Last summer, I decided to visit a series of historic places along the East Coast/EST and do a series inspired by the idea of the “Great American Road Trip”. The season is not over yet and judging by all the “out of office” replies I’m getting over email, August is a bumping time for vacation. I’ve got a few things planned for the whole month in celebration of the NPS, so to kick it off here’s the first appearance of the Central Time Zone and the state of Texas!
Spanish Colonial history in the USA is not something I’ve explored often, being from the Northeast, and I was very murky of the region’s history of settlement. It hit me that my Texas born cousins were probably learning more about that while my NJ upbringing meant visiting a lot of places where George Washington *probably* slept.
Tucked away south of downtown San Antonio and part of the National Park Service, the Mission of San Jose is one of four Spanish colonial missions that are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Missions were a Catholic system designed by Spain to colonize and protect their land in New Spain from other settlers, and the walled communities focused on converting Natives to Catholicism in order to build up a population on the frontier. Built in 1720, the Mission of San Jose was the largest and most active and once had up to 350 Native Americans living on its grounds.
The “Queen of the Missions”, San Jose’s sheer size and beauty made it notable among New Spain settlements, and picking out interesting architecture techniques is a fun game of “hidden picture”. It’s most famous for the Rose Window “considered to be one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in North America“, which has a dramatic legend surrounding its naming and sculptor.
Today it’s a quiet reminder of what once was, and my visit felt very tranquil. It was a blazing hot day and I couldn’t imagine actually living in these elements, but the rooms inside the walls where Native families lived were surprisingly cool. The mission’s church is still an active parish with regular services open to the public.There is also a display area with a number of interesting artifacts, and some super knowledgeable park employees eager to share info. I thought a lot about the stories being told and the perspectives that frame them. While the focus may be on the goals of the Spanish and its role in US History, I was inspired to do some digging about Native American stories and what kinds of people were present before Spain decided to “clam” the land.
So I have to ask dear reader..got any plans for August? If not, I suggest you Find Your Park and check out what the National Park Service has to offer right in your backyard!