Deep within Texas lies my home-city, a humble, often-considered sleepy city that seldom makes headlines. Upon hearing the name San Antonio, most people's initial connections are with the Alamo, the Riverwalk, or even more seldom (my favorite one to hear) the great NBA dynasty, the San Antonio Spurs. But this particular year is especially noteworthy for San Antonio as it marks it's 300th year since its founding under Spanish rule. Every year San Antonio celebrates its rich cultural heritage with traditions, festivals, and parades that go on for weeks (Fiesta for example), but this year's celebrations have been planned and anticipated for years and are about to be San Antonio's biggest claim to fame since Hemisfair '68. So without further ado, I'd like to share a few of my favorite spots that have helped shape the city into what it has become today.
San Pedro Springs Park
Fed by waters from the Edward's Aquifer, this site is the birthplace of the city as it provided a water source to this inland area for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence has placed the springs inhabitancy by people as early as 12,000 years ago, the earliest recorded residents being Native Americans such as the Payaya who called the site Yanaguana, meaning clear water. It is also here that the city of San Antonio was founded by the Spanish. Though significant, this park is shrouded in mystery with its many layers of history. Many local legends and oral stories revolve around the park: be it the Spaniard who buried treasure in the caves beneath, the archaeological relics discovered, or the tiny, unmarked historic structure on the park grounds with its original purpose unknown.
San Antonio Central Public Library
Central Public Library is known to many in SA as the "enchilada library" for its iconic bright red-orange color as it reminds locals of the beloved Tex-Mex dish enchiladas rojas. The library's bold, monumental form contrasts with the city's quaint and historical architecture while complementing its color palette. The interior features a glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly titled Fiesta Tower. This building is arguably the only building in SA designed by a world-renowned starchitect, the famed Mexican architect, Ricardo Legorreta.
The West Side of Downtown is special to San Antonians as many find their roots there. In the early 1900s it was the commercial and cultural center for San Antonio’s Mexican-American community. This street still holds its presence as the city's Mexican-American cultural epicenter with the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center built in the 1940s, and numerous murals showcasing Tejano and Mexican culture and history.
This trail along the San Antonio River is 20 miles long. It begins at The Alamo downtown on the Riverwalk and links paths to the remaining 4 missions (Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission Espada). The missions were recently designated UNESCO World Heritage sites and will host the main event during SA300 Commemorative Week. The trail weaves through an area of the San Antonio River that has recently seen conservation efforts to revert the area to its natural state. Hidden off lesser-traveled paths are an extensive network of acequias and aqueducts that once provided irrigation to the missions.
So if you find yourself in Texas, venture past Dallas and Austin and check out what San Antonio has to offer. Rest assured, it will be more than the Alamo and the Riverwalk.