The Missions of San Antonio: Summer of ’19

We are in the second half of the year and my summer was pretty busy with graduation, my grandparents visiting me, and me enjoying the awesome weather with a few trips that I have been lazy to write about. Toward the end of this summer I had the opportunity to visit San Antonio, Texas. I was there for a week but had just a day to look around and was able to visit two of the missions in San Antonio.

What are the missions?

The missions are remnants of the fortresses built by the Christian missionaries in the early 1700’s. These are now maintained by the National Parks Services and give us a peek into the history of the region around Texas. The native Americans who lived in this region were primarily hunter and gatherers and were fighting the diseases brought in by the European colonizers. Also, the King of Spain wanted to increase the extent of the Spanish empire to the north of Mexico and sent the missionaries to convert these tribal communities into tax paying citizens of the Kingdom. This conversion was mostly done by offering them refuge and remedies against the diseases and introducing them to farming techniques for sustenance.

Mission San Jose

The Church at the San Jose Mission

This mission on the southern tip of San Antonio is a walled fortress with a church at the center of the grounds. I walked along these walls reading about the history of the native Americans at this mission. They had accepted a new faith and lived a routine life. Waking up in the morning and praying, the men would then go and farm whereas the kids and the women would sew clothes, cook food, and tend to the animals. The food was rationed every week and each member received their fair share. Mission San Jose was a small town in itself that was capable of supporting 300 people at its peak.

The Alamo

This small building is located in the center of San Antonio and housed the barracks of the Spanish army back then. I took the audio tour and walked through the whole place learning about the battles between the Texans and the Mexican government. It was of strategic importance and whoever had control over the Alamo had control of San Antonio and thereby over the Texas region. These grounds tell the story of the complex political relations between Mexico and Texas that existed before the formation of the United States.

Lessons Learnt

I was always under the impression that the United States of America does not have a rich history compared to the history of India. But visiting these missions gave me a lesson in their history and I was able to draw several parallels. The wars that the kings of India fought against the colonizers were similar to these wars at the missions against the Spanish invaders. Ultimately, we are all part of the same species with the same basic needs. This trip truly helped me broaden my perspective.

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