12 Things You Didn’t Know about San Antonio
By Patrick J. Mullen
- Native American people lived in the San Antonio region for thousands of years.
- It was called “the place of refreshing waters.”
- The area was called Yanaguana by the Payaya indigenous people, who were probably the first to encounter the Spanish colonials.
- Many other tribes of Native Americans—Apache, Comanche, Kiowa—lived and thrived in this area.
- In 1536, Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who had been shipwrecked and then enslaved by Native Americans for a time, visited the area and described what was later named the San Antonio River.
- On June 13, 1691, a group of Spanish explorers and missionaries discovered the river and a Native American settlement in the area of present-day La Villita. It was the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua, Italy, so they named the place and river San Antonio in his honor.
San Antonio grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in Texas and the capital of the province of Tejas—Spanish at first and later Mexican.
- The Alamo Mission in San Antonio was founded in the eighteenth century as a Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound. Originally named the Misión San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo is now part of the San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mission became the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
- Water is the key to building a settlement. Water from the San Antonio River was provided to the mission by the first irrigation ditch of Texas, the Acequia Madre de Valero. Six miles long, it irrigated 400 hectares and also supplied water to the people who lived in the compound. Acequia Madre de Valero, which ran from what is now Brackenridge Park southward to the present Hemisfair Plaza and South Alamo Street, was the beginning of a much more extensive system.
- On May 1, 1718, Don Martin de Alarcon gave possession of the Misión de San Antonio de Valero, later known as “The Alamo,” to Fray Antonio de Olivares.
- The first baptism at the new Misión San Antonio de Valero was performed on July 8, 1718, according to the baptismal register of the mission.
- San Antonio grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in Texas and the capital of the province of Tejas—Spanish at first and later Mexican. The Camino Real, present-day Nacogdoches Road, ran from San Antonio to the little frontier town of Nacogdoches, Texas, at the American border.
- Antonio López de Santa Anna was elected President of Mexico in 1833 and rescinded the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Violent reactions started in many provinces of Mexico, including Texas. The Anglo settlers, known as Texians, joined Hispanic Texans, known as Tejanos, in demanding a return to the Constitution of 1824. In the early battles, the rebel forces forced a retreat from Texas by the Mexican military.
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