The American Old West holds a great deal of fascination around the world. The Alamo, in San Antonio, TX, is an iconic symbol of that era. If you know anything about The Alamo, you know it was a military fort that was involved in a bloody siege. But it started life in 1718 as a mission of the Roman Catholic Church supported by the government of Spain, and had quite a different look than does The Alamo today.
Known at the time as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, it was a complex that included a chapel and a number of outbuildings such as a granary, a workhouse, and living quarters for the priests, Native Americans, and soldiers. The complex was surrounded by a high wall, which, along with the soldiers, protected the mission from Apache raiders.
The first chapel was made of mud and grasses. The sturdier chapel that was later known as The Alamo was built in 1744.
The purpose of the Spanish missions was to convert the local Native American tribes to both Christianity and to Spanish political and economic practices. The end result being that the local society could stand on its own as Spanish, and the mission was then closed down.
When Mexico won its independence from Spain, the mission compound became a fort housing a Mexican military garrison. When Mexico’s governor, Santa Anna, dissolved the country’s constitution and became a dictator, settlers in Texas rebelled. During the fighting a small group of the Texian Army captured the Alamo.
It’s then that General Sam Houston ordered Colonial James Bowie to destroy the Alamo, feeling that the small number of men had no hope of holding the fort against Santa Anna’s army.
However, Bowie ignored his orders, and instead chose to defend the Alamo and “Texas Honor.” The siege led by Santa Anna resulted in the death of all Alamo defenders, and the destruction by fire of most of the outbuildings and wall of the mission.
Although surrounded by modern sky scrapers and a busy city, the hushed, and some say sacred, air about the mission allows today’s visitor to step back in time. The Alamo, owned by the State of Texas, is actually a complex that covers over 4 acres, and is made up not only of the mission chapel but some of the original outbuildings that date back to the early mission days.
There are also a library, a museum, and gardens, all operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas for the purpose of honoring the various peoples who make up the history of Texas, from the Native American tribes to the Spanish Conquistadors; from the Mexican military to European settlers.
Two and a half million people visit The Alamo annually. To avoid the crowds, plan to be there during the fall and winter, just before and just after the Holidays. San Antonio, Texas, is a delightful city to visit, especially since the weather is generally dry and warm during these off-season times.
A bonus to visiting The Alamo is that there is no admissions charge. However, voluntary contributions are accepted.
Alice Perkins is a timeshare travel blogger for RedWeek.com, the largest online market place for timeshare rentals, where vacationers can find luxury accommodations for less than the cost of a typical hotel room.