Alamo

Alamo

San Antonio is a terrific travel destination. We took advantage of a four night stay to visit several of its attractions. We stayed near a River Walk access point where we descended 20 feet to the meandering walkway along the San Antonio River. We oriented ourselves on St. Patrick’s Day which brought out a crowd, and most everyone was Irish. A bagpiper set the tone for some serious partying. San Antonio has a wealth of public art. “The Torch of Friendship” (La Antorcha dela Amistad) by Sebastian, a gift from Mexico in 2002, is an important downtown landmark. On our first morning we arrived at the Alamo as it opened. The white granite of the Alamo Cenotaph, “Spirit of Sacrifice,” was back-dropped against a blue sky. We learned that the Daughters of the Republic of Texas saved this historic site and continue to maintain it through donations. From signage we learned that the history of the Alamo can be divided as follows:

  • Mission Period, 1716-1793
  • Decline of Spanish Rule, 1794-1821
  • Struggle for Independence, 1822-1835
  • Birth of the Republic of Texas, 1836
  • From Republic to Early Statehood, 1837-1885
  • From Warehouse to Shrine, 1886-1997

Given the views on immigration of some today, it was interesting to learn that Stephen F. Austin brought the “Old 300” to this area where the American immigrants pledged:

    1. to obey Mexican law,
    2. to practice Catholicism, and
    3. to use Spanish as the official language.

It was interesting to learn about the historic 13-day siege by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna that ended with the deaths of almost all defenders including Jim Bowie, Davey Crockett, and Colonel William Barrett Travis.

Nishan

Nishan

We walked to the Institute of Texan Cultures, part of the Hemisfair Park. The museum presents the history of Texas by documenting the contributions from more than two dozen ethnic groups. In the excellent section on Native Americans, I was surprised to see that Kickapoo from Illinois and Wisconsin made their way to Texas. In the section recognizing African-Americans, the first Black United Methodist Church Bishop, Ernest T. Dixon, was recognized for serving the Southwest Texas and Rio Grande Conferences. The biggest surprise came from the contributions of families from the Canary Islands. The Spanish conscripted 400 families living on the drought stricken Canary Islands to travel to San Antonio, but only 15 families (56 individuals) arrived in 1731. Nevertheless, they made important contributions. School children were learning about Texas history through a 26 screen multi-media presentation, examining interesting artifacts, and listening to volunteers as they demonstrated spinning, quilting, and cowboying. I especially learned from a special exhibit, “Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab,” sponsored by the National Museum of Natural History. Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa brotherhood with five “Ks”:

  • Kes: uncut hair
  • Kangha: a comb, a sign of cleanliness
  • Karha: a steel bracelet stands for one God and strength
  • Kirpan: a sword raised only to fight injustice
  • Kaccha: breeches, a garment worn by warriors.

The Nishan, popularly called khanda, is the central, double-edged sword that stands for divine victory. The circle represents a kettle, an object associated with charity, while the two outer swords symbolize spiritual and worldly justice. I gained respect for Sikhs, and was impressed by the diversity in Texas.

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