We all know about the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, but we may forget that it was first of all a mission of the Catholic Church.  There were 6 missions scattered along the San Antonio River built in the 1730’s, and the missionary priests had two main objectives:  to convert the local Indians to Catholicism; and to make them “good citizens of Spain.”  This was of course the age of colonialism, as European nations tried to acquire as much territory in the New World as possible.

There were a number of Indian tribes in the area, and most were eager to join the priests at the missions because they provided shelter and food.  But one group, the Apaches, resisted all efforts to “civilize” them, and waged war against the other tribes and the Spanish, who were trying to expand their territory north of Mexico.  They decided to try to attract more European and American settlers to the area, and were very successful at this.  By the 1830’s the conflicts had become between Mexico and the United States, as the settlers wanted to become part of the United States.  All this led to the Mexican-American War, and the Battle of the Alamo.

Once all of the territory became part of the United States becoming eventually the states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, the influence of the missions faded away.  But it never died completely, and 5 of the 6 missions still exist, 4 with worshipping congregations even today.  They are interesting and beautiful structures, and I spent my last day in San Antonio visiting the 4 missions that are from 3 – 5 miles outside the city center.