In this part of the state, politics has historically been closely tied to a cultural event called a "pachanga." Hence the phrase: "pachanga politics," sometimes used pejoratively to describe an old-school type of politics.
Margaret E. Dorsey, an anthropologist from the University of Houston-Victoria, recently published a book called "Pachangas: Borderlands Music, U.S. Politics, and Transnational Marketing" (University of Texas Press, $21.95. In her book, Dorsey describes the old style pachanga as:
"events in which a group of men, usually spanning two or three generations, gather in the country to talk, informally organize, drink, eat, and listen to and play music."
Without a doubt this is still a primary way for a political figure in South Texas to meet people in his community. Although in most present day pachangas, but not all, men and women are allowed to be present. The more traditional pachanga is a gathering of men or at the least there is a separation of the sexes. As a young boy I still remember my grandfather giving me a stern warning because I had wandered over into the area were women were gathering. These cultural mores were not written or regularly spoken yet everyone seems to understand them. Some pachangas I have attended still maintaining the "old ways" prohibit men from drinking in the presence of women as a measure of respect.
To those of you who live up north or in the urban areas of the state may think this cultural tradition on first blush to be primitive, in fact many aspects of the cultural event maintain and communicate old values of respect, honor and tradition. A long history strongly influenced by conservative Mexican values here in the frontier ranch country have made their mark on the pachanga. Much of these traditions have influenced and can still be seen in traditional Texan barbecues in other parts of the state.
Margaret E. Dorsey's book is a good read on this tradition. The Monitor has their review.