San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is among the more interesting and historically significant sites in Texas. It preserves four out of the five frontier missions the Spanish established along the San Antonio River in the 1770s: Mission San José, Mission Concepción, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission Espada. The fifth one, the Alamo, is not included within the park as it is owned by the state. Spain established the missions to extend its empire from Mexico into what is now the Southwest United States. To do this, their approach was to proselytize and convert Native Americans to Catholicism—which was the basis of Spanish culture—and to establish forts (called "presidios" in Spanish) near the missions. Competition with France was another rationale for Spain's push into the Southwest. The missions founded in San Antonio represent the largest concentration of missions in North America and were among the most successful. Today, visitors can go to all four of missions, which still have active Catholic parishes.
Backstory and Context
The missions became important religious, cultural, commercial, and military centers. As more Native Americans adopted the Spanish way of life and Catholicism, they were trained in various trades such as carpentry, iron working, and weaving. They also worked in the fields growing crops and raising livestock including sheep, goats, and cattle. Cattle ranching became a profitable enterprise and it was here that cattle ranching in the United States was developed. The missions were most successful between 1745-1775. By 1780, the number of people living at the missions had begun to decline as a result of intermarriage, disease, and acculturation. In other words, there was no longer much need to convert Native Americans.
"The San Antonio Missions." Visit San Antonio. Accessed March 8, 2018. http://visitsanantonio.com/english/Explore-San-Antonio/Only-in-San-Antonio/The-Alamo/The-San-Antonio...
"San Antonio Missions." San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Accessed March 8, 2018. https://www.nps.gov/saan/planyourvisit/upload/SAAN_S1_Web.pdf.
Photos: Wikimedia Commons