Texas’ multifaceted relationship with Asia, which is cultural as well as economic.
Peter Valente is a graduate student at American University and a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington.