Mission San Jose | San Antonio, Texas

07 July 2017

Texas did not receive its first UNESCO World Heritage Site until 2015. The sheer amount of history and culture that embodies this state is remarkable, yet largely overlooked. With the exception of the Alamo, the historical sites of Texas are rarely visited by anyone other than Texans themselves. Even then I find myself guilty. Born and raised here in the Lone Star State I had never visited any of the San Antonio missions other than the Alamo. During a recent trip to San Antonio I had decided it was time to visit a part of Texas' first World Heritage Site. 

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is made up five Spanish missions scattered across  the city of San Antonio. They are Mission Valero (the Alamo), Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Francisco de la Espada, and Mission San Jose. The purpose of these missions were colonization. The Spanish had claimed the land that would later be called Texas in the name of Christianity. Although the main goal of the missions was to convert the local people to Catholicism, the missions were also a safe haven. With the threat of Europeans looming on all sides, the Texas frontier had become a dangerous place. The San Antonio missions became communities that would later shape the idea of Texas itself. 

On this hot summer day I only had time for one mission, so I chose Mission San Jose. Founded in 1720, the original church still stands today. I was lucky enough to visit while a mass was in progress. Yes, it is still a functioning Catholic Church to this day. It reminded me just how different historical churches in America are to their European counterparts. 

The whole mission grounds were incredible. Especially if the only mission you have visited is the tiny Alamo. Spreading over acres, it was easy to imagine the thriving community that once called Mission San Jose home. 

I'm hoping I'll get the chance to visit the rest of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park soon enough. Texas is so large that many people are born and raised within the state without even visiting the majority of it. There is so much history in my own backyard that I am just beginning to explore. 


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