The great story surrounding Alamo in San Antonio is really a historical milestone in the history of USA and of course Texas. Next year, 2018 will be the 300 year mark for the Alamo and I do belive the city is preparing to show this in Texas style.
Creation of Texas
I did do the 45 minute boat trip through the historic city and got lucky enough to have Samantha as the skipper, in a brand new battery powered boat sliding quiet through the river without any kind of polution. The plan is to replace the old boats with those new ones before the big celebration.
The story starts as you might have figured out, in 1718 when Father Antonio De San Buenaventura y Olivares moved his Mission Solano into todays San Antonio, with plans of promoting Catholism and converting native Indians and others into a Spanish way of living. The history has so many details that it truly will keep an interested person busy for hours and days in a study, so my version of this history will be a short one, however thealamo.org do have a lot more details.
Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1821 and Alamo was kept as and military outpost. The Mexicans experienced soon a decrease of people in Texas due to battles and fights and had to open for immigration from United States. The number of immigrants that came to Texas did after a while exeed all expectations and the calling from the Tejanos (native born Texans) of making Texas a separate state of Mexico appeared. This fuelled a lot of conflicts and in 1835 the Texas Revolution would change a lot of things.
The rebelions from the Siege and Battle of Bexar in 1835 gained control over San Antonio an Alamos, but the fight was by far over and a 90 minute battle between the Texan rebelions and Mexican troops led by General Antonio Lòpez Santa Ana on March 2nd 1836 caused the death of all the rebellions. Wimen and children was spared, together with one slave that was left in mercy to tell the story. Davy Crocket, James Bowie and William Baret Travis was among the dead. By April 21st General Sam Houston had taken a opportunity to attack the Mexican army although it was larger than the recourses Houston had. Sam Houston and his men defeated and captured Santa Anna and May 14, 1836 the Revolution was techincaly over by the signing of Treaty of Velasco however the fighting did last for another decade.
Reading about and experiencing the history of the Mexico/Texas disputes and changes that was made in a decade do explain a lot of the pride found in Texans today. It has been an area of importance, battle, great concourers and development for both north and south America, and although the border is now fixed to a map, the history and storys do remain in the generations after all the historic events.
THE FEELING OF SAN ANTONIO
We drove into San Antonio from Austin and there are a distinct difference between the to cities, and the first sign of closing in on San Antonion are the density of hotels and motels along the highway into town. They are lined up a few minutes of driving from downtown and since I did not stay at any of them it will be recommended to research the possibility of transportation to/from the motels and downtown. With a rental car the problem is solved, however without one it will put you a bit on the sideline of main event.
Parking downtown was easy and 10 dollars kept our car safely in a parking garage the whole day only 2 blocks away from all the main attractions. The good thing about San Antonio (among others) is that the city is very compact and to walk around for shoping, historic impressions, food etc. will be easy going. And this is really for the better part, since the area where most tourists walk have so many details that it will be a waste of the trip to having to travel long distances. Bridges, buildings, the river, trees and even the detailed stairs that curves in an s-shape do deserve a minute or more of your time, they are all important of the history and development of the story. Sometimes the Mexican impressions can take you away, and by simply turning your head the modern highrisers will impress you in a completely different way. The contrast is big around just about every corner.
Of the many things do San Antonio the guided river tour in a very personal and interesting way, they guides have a lot of knowledge and will give the best service possible. Professional staff and restaurant owners and staff waiving, some more personal and open than others, gave us the welcoming feeling that puts a signature on the city. The guiding was excellent with a good sense of humor and easy going information and not like a staged tour often found in other guided tours on land. The boat drivers («captains») all had a great realationship and everyone assisted everyone and should really be a lesson in customer satisfaction and treatment for a lot of businesses.
After the river «cruise» it was time for some shoping, which will be very easy since the boat pier is at a shoping mall. The River Mall on a tuesday do seem a bit slow however this was perfect to us. We did not meet any employer that did not do their best and everyone is friendly, open and do not mind a bit of small talk. This may be different on a busy day, however if the habit and culture is there it will not likely change completely just because of an increasing number of customers.
We had ice cream next to the river as the boats passed by and having a 7-year old with us on the trip it was time to start the trip back to Austin. As mentioned San Antonio do have a lot of contrast in its arcitecture and I can not seem to wonder if it may just cause a problem at some point.
The buildings are amazing and it seems like the work of keeping colors, building codes/style and other qualities correct, it may just have benefited the city if the big hotels had been moved slightly further out of the compact city centre.
Leaving the core of the city it do not take more than a minute or two of driving before buildings from the 50 or 60’s show up for rent, showing that there are two sides of this story. The compact tourist area, and the outskrits struggling to make ends meet. I do hope the city planning do see the longer term advantage in expanding the downtown before the highrisers overshadows the Alamo and packs everything into a box with history and lack of blue sky. Me being a fan of culture and history really hope that the people planning this place for the future looks at the cultural part of the development a couple more times before going for the finacially best short time solution. They do have a great opportunity to destroy or contain this very important area of World history.
A ten minute extra walk from the hotel to the Alamo would actually improve on the experience, and a outdoor shopping street in a Mexican/Texan style would really create a great addition to San Antonio without taking the beauty of the city away. An example of this being done is actually Prague that have an excellent balance in this case, and walking from one end of the city to the other do not put a grin on anyones face. Actually people are happy and impressed even when walking through the streets for the second time on the way back to the hotel. The walk through the city is a discovery and have a ton of both tourist traps, history, great food and friendly visitors. Maybe the developers of San Antonio should buy a ticket to Prague and get some ideas:-)
After all, one of the feelings a cowboy had to have when being at the Church would have to bee a great view of the river and the surrounding areas. The open landscape and dust trailing a cowboy or a wagon of new settlers migrating from the great states. The tension and excitement it had to be in not knowing if it was a friend or someone trying to (again) get control over this important area of trade between Spain, Mexico, Texan and US.
Would I come back to this city? Absolutely, and actually sooner than later. A few days with my Nikon walking the small areas and let the details of this piece of history soak in my mind will be a reality one day. The real friendly people and light sense of humor everywhere makes this a very welcoming city. I do belive that one day at in San Antonio do not justify the city, and a bit of reading before arriving will also add greatly to the experience.
The historical part and importance of this place and area in connection with the rest of Texas and Mexico did impress and surprise me, the people working and living here made it personal and the highrisers did put a concern into my mind. So this to me will be a place to recommend and try out, and if you do get a hotel room in the city centre it will show the benefit of exploring San Antonio at all times and more details.
Happy travelling, I will keep posting more impression of Texas as my one week stay evolves.