Have you ever wondered about how San Antonio looked like 300 years ago? It was the beginning of the Spanish era, and history puts Texas right at the beginning of the colonization, making it one of the oldest cities discovered and conquered by the Spaniards.
For decades, American natives faced the struggles of having been diversified by a different culture—the Hispanic culture brought Texas a surprisingly different fate by influencing the land with European teachings and traditions.
It was a long journey battling through the reign of Spanish colonization. Nevertheless, the foreign settlement created a series of events that led the city to a prosperous future. Before San Antonio, Texas, became what it is today, it has been through a long line of historical events. Even the name isn’t what it was when it was first discovered. So, how did it all happen?
Since the late 1500s, European expeditions started to expand their travels to the South and Central areas of Texas. Spaniards have been known to be the earliest and surprisingly the most triumphant adventurers to travel and discover different parts of the world— one of their discovered lands happened to be a state in the northern part of America.
In 1691, the first group of Spaniards visited a camp of one of the natives in the South of Texas called Payaya Indians. It was in 1718 when a Spanish expedition coming from Mexico called the “Alamo, “ founded the area, which they then called “St. Anthony of Padua.”
A part of their early developments in that settlement was the military garrison, “San Antonio de Béxar.” They were running missions in East Texas and the Rio Grande. They established the site near the river’s west bank, trailing through the Texas wilderness, although the operations did not last for a very long time due to some inconvenient factors. Aside from this, only very little documentation was recorded during the early period of Native American occupation, as Texan indigenous people were considered to be among the known Indian groups who weren’t very much acquainted with collecting information.
Canary Island settlers came in 1731 with a mission. They also established a town near the presidio called the “San Fernando de Béxar.” Despite the frequent raids they experienced from the tribes, the settlement pushed through, and the mission was secularized in the year 1793. San Fernando de Béxar was a provincial capital in San Antonio from 1773 to 1824. When it became a county seat of the Republic of Texas in 1837, the county was renamed; San Antonio. It officially became one of the Spanish communities laid down in Texas.
The Independence of Texas
There was an uprising called the Texas Revolution in the year 1835. The Texan forces occupied the Alamo until 1836 after a 13-day siege successfully conducted by Mexican troops under the order of General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The settlement in the presidio remained, and along with that was the Independence of Texas.
San Antonio was considered a prominent city in Texas. The population proliferated, and some of the inhabitants were German immigrants. The Southwest was claiming the fruit of their labor and continued progress.
Growth of the City: San Antonio, TX
San Antonio city became the major cattle center, and it flourished as a commercial hub in the Southwest. The herds were being brought to Kansas through overland transport.
The first railroad was completed in 1877, opening the gates to Southern Americans. And 30 years later, Mexican immigrants were welcomed as well, just right after the Mexican Revolution.
The economy of San Antonio continued to thrive when war came. The city played a significant part in World War I and II when they participated as one of the major military centers in the country. They organized military flight training centers for the army aviators around the 1910s to 1920s. There were two airfields named Brooks and Kelly. The Army Airfields were initially opened as flight instructor training academies before they became primary flight schools. The operations were believed to carry on until the 1930s.
They continued to open the city to the world by hosting the HemisFair exposition in 1968. In the same year, they also celebrated commemoration of their 250th anniversary as well as their cultural ties with Latin America.
As to their politics, it was another run in the history of San Antonio when their first Hispanic mayor was elected in 1981. Henry Cisneros served until 1989. Ed Garza followed in 2001 and ended his term in 2005.
Moreover, several more factors contributed to the progress of San Antonio, such as education, medical research and resources, health care, and even business and finances. And of course, tourism has a massive role in the advancement of this old town’s economy.
As the city grew with popularity during the 19th century, they were slowly losing grip of their heritage. The inhabitants identified their concerns regarding the preservation of their historical landmarks. It all began when the railroad opened easy access to the city’s prime spots and attracted a lot of tourists, if not immigrants. Even the remote areas of the countryside intrigued the people to travel farther.
The increase of visitors turned the city’s cultural background into 180 degrees. Their heritage conservation industry was called to act in response to the increasing rate of local tourism.
History Meets Today
San Antonio has a mix of the Mexican and Texan cultures, or as they call it today as the “Tex-Mex.” The cultural diversity does not wash off the true identity of this city, which ironically is the combination of these two countries. Historically speaking, the arrival of the Spanish explorers opened the door for this state to find its place in the continent. And so, the Spanish influence made room for a unique cultural heritage. Despite their long history of Spanish colonization, Texas recognizes the fact that all the events marked the accomplishments of their revolutionary fight for freedom and independence as a nation.
The San Antonio, Texas history resembles a few other Spanish-colonized countries. But most importantly, the city turned out victorious and brimming with their rich ancestral identity.