San Antonio, Texas, (population 1.3 million) is located along the San Antonio River in the southern part of Texas. What is now San Antonio was originally a Coahuiltecan Indian village. After several travelers and explorers noted the advantages of the location, the Spanish Council of War approved the construction of a fortified presidio (fort) on the San Antonio River in 1716 and gave permission for the construction of a mission. The settlement (villa) began with the soldiers and their families. The presidio, the villa, and the mission comprised the municipality named San Antonio de los Llanos (of the Plains) and by 1726 the settlement population was 200, including 45 military men and their families. The king of Spain ordered that 400 families be transported from the Canary Islands for the purpose of establishing a civil settlement, and in 1729 the first 15 Canary Island families began their trip to the Presidio San Antonio via Havana and Vera Cruz; then overland to their new homes, arriving in 1731.
During the 19th century San Antonio became part of Mexico, when Mexico gained independence from Spain, and later became part of the independent Republic of Texas, and then the United States of America. At that point, more European immigrants started to come to San Antonio. German immigrants, in particular, influenced the city in the late 19th century, introducing European-style architecture while building the King William area of town, now a National Historic District.
At this time San Antonio also started to become the center of the cattle industry of the region. From San Antonio, Texas provided cattle to the northern states through the Chisholm Trail route. During the 20th century, the military base in San Antonio grew to become a major part of the town’s economy. The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army are still large employers in the city, but tourism plays an important and growing role in the economy.
Among the most visited historical sites in San Antonio are the Alamo and four other missions that date to Spanish Colonial times, comprising the largest concentration of missions in North America. The city of San Antonio has recently restored the Plaza de las Islas, the historic center of Downtown right by the popular River Walk along the San Antonio River. Another attraction is the historic arts village of La Villita in San Antonio’s original neighborhood.
Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) was established in 1718 as the city’s first mission. On the east side of Alamo Plaza is the most famous spot in Texas where 189 defenders fell on March 6, 1836, after repeated attacks by Mexican Gen. Santa Anna’s army. The chapel, one of the most photographed facades in the nation, and the Long Barracks are all that remain of the original fort. The Long Barracks Museum and Library is located near the chapel. The museum contains relics and mementos from the Republic of Texas and offers a narration on the fall of the Alamo.
The San Antonio Living History Association incorporates many arts including drama, fashion, storytelling, music, and dance. Its goal is to promote greater understanding of San Antonio’s multi-cultural heritage through the use of living history interpretation in schools and at historic sites in San Antonio and throughout Texas.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2008.
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