San Antonio, Texas, is most thought of as the home of the Alamo and for the massacre there involving Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna and his army of some 3,000 men, and Texas Militia* Colonel William B. Travis and his band of about 200 Texans and Tejanos, that took place over 13 days in late February and early March 1836. Named for the Portuguese saint Anthony of Padua, San Antonio today is known for its “River Walk,” and for its celebration of the indigenous Tejano Indian culture.
When a Spanish expedition came across the area that the Tejanos called “Yanaguana,” or “refreshing waters,” in 1691, it was on the feast day of the Portuguese saint. Located on the banks of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Springs area, Yanaguana was actually settled more than 25 years later by Father Antonio Olivares when he founded the Mission San Antonio de Valero, in 1718.
“Remember the Alamo”
The Mission San Antonio de Valero served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts, for nearly 70 years. Known to the Spanish soldiers who occupied it in the 1800s, the Alamo (Spanish for “cottonwood”) was deeply enmeshed in Texas’ struggle for independence. Among the 187 defenders who lost their lives during the Battle of the Alamo were Jim Bowie, renowned knife fighter; and Davy Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee. The Tejanos, Mexicans who had lived in Texas for many generations, fought alongside these famous men. The Alamo has come to be recognized as a place where men were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom.
Although the Alamo was not located within the original confines of San Antonio, the city grew to include the mission. The Alamo now serves as a shrine and well-known landmark in the heart of what has been nicknamed “Alamo City.” The slogan “Remember the Alamo” was used as a rallying cry in the Texan Revolution, which led to a stunning and decisive victory by Texan forces at San Jacinto, just six weeks later.
Every year at the Fiesta San Antonio, 10 days of activities are dedicated to honoring the history of San Antonio, the Alamo, the Sons of the Republic of Texas, and the Tejano heritage. Among the activities is a Pilgrimage to the Alamo, coronation of King Antonio, the Battle of Flowers Parade, the “Nights in Old San Antonio” series, a masked ball, oyster bake, Pow Wow, sporting events such as women’s soccer, rugby, and track, and enough other events to cause a sensory overload.
Transportation aplenty in San Antonio
Located in the north central area of the city, the San Antonio International Airport contains two terminals and is served by 11 airlines that make trips to 34 destinations, including two international flights into Mexico. VIA provides an extensive public transportation system that includes 78 regular bus routes and four trolley routes, in the San Antonio metro area. San Antonio also serves as the southern terminus for Amtrak's “Texas Eagle” run, which originates in Chicago, Illinois.
Institutions of Higher Learning
San Antonio is home to several colleges and universities, including the University of Texas at San Antonio, Trinity University, St. Mary’s University, Alamo Community College at San Antonio, and the University of the Incarnate Word.
The latter institution is a private Catholic institution established in 1881, by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Trinity University was founded in 1869, from the remnants of three small Cumberland Presbyterian colleges that failed during the Civil War. Situated on 600 acres, the University of Texas at San Antonio is the largest public university in San Antonio.
Attractions and Points of Interest
While many visitors arrive in San Antonio to see The Alamo, there are many other attractions of note. Among the outstanding museums are the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, which was the first modern art museum founded in San Antonio; and the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Founded in 1950, the McNay Art Museum contains works from such famous artists as Cézanne, Picasso, Gauguin, Matisse, and O’Keeffe. The historic Lone Star Brewery (established in 1884) plays home to the San Antonio Museum of Art, which has the most comprehensive art museum in South Texas, with its extensive collection of Asian, Latino, and Ancient artworks.
The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center celebrates the culture and lives of Chicano, Latino, and Indian peoples. Open to public and private audiences, the GCAC has varied programs in the following disciplines: Dance, Literature, Media Arts, Theater Arts, Visual Arts, and Xicano (Mariachi-style) Music. The Cowboy Museum and Gallery is a full-sized reproduction of an 1870s false-front trail town, that was built from salvaged building materials, originally used in the Bella Union Saloon, the local general store, jail, and a cavalry fort.
Visited by 20 million tourists a year, San Antonio also is the host for SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme parks. Visitors can also stroll the 3-mile Paseo del Rio or River Walk, the brain child of architect Robert Hugman in the late 1920s, as an alternative to paving over the oft-flooded and troublesome San Antonio River.
Today, River Walk, with its famous Parrot mascot, connects two of the city’s most popular attractions: Arneson River Theatre, near the La Villita development of Old San Antonio, and Hemisfair Park, and is considered the most attractive pedestrian-only area on the continent.
San Antonio Spurs only professional league team
Three-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, who play their games at the AT&T Center, is the only major professional league team in the city, but city fathers believe they can attract an NFL franchise, or perhaps a Major League Soccer team, if the city commits to some major renovations of the Alamodome.
Also playing at the AT&T Center are the San Antonio Rampage hockey team and the San Antonio Silver Stars, of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Both teams are owned by the Spurs.
San Antonio is also home to the San Antonio Missions, the Double-A Minor League affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, who play at Nelson Wolff Stadium on the west side of the city.
* The “militia” might also be called the first edition of the Texas National Guard, which was assembled from groups of volunteers ready to make a stand for their families and their property. Some volunteers came from beyond the borders of “Coahuila y Texas,” as that area was known, such as two groups of men from Louisiana calling themselves the “ New Orleans Greys.”
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