Saturday, May 24, 2008

San Antonio Mission Tour

San Antonio is home to the largest concentration of Catholic missions in North America.
The most well known of these mission is the Alamo. However, this tour does not include the Alamo (maybe on another day).
I have always thought of a mission as being a church. Today, I found out that this incorrect. Each mission contained a mission church but, the mission itself was a walled, self contained community. The missions were founded by Franciscan Friars from Spain and to this day, although the missions themselves are no longer inhabited, the mission churches remain open and functional and Franciscans continue to hold Mass in the churches and live on the mission grounds.
We toured 4 missions today. At the first and largest remaining mission, San Jose, we did a tour with a National Park Service guide, Dora. What a fantastic tour guide she is and how glad we are that we did the tour rather than spend time just wandering around on our own. Dora is a descendant of the original mission inhabitants and most knowledgeable about the history of the missions.

The American Indians who lived in the missions came from a number of hunting and gathering bands. These Indians numbers were being decimated by both disease introduced by Europeans and by increasing numbers of raiding Apache and Comanche Tribes moving into the area. This made the local Indians relatively willing recruits for the missionaries. The objective of the friars was to convert the Indians into Catholic, tax-paying citizens of New Spain (present day Mexico). For those that chose to live in the missions, everything changed for them: diet, clothing, religion, culture, even their names. They were required to learn Latin and Spanish and to learn new vocations. They learned to be tailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, and all of the other trades needed for a community to thrive. In addition, many worked the land as farmers (hundreds of acres outside the missions were used for raising crops) while others tended the livestock. The missions thrived from 1718 (founding of the Alamo) until 1824 when the mission lands were distributed among the mission inhabitants and the churches turned over to the secular clergy (the Franciscans returned in the 1930s).

Back to Dora, we did have the sense of mind to ask her where we should eat lunch. Of the 2 places she recommended, we chose Tex-Mex food at Judy's (sounds Mexican doesn't it?). Great choice for lunch, one of those places where we were the only non-locals. Excellent food cheap. Does not get any better than that.

Another blog entry follows this one for pictures only.

More pictures can be seen at:
just click on the San Antonio Mission Album and then click on slideshow.

Tomorrow? We'll just have to wait and see (maybe it will involve more air conditioning than today did).

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