Saturday we were looking for an interesting activity to enjoy with the grandchildren. We found it at Mission San Jose National Historic Park in San Antonio. Founded in 1720, the mission was named for Saint Joseph and the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, the governor of the Province of Coahuila and Texas at the time. It was built on the banks of the San Antonio river several miles to the south of the earlier mission, San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo). You can see the mission in the background but first we went into the Visitors Center.
Once inside the Visitors Center, there is a wealth of information available. The missions were more than just churches, they were whole communitities.
There were lots of pictures to look at depicting early life in the missions.
There was also a relief map of the San Antonio River area which showed where the missions were located.
We arrived in time to be part of a ranger led tour of the mission. Our ranger guide was young and very personable. She tailored her narration to the whole group including the kids.
This is the entrance to the mission grounds with the church on the far side.
The ranger did a great job of telling the group about the kind of life the inhabitants of the community led. The missionaries were there to teach the Indians a whole new way of life in addition to converting them and it was very clear who was in charge at these missions.
Here the kids and their Dad were inside of the defense post on the corner of the grounds. The hole in the background was for a cannon. Up above was a ledge with smaller holes for guns. There were usually only a very few soldiers to defend the mission but the mission was well built and very secure.
This was one of the many ovens scattered around the grounds.
This is a side view of the church with the quarters for the Franciscans located on the right up above. Down below were classrooms used to teach the Indians trades.
This is a front view of the church. Although this is a National Park, the church itself is owned by the local diocese which has a unique partnership with the park. This church is in use for regular services. The ranger told us that we were welcome to go inside and look around as long as services weren't in progress but she would not give her narration in there and disturb people who might be there using the church.
You may have noticed the folders that the kids were carrying as we looked around the visitors center and during the tour. They were participating in a great national parks program for kids called the Junior Ranger program. They had to fill out their booklets and turn them in to the ranger in the visitors center. Our tour ranger saw them talking to another ranger at the desk and quickly came over to say that she wanted to "swear them in" and present their badges because she enjoyed having them on her tour. They each received a badge and a really nice cloth patch. She also stamped their booklets and then had them each stamp their own booklet with a special mission stamp.
The kids were thrilled with the whole process and I highly recommend this program if you are traveling with kids from 6 to 12 years old. They had a "special set-up" for picture taking of new rangers so naturally we had to take advantage of it. Here are our new Junior Rangers. It was all they could talk about the rest of the day.
We finished off the trip by stopping at a nearby "panaderia" which is a Mexican bakery. It was quite small from the outside but the whole inside was filled with cases of interesting looking cookies, donuts, and breads. We let everyone choose what they wanted and the kids picked out big cookies with colored sprinkles on them. Unfortunately I missed getting a picture which is too bad because it was a very colorful and friendly place. Every time my son asked what something was, the lady behind the case wanted to give him a sample one so he could try it. We walked out with a bag of goodies.
Although it was cool and very overcast when we visited the mission, there is a park with picnic tables for a lunch if you like. We only had time to see this mission but the others are not far from there and I look forward to visiting them at another time.