|The Torch of Freedom in downtown San Antonio|
Wandering around San Antonio helped me better understand the place. I find that when you walk instead of drive, it is easier to feel a part of what is going on around you. The sights and sounds are vivid as are the aromas emanating from bakeries and restaurants. Everywhere I went I heard both Spanish and English spoken. Tejanos, Texans of Mexican decent, comprise a large part of the San Antonio population. The majority of restaurants that I passed on my walks served Mexican food, much like the Mexican food you can find in Virginia restaurants that are run by Mexican families. Along the way I also encountered quite a few homeless people. Many were elderly and sat on benches with their bags of belongings on their laps. They napped and chatted with other street people. Contrasting this were the swanky shops and upscale eateries encountered along the River Walk, an area for which San Antonio is well known.
|How many symbols of Texas can you see on this holiday tree?|
The River Walk meanders along the San Antonio River and is exceptionally scenic as it filled with interesting architecture and lush tropical plants. Considering that the land surrounding San Antonio is dry as dust and brown with few trees, the River Walk area was quite a surprise. It reminded me of Southern Florida. I took a boat ride along the river and was treated to a knowledgeable local guide who pointed out the various points of interest that we passed and also provided historical information. We floated past a large brick structure, and the guide told us that was the first air-conditioned hospital in the country. At one spot I saw people digging and the guide explained that an archeological team is uncovering interesting artifacts from long ago.
|A view of outside restaurant dining from the boat|
|The boat passed under several pedestrian bridges that connect visitors to both sides of the river.|
|Lush foliage was a surprise.|
After the boat trip, I continued my walk around San Antonio. When I encountered the statue in the picture above, I had to cross the street to learn more about it. It was of Samuel Gompers, a man who worked tirelessly for workers’ rights. During the early part of the 20th century, workers had few rights. They had to work long hours for low pay often in unsafe surroundings. It was common for a man to work ten hours a day six days a week for a pittance of a few dollars pay. In order to gain better working conditions, a shorter workweek, and more pay, workers formed unions. Samuel Gompers clearly stated the goals of the workers he represented:
“What does labor want?
We want more schools and less jails,
More books and less guns,
More learning and less vice,
More leisure and less greed,
More justice and less revenge.
We want more … opportunities to cultivate our better nature.”
Without labor unions workers can lose these hard-won benefits. Unions allow workers to speak with a united voice and help them secure more of the fruits of their labor. Everyone deserves a livable wage, reasonable working hours, and safe working conditions.
|The Alamo, once surrounded by farm land is now hemmed in by tall buildings|
In the early part of the 1700s, Spain owned what is now Texas. They built missions and sent missionaries in order to convert Native Americans to Christianity. One such mission was located outside San Antonio. Seventy years later, the Alamo and its property were given to the local natives who farmed the land surrounding it. Then in the early 1800s the Spanish stationed a cavalry unit in the building. Called the Alamo, a famous battle took place there 175 years ago, one that lasted only thirty minutes and wiped out the 200 men who were garrisoned inside. Today, the Alamo stands on its original site, but is now in the middle of downtown San Antonio.
|Live oak tree on the Alamo grounds|
This tree has an interesting history. It can be found outside the Alamo on the grounds surrounding the old mission. A life oak tree, it does not lose its leaves in the winter, and instead, stays green year round. When the tree was 40 years old, a man decided to move it to its present location. Most people believed that you could not uproot and move a fully-grown tree, but the man was determined that he could do it. Using a wagon and four strong mules, the man moved the tree and replanted it. Did is survive? You bet it did. Today the tree’s trunk has a circumference of 12 feet and some of the branches extend more than 50 feet.