Missions, Markets, Gov's Mansion, Mile 0 & More

Trip Start May 31, 2009
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Trip End Jun 05, 2009


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Flag of United States  , Texas
Monday, June 1, 2009

We decided to see the Missions today. Sort of a miniture California Mission Trail. These are just south of San Antonio and follow the San Antonio River. We learnt that the Missions were built to help convert Native Americans to Christianity. The problem with this is that the Native Americans were nomadic; They wouldn't conform to staying at the Mission.

These are from the Park Service brochure:

The Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna aka Mission Concepcion stands as one of the country's oldest original stone churches. But mortar and stone are not all that remain of the vibrant missions community. Though the mission served as a religious center, missionaries provided much more than spiritual guidance. They instructed inhabitants to function as a European community. By combining the teachings. of Catholic Spain with native cultures, mission life gave rise to the unique culture of modern-day South Texas.

Blending Cultures, Building Community

Imagine life as a hunter-gatherer.

Days are spent in a relentless search for food and nights are filled with the endless sky above. Survival depends on the mercy of the wilderness and one's ability to reap its bounty and to endure its scarcity.

This was the world of the Native Americans of South Texas before the arrival of the Europeans. The Coahuilecans, rich in tradition, were people of survival, in a harsh harmony with their environment.

The arrival of Europeans brought devastating diseases and irreversible change, threatening American Indian lifeways. Mission living offered a chance for survival, which these people seized.

Carrying the traditions of Catholic Spain, Franciscan missionaries taught the Coahuiltecans how to manipulate the land in order to live in a permanent settlement. Mission Indians learned to farm and ranch, and to quarry and build with stone. By combining these new skills with their hunting and gathering past, they provided their mission community with a stable food supply. They created stone living quarters that sheltered their descendants for generations. And they built their new spiritual center..the church.

Upon entering the mission, Coahuiltecans were expected to give up their own culture and traditions and even their names. They were expected to become Spanish. Despite this, elements of their native lifeways blended with Spanish and Catholic cultures Today this blend comprises the rich cultural heritage of San Antonio. As hunter-gatherers, they had existed in small scattered bands. When Coahuiltecans joined the mission, the Friar used the tenets of the Catholic faith to teach them a new way of life. Mission leaders introduced stationary, year round community living.

Ok, I'll say it sounds idealic. BUT

Remember that a few years later, all those lands that the Native Indians had thought to be theirs, was taken by the Spanish and Americans who slaughtered. Native Indians, or moved them to reservations.

In 1988, experts restored original frescos on the convento walls and ceilings. Some of these brightly painted frescos are over 250 years old.

Religious services are still held at the church.

The next is San Jose Mission or Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo.

This Mission has a large National Park Visitors Center. Guides offer free tours during the day. The Mission has retained it's stone walls The church is still intact and many weddings are held here.

Along the inside of the walled courtyard are 84 two room apartments that held over 350 Native Americans.

The Rose Window (or Rosa's Window) is known as the premier example of Spanish Colonial ornamentation in the United States. Its sculptor and significance continue to be a mystery. folklore credits Pedro Huizar, a carpenter and surveyor from Spain, with carving the famous window as a monument to his sweetheart, Rosa. Tragically, on her way from Spain to join him, Rosa was lost at sea. Pedro then completed the window as a declaration of enduring love. A less colorful theory, but more likely, is that the window was named after Saint Rose of Lima, the first saint of the New World.

There are more exhibits open to the public at San Jose. A grist mill is on site, along with a Granary, More mini-exhibits are tucked along the wall areas. Most of these are air conditioned. Which made the heat and humidity bearable.

The first Mission in Texas was San Francisco de la Espada, Mission Saint Francis of the Sword, built in 1690. It served as a buffer against French encroachment from Louisiana. Fevers, floods, fires, enemies and limited supplies prompted several relocations of this early mission. On Mary 5, 1731, Mission San Francisco de la Espada was established along the bank of the San Antonio River.

Espada was the only San Antonio mission where bricks and tiles were made.

Today the church serves as the heart of this small community. Mission descendants continue to worship here. Franciscans, clothed in their simple brown habits, live and work in the convento.

The Park Ranger in San Antonio said we HAD to see the aquaduct. It's before the last mission, so we're looking for it.

This is from the historical marker since the photo didn't come out too well:

Since water was vital to the permanency of San Francisco de la Espada Mission, The Franciscan missionaries and their Indian followers built a dam, irrigation ditch, and aqueduct.

The 270-foot dam, an engineering feat which "curved the wrong way," was built across the San Antonio River. Lime salts in the water gradually cemented the dam's layers of brush, gravel, and rocks. Water transported by Espada ditch crossed Piedras creek by way of the Espada Aqueduct.

This, the only such structure in the U.S., was built from 1740 to 1745.

The Alluvial Valley produced crops of maize, beans, melons, calabashes, and cotton. However, deterioration had set in at Espada before its secularization in 1794. Even so, the dam, ditch, and aqueduct survived a century of Indian attacks, ravaging floods, and controversy before the Espada Ditch Ompany repaired the dam, in 1895
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In 1941, to help insure the preservation of this singular colonial aqueduct, the San Antonio Conservation Society purchased the adjacent lands. Further assurance came in 1965, when the U.S. Department of Interior designated Espada Aqueduct as a registered national historic landmark.

In the middle of a field, and also a Mission, which is fenced off, is a truly Texan exhibit. Straw has magically and artfully been turned into playful statues. There is no way we are driving past this without getting the photos.

Our last is San Juan Capistrano. I think we also visited a mission in California with that name.

This is a smaller Mission that seems to be "plunked down" in the middle of a field. The history of Mission San Juan began in the woods of East Texas. In 1716, Mission San Jose de los Nazonis was established to serve the Nazonis Indians. Howeve, the mission was not successful, and whatever was transportable was moved here. On March 5, 1731, the mission was reestablished on the east bank of the San Antonio River and renamed San Juan Capistrano.

Despite the new location, the mission still had to contend with adversity. Epidemics of smallpox, measles, and other European disease swept through the mission, causing much suffering and death amonth the native inhabitants. Bands of raiding Apaches, and later Comanches terrorized the community.

At times, when food was bountiful and danger was low outside the protective walls, some of the mission Indians left, returning to their huntng and gathering way of life.

The mission perserved and grew. By 1762 there were 203 Indians residing at Mission San Juan. The mission included a granary, textile shops, and Indian houses made of adobe with thatched roofs.

The success of its agricultural became the basis of Mission San Juan's economy. Surplus produce, along with cattle and other goods, were traded with other Spanish missions and settlements inthe area and into present-day Mexico. There possibly was even trade with French settlements in Louisiana.

Mission San Juan still is the center of a vibrant community. The meeting of the Spanish and native people has led to a new, unique culture that is celebrated amoung the people of San Juan Parish. Many parishioners trace their roots back to the original inhabitants.

Back to San Antonio's River Walk for some FOOD. Gary wants fish n chips. I'm thinking salad. We head down the stairs to the water level and there it is Mad Dogs. It's a fish and chip place overlooking the River. We grab an outside table. The only problem is when the food comes, there's just tooo much of it. Even Gary is staring at the platter, with a "how can I all eat this?' look. And Gary is a BIG eater. 

The chicken sandwich I have looks like they gave me half of an extra large chicken. I ask our kilted male waiter if he would help me with it. Says "no, he gets a lot to eat here."  I HATE wasting food. This is one place I would reccommend, but check the food portions before you order. You may be able to just order one entree and add another fries or salad.

We're jamming a lot in today. We plan to chill down one day. 

Grab the troley down to the Market area. Looking for something cool for Kary and John. This is the area with all the Mexican shops. Gary finds a leather wallet. I found a ceramic sink...which I really wanted, but would have to pull up my ceramic tile countertop to install. I argued with myself over that decision for a good 15 minutes. It would have made the BEST souvineer! 

Walked to the Spanish Governor's Mansion. Beautiful old home with gorgeous furniture and tile work. The outside courtyard is what I've always envisioned for my house...just haven't gotten it yet. 

Found the 0 mile post of the Old Spanish Trail from Pensacola to San Diego, California. We were at the Pensacola marker last January. It's in the Plaza de Armas...no surprise! Then saw the statue of San Antonio, for whom the town is named.

Got another 1st..visited the San Fernando Cathedrial..the oldest Cathedrial Sanctuary in the United States founded in 1731.  This is where many of those who died in the Alamo were entombed.

Found a sign remembering the Canary Island immigrants who came to San Antonio in March 9, 1731. Yes that is the correct date. It only took them one year to get here by ship.

Had to go into the courthouse, but couldn't get too far. Just to see if it had any unique artwork. 

We tried to get into the O.Henry House. But it was locked. He was one of my favorite writers in my younger days.

Walked back thru the River Walk. I don't know if I could live with this heat and humidity on a daily basis. It does tend to sap you.  

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