Man On a Mission –
San Antonio’s Mission Trail highlights the cities 5 Spanish Missions. These missions were established in the 1700’s by the Spanish crown with coordination of the Catholic church. The mission was to convert Native
Americans to Christianity. Through mission life, the indigenous people were taught the ideas of Spanish citizenship which included conversion to Catholicism.
The Missions are located on either side of the San Antonio River one within 3 miles of the next. They are a crucial piece of Texas history. The missions’ farms, ranchlands, and acequias (irrigation systems) brought indigenous people and people from Spain to claim the land.
Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo)
The struggles to claim the land came to a boiling point at the most famous of the missions; the Mission San Antonio de Valero. Better known as the Alamo. For 13 days, Mexico’s Army of thousands, led by Santa Anna, seized the Mission eventually killing the approximate 200 Texan settlers that had held up there. Of the most famous casualties were the knife making pioneer, Jim Bowie of Kentucky, and frontiersman Davy Crockett of Tennessee.
Santa Anna was merciless as his men slaughtered the greatly outnumbered Texans. Though few in numbers the 200 Texans killed over 1,500 of Santa Anna’s troops before it was all over.
While Santa Anna held San Antonio, Sam Houston was plotting to take it back. 6 weeks later Santa Anna met his waterloo as Houston’s troops seeking revenge ravaged the Mexican troops under the rallying cry “Remember the Alamo!” Thus winning Texas its independence.
I get the feeling the mission is hallowed ground for most Texans. I am surprised to find the Alamo in the heart of the city’s downtown. Despite being nestled amongst the skyscrapers and hustle and bustle of a city of 1.5 million people there is a deep sense of reverence when inside and photos are not allowed.
Mission Concepcion –
The Mission was established in 1731 and looks much as it did back then. Once adorned with colorful geometric designs, they are mostly faded now.
Mission San Jose
Founded by Fray Antonio Margel in 1720, the Mission San Jose was the best known at the time. It was a model organization and a major social center. Praised for its architecture and rich fields and pasture become known as the “Queen of the Missions.
Founded in 1690 the Mission Espada is the oldest East Texas Mission it moved to San Antonio in 1731. This Mission is the furthermost from the town’s center and I find it very serene and charming.
Mission San Juan
Originally founded in 1716 in eastern Texas, Mission San Juan was transferred in 1731 to its present location. In 1756, the stone church, a friary, and a granary were completed. The building is a bit nondescript but the bells are iconic.
I envision the Alamo being this massive fort-like structure in the sun-baked desert. It surprises me that it’s in the heart of the city. It surprises me even more that there are no admission fees for any of the missions. The grounds at the Missions: San Juan, Jose, Concepcion, and Espada are spacious with adequate room for picnicking, lounging and reflecting. I found the Mission Espada to be the most quaint and peaceful.