Postcards from San Antonio a Century Ago

San Antonio is so different from Dallas, Houston, Austin…. Probably because those other major Texas cities were not even dots on the map before the fall of the Alamo. San Antonio just kicked off its planning for the city’s tricentennial events.

San Antonio was part of Mexico. It’s in her genes.

That is what drew me here from Virginia Beach, a city so far removed from Mexico that it did not even offer a taco for sale until I was 17. Well, that and the Mister.

I’ve been sitting on these postcards, widely available, for a long, long time for many reasons. They are controversial.

They illustrate how Mexican San Antonio was. Some of these snapshots can be viewed as showing our affection for that connection:

Mexican Chili Stands. For the sake of olden times the Mexicans are allowed to set up their tables and camp stones on the Plazas and serve their native dishes in the open air; such as Chili Con Carne, Tamales, Enchiladas, Chili Verde, Frijoles and Tortillas, etc. As day dawns and the lamps show dimmer, these queer hotel keepers put out their fires and folding their tables “silently steal away” until another night.

But, unfortunately, many of these postcards illustrate the prejudice that arose in us after the Texas Revolution:

Mexican mansions showing the primitive way of the peons, who are supposed to be the happiest people on earth.

Even Tejanos born and raised in San Antonio who supported the Texas Revolution found themselves viewed with condescension by newcomers flooding into the Republic of Texas, immigrants from the United States. Natives were regarded as foreigners.

Painful periods of prejudice should never be erased from our history books. Sometimes looking in the rearview mirror keeps you from veering off in the wrong direction. Some of today’s politicians need to do that because the rhetoric indicates a failure to learn from our past mistakes, a willingness to repeat them.

The historical connection of San Antonio and Mexico embedded in the city’s DNA is cherished and celebrated, particularly as we head toward our tricentennial commemorations. It’s a flavorful recipe unduplicated and a major ingredient in what makes San Antonio such a remarkable place to live.

(I’d incorporated some of these images in collages a while back: http://www.postcardssanantonio.com/tex-mex.html.)

 

 

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