Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Passport to Texas History: The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park

The church at Mission San Jose. Services are still held here regularly and had just let out moments before.

The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park was another new site for our family. We visited Mission San Jose, where the visitors center is housed. We watched a film explaining what a Mission is, how they operated, and why they were established. We learned that the Missions were not exactly churches, but protective villages with a church at the center of life. The priests had the job of converting the natives to Catholicism, teaching them the Spanish language and customs, and making them Spanish citizens. They also had to be inventors, creating water powered mills, irrigation canals, and other tools to help provide food and water for the people living in their care.
Approaching the mill

We aren’t completely sure why the Missions were on the Texas Revolution trail, but our guess is that it helped to define who the people fighting for Independence were. Many of the Texians were Native Indians that had become Spanish citizens through the work of the missions, while others were Tejanos, citizens of Mexico living in the Tejas region of Mexico.
Inside the mill

The San Jose Mission was used as barracks at some point during the revolution and the soldiers used much of the statuary for target practice, obviously resulting in a lot of damage. But apparently no battles were fought here.
We added a Junior Ranger Badge to our collection (This is a National Park)

Something we found interesting about the Missions was that in their time, they were painted in bright colors. Now they are mostly gray stone structures, but a portion of the brightly painted surface is still visible. This demonstrates the blending of the Spanish culture (the typical Mission construction and the introduction of the Catholic faith) with the influence of the people they were trying to convert (the bright paint colors made from native plants). The priests also combined some of the images of the native’s gods into their statuary of the saints to help the people assimilate.
The preserved wall of the church

Artist's rendition of what the church must have looked like.

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