Exploring Hispanic Culture in America: San Antonio, Texas
Exploring Hispanic Culture in America: San Antonio, Texas
December 20, 2021
Looking for ways to explore Hispanic culture with your kids? San Antonio, Texas is one of the top ten largest cities in the United States, and I’d bet you wouldn’t guess that this huge American city is flourishing with Hispanic culture. San Antonio actually served as a central point for much of Texas’ multiple owners, including Spain and Mexico. Read on to learn how the huge city of San Antonio started, how it became the diverse place it is today, and learn about some fun things to do in San Antonio with kids to experience Hispanic culture.
As we’ve learned in Part 1 & 2 of our series Exploring Hispanic Culture in America, explorers from Spain (“Spaniards”) colonized Texas and other areas of North America, bringing the Spanish language to the North American continent. This dialect of Spanish from Spain is referred to as Castilian Spanish. These Spanish origins can still be seen in San Antonio, Texas to this day through their architecture, festivities, and historical sites and are a great way to experience their Hispanic history and current culture with your kids and students. Read on to learn a bit of how to experience this rich Hispanic culture in San Antonio, Texas today.
The History and Hispanic Culture of San Antonio
With the rest of Texas, San Antonio was passed between multiple owners who had control over Texas. We learned in Part 2 that Texas flies under six flags, each representing one of the six nations that had full or partial control over the state during its history. These nations are Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. Each nation brought its own culture to the state of Texas which left a lasting impact.
Spanish explorers stumbled upon the area of San Antonio on June 13th, 1691, the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar. Because they found the area on this day, the explorers named it San Antonio after him. However, the Spanish Empire did not settle into the area to take control until 1718 with the establishment of the Mission San Antonio de Valero, later known as The Alamo. When it did, however, San Antonio grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in Texas with about 2,000 people of different heritages. With such a flourishing city, San Antonio became the capital of Spain’s province of Texas in 1780.
The Spanish Empire’s control lasted until 1821 when the Mexican Empire took over as a result of the rebellion against Spanish rule. Mexico, along with much of what is now the southern United States, gained independence from Spain through this rebellion and the Mexican War of Independence.
So where does the U.S. come into play? Well, it would only take 25 more years before the U.S. would annex Texas through the Mexican-American War, leaving San Antonio in shambles. With a population of 800, almost two-thirds what it was before the war, San Antonio sought to pick up its pieces. By 1860, the city had raised it’s population and even increased it to as much as 15,000 people. Today, San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the United States.
Hispanic Culture in San Antonio Today
Even after Texas separated from the Spanish and Mexican Empires and became part of the United States, much of the people and culture remained. 64.5% of San Antonio’s population is Hispanic or Latin American of any race, and 91.3% of that Hispanic population is made up of people of Mexican descent.
This rich Hispanic culture can be seen in San Antonio’s art, music, food, annual festivals, and more. People from San Antonio are proud of their diverse and rich heritage and love to celebrate it. Here are some ways to experience that culture and some things to do in San Antonio with kids.
Hispanic Culture in San Antonio Art & Music
San Antonio keeps their heritage and culture alive through its arts and music. Contemporary fine art featuring Texan art and regional art can be found in one of the wings of the San Antonio Museum of Art near the San Antonio River. The historic Aztec Theater downtown is “considered a Meso-American architectural work of art” by San Antonio’s visitor site. Here you can see the unique and authentic architecture from San Antonio’s past before the arrival of the Spanish as well as experience entertainment and events from San Antonio’s present.
Where San Antonio’s Hispanic culture truly comes alive, though, is at The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s design shows the beautiful Mission Revival and art-deco theme and “is dedicated to the cultivation, promotion, and preservation of traditional and contemporary Chicano, Latino and Native American arts and culture” (Visit San Antonio). For over 75 years and counting the center has featured everything from art exhibits to historic Hispanic performances such as Flamenco dances and Mariachi and Tejano music. They also offer community events for popular and traditional events free of charge. One of these in particular celebrates Dia de los Muertos. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is also home to the annual Latino Film Festival which is the longest-running Latino film festival in the U.S.
There is also one exciting limited-time event that you won’t want to miss. From now until November 2nd, immerse yourself in Mexican art and flora by visiting the Frida Kahlo Oasis exhibit at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Frida Kahlo, the famed Mexican painter, had a home in Mexico City, the Casa Azul, which is now a museum of her life. In this home, she had a beautiful garden abundant with brightly colored plants and her many different unique pets. This garden was a place of inspiration for Frida and her work and you can now experience it for yourself in the U.S. through the Frida Kahlo Oasis exhibit in San Antonio. This exhibit is an authentic interpretation of her real home garden. The exhibit is complete with stunning details such as paint samples that match the colors of her home, cast molds of the stonework from the entrance, and garden beds full of plants she had in her own home or were represented in her work.
Hispanic Culture in San Antonio Food & Shops
Just like Laredo from Part 2, being located in Southern Texas, San Antonio obviously is home to some good Tex-Mex cuisine. But also being one of the top ten largest U.S. cities also means there are unlimited options when it comes to food, so finding the ones that are actually authentic can be a challenge. To find these gems, however, we look to where the locals go.
In San Antonio’s inner West Side, you won’t see the same tourist vibe as downtown, but you will find true authentic Hispanic food based on the Mexican meals cooked in the area from before it was part of the U.S. Taste traditional dishes like brick-red stewed pork seasoned with the black pepper-cumin-garlic trinity at Old Danny’s, or lengua (Spanish for “tongue”) tacos at Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant.
San Antonio is also home to the largest Mexican market in the United States, El Mercado (Historic Market Square). This three-block outdoor plaza houses shops and stalls manned by locals selling authentic Mexican artifacts, handmade items, clothing, jewelry, dishes, art, and much more. The Historic Market Square has been around since 1730 when it was gifted by the King of Spain. In the 1890s, it was moved to where it resides today to make room for new settlers entering the city. Throughout its history, it was always a festive and bustling marketplace, with locals selling fresh meats and produce, and even bringing in large ollas (Spanish for “cooking pots”) of home-cooked meals carried out to the plaza.
Things To Do in San Antonio With Kids
Whether you’re a teacher, homeschool parent, or family, San Antonio, Texas has plenty to offer when it comes to exploring Hispanic culture with children. The most well-known historical site in San Antonio is the Alamo, located downtown. While today it is surrounded by modern-day buildings, it served as a Spanish mission when it was first constructed and is a historic battleground from the Battle of the Alamo. The battle was fought between the Mexican Republic and the Republic of Texas during the Texas Revolution. If you’ve ever heard the war cry “Remember the Alamo,” this building is the origin. Today, guided tours are held giving the details of this historic site and all it represents for San Antonio today.
As mentioned earlier, San Antonio has many places to visit to experience Hispanic culture through art and music. Be sure to stop by their historic theaters and museums as well as the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. To add to this list, the Instituto Cultural De Mexico (Mexican Cultural Institute) offers activities, events, and exhibits that promote San Antonio’s strong Mexican culture through arts and academics.
No matter where you visit in San Antonio, you are sure to quickly see the display of Hispanic culture represented in the city through its arts and music, festivities, food, and shops.
Want to quiz your kids or students on the Hispanic culture facts of San Antonio, Texas that we talked about today? Enter your email address in the box below to have a free printout sent right to your inbox! Download it here.
Let us know what you thought of Part 3 of our series! We hope this has helped to give you some ideas of fun things to do in San Antonio with kids to experience Hispanic culture. Missed part 1 or 2? You can explore Hispanic culture in New Mexico and Laredo, Texas right now!
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