Many visitors to San Antonio, Texas make time to see the famous Alamo, where William B. Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and about 200 “Texian” (as they were called then) defenders died in 1836 at the hands of Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna.
What visitors often don’t know is that the Alamo was a church and Catholic mission community called Mission San Antonio de Valero, and it is one of a series of five missions established in the 1700s along the San Antonio River.
As of July 2015, the San Antonio Missions are now a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of only 22 places given such cultural status in the United States. and the first in the state of Texas.
From the press release about the UNESCO designation….
“Susan Snow, archeologist for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park who has been coordinating the community efforts to secure UNESCO World Heritage status since 2007, said, ‘The San Antonio Missions are a tangible representation of everything required for a functioning Spanish colonial mission system, all within a short trek along the San Antonio River. These Missions are a living example of the interchange of cultures bringing together the indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, and other influences that form South Texas today. The resulting cross-cultural exchange is the very essence of the great melting pot of the United States.'”
There’s a relatively new way to see each of the missions other than by car – you can rent bikes from one of the San Antonio B-cycle stations that are all over downtown, and ride down the Mission Reach along the San Antonio River.
I’ve only gone as far as the first one after the Alamo, Mission Concepción (full name is Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña) but it is the best-preserved of the Missions, it’s free to enter, and it’s still an active congregation….I hope to go back some day soon to see their mariachi Mass at noon on Sundays.
Take some time to step into the church and sit quietly in one of the wooden pews – you can cool off from the bike ride as you look around at the place that is now, even more than before, a worldwide cultural and heritage tourism attraction.
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