Saturday, July 18, 2015

One Night in San Antonio

This July, I spent a night in San Antonio and treated myself to an evening of touristy things: the River Walk, The Alamo, the Tower of the Americas. San Fernando Cathedral (left) was founded in 1731 and is the oldest continuously functioning religious community in the state of Texas. The Cathedral building has the added distinction of being the oldest standing church building in Texas (~280 years). For almost 95 years, San Fernando served as the church for all of the religious denominations of San Antonio, as the Catholic Church was the only recognized religion of the Spanish and Mexican governments prior to Texas' independence in 1836. When I stopped by in the early evening a mass was going on, so I just snapped a photo of the remains of the Alamo defenders, which were re-interred in the entranceway.

A marble slab to the side reads: "Here lie the remains of Travis, Crockett, Bowie and other Alamo heroes. The Archdiocese of San Antonio erected this memorial May 11 A.D. 1938 R.I.P. Formerly buried in the sanctuary of the old San Fernando Church. Exhumed July 28, 1937. Exposed to public view for a year. Entombed May 11, 1938."

I meandered along the River Walk until I found a likely seafood place for dinner (shrimp and root beer) before setting off on foot to The Alamo.

I arrived shortly before closing time. One's first impression, of course, is how small the compound is now. It used to be much larger. I wandered into the restored shell of the church where the last stand was stood. Inside were glass cases filled with objects: a rifle, a powder horn, a watch, a spoon. The crowd wound single-file through these reliquaries. I don't think they knew why they were there. I didn't understand either, but the guide at the 3-D model was very passionate about the brave resistance the out-numbered band put up, all in the name of freedom! It was a fight they lost, remember.

Freedom from what? I circled the gardens outside the church and nearly turned to leave, when I noticed a long low barracks building, now a museum. I had just missed the last film showing of the day, but the exhibits explained, in impressive detail, the history of the Texas Revolution (1835-1836): how the Mexican government had invited Americans to populate the area, and then how the immigrants revolted against the increasingly centralist government in Mexico City. The revolutionaries disagreed amongst themselves whether they should return to the more federalist Mexican Constitution of 1824 or break away entirely. With the help of enthusiastic fighters from north of the border, The Republic of Texas was finally declared in 1836. Mexico refused to recognize the rogue nation, and its annexation to the United States in 1845 precipitated the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).

The 750-foot-tall (above right) Tower of the Americas was built in 1966. It has a glass elevator to an observation deck with a museum of Texas history as well as a 3D movie show about Texas, complete with special effects and fancy moving theater seats. My favorite part was the video that played outside the theater, describing the eight geographical regions of the state: Gulf Coast, South Texas Plains, Big Bend, Panhandle, Hill Country, Prairies and Lakes, and Pineywoods. My least favorite part was the thing that whipped between our ankles like a rattlesnake!

1 comment:

  1. Well I can definitely write the Tower off my list if they're approximating a rattlesnake!


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