by Mary Jane Garza
Summer in Texas is marked by one festival after another and the Alamo City holds a few that are well known and worth visiting. The annual Conjunto Festival in San Antonio, held every May, attracts fans and yes, bands from all over the world. Japan sends a group that sings their favorite polkas in Japanese, their accordion player can get down on the squeeze box just like the boys from the West Side.
After being moved to June from the scorching days of August, I finally boogied on down to the Texas Folklife Festival, also held in San Antonio. Now this is one big festival. It was great seeing so many different cultures represented. One was left with the overall feeling of being part of a world community.
One can't talk about San Antonio without mentioning "Fiesta", the annual Riverwalk festival and Water Parade that takes over downtown for several weekends in May. Elaborate parade floats glide down the river, shimmering with thousands of tiny lights. The Riverwalk also features numerous restaurants and nightclubs, offering a lively evening scene with music and dancing.
As the third largest city in Texas, San Antonio has a lot to offer besides festivals. It's missions, including the famous Alamo, have been restored to their early splendor: The Alamo, originally called San Antonio de Valero, was established in 1718 as a way-station between missions already existing in East Texas and Mexico. It was well over 100 years old when it became the focal point for the Battle of the Alamo. The Mission Trail, indicated by signs everywhere in the city, includes four still active chapels: the San Jose, San Juan, Concepcion, and the Espada. As the East Texas missions succumbed to drought, malaria and Fetch incursions, these four, along with the Alamo, were established along the San Antonio River in the 17th and 18th centuries. The chain represents the greatest concentration of Catholic missions in North America. Besides establishing agricultural and other vocational practices for the area's population, the chapels were also social and cultural centers.
One the most attractive of San Antonio missions, the church at Conception, looks much like it did more than 200 years ago. Although the colorful geometric designs that originally covered the building's exterior are not visible today, inside the paintings and architectural designs are complete.
Mission San Francisco de la Espada has been continuously holding mass since 1731. Located in south San Antonio, the peaceful and remote church evokes another era. Several of the structures have been preserved and some artifacts from the site are on display. Mission Espada features a very attractive chapel, along with an unusual door and stone entrance archway. The broken arch doorway has been the subject of much speculation, leaving visitors wondering if it was a builder mistake or the whimsy of the designer. Over the years, settlers who moved next to the mission created the barrio that has grown around the old fort. Many of the original families still live in the area. The 255 years old Espada Aqueduct, located near the mission, is also still in operation. It is one of the oldest arched Spanish aqueducts in the U.S.
San Antonio is also home to several museums. One is the San Antonio Museum of Art, which currently has artist Carmen Lomas Garza in one-woman exhibit. Her retrospective will be there trough August an then will continue down to the South Texas Museum of Art in Corpus Christi. Her works have been the subject of several best-selling children's books and have receive numerous awards. Carmen's works is based on our childhood in Kingsville, Texas.
Our ramblings in San Antonio will continue so look for future articles on galleries and local artists form Alamo City. Until then, stay cool and enjoy.