San Antonio has at all times existed at a crossroads. That was true in 1691, when Spanish explorers arrived within the space and commenced constructing a community of trails, or caminos, to make use of as commerce routes, drawing on the identical paths Indigenous peoples had used for 1000’s of years. It’s true even now, as the town’s avenue names, delicacies, and structure nonetheless invoke a mix of the Native, Mexican, European, and African American influences which have formed this place for greater than three centuries. Inside a stone’s throw of downtown, you may go to the state’s oldest Spanish mission, marvel on the stunning Victorian houses constructed by German immigrants within the King William Historic District, and snack on pan dulce whereas wandering by means of the stalls of Market Sq.—the biggest Mexican market within the nation. This complicated historical past doesn’t conflict with the current, although; as an alternative, it enlivens the town with ghost tales, legends, and traditions.
This wealthy tradition has produced filmmakers (Robert Rodriguez), musicians (Steve Earle, Flaco Jiménez), and political leaders (the Castro brothers). Different artistic varieties, similar to artist Cruz Ortiz and author Sandra Cisneros, moved right here for the colourful sense of neighborhood, inexpensive housing (not less than whereas it lasted), and wonderful meals. Creator John Phillip Santos writes of San Antonio as “a secret Mexican metropolis . . . at all times hearkening to its rural Mexican colonial previous within the recollections and goals of its silent Mexicano majority.” It’s the birthplace of Texas’s Chili Queens, puffy tacos, Fritos, and Fiesta. Sure, it’s additionally house to the Alamo and the River Stroll, however the metropolis is a lot greater than its two most well-known points of interest.
I used to be born in San Antonio, raised as a dyed-in-the-wool Spurs fan, and grew up on a weight-reduction plan of tacos and Jumex juice. It was straightforward to take the town’s magic as a right. It wasn’t till I left that I got here to understand the small pleasures of life right here: a frutería or panadería only a quick drive away, the agua fresca and paleta distributors who stored the summer season warmth at bay, and the sounds of Tejano music combined in with the Prime 40 hits. There have been greater issues, too. In San Antonio, Mexican People had been a vital a part of the Texas story. Our tradition wasn’t an afterthought; it was central to the guts of the town.
Right here, I grew up watching cowboys and vaqueros on the rodeo. I watched my cousins don clothes and sombreros to journey their horses in aggressive escaramuza occasions—the all-female sport inside charrería. For a number of years, I attended college in the identical district the place my aunt walked out in 1968 to protest training inequality.
That sense of historical past, of neighborhood, is what makes San Antonio particular. Regardless of how a lot the town has grown, it nonetheless seems like the most important small city on this planet—the sort of place the place you’re prone to run right into a neighbor, a instructor, or an previous pal any given day of the week. San Antonio is ever-changing, however the very best components of it at all times keep the identical.