The first writers of the missions in the land of the waters of the Yanaguana were those remarkable Franciscans who, upon reaching the spring waters where San Antonio has now blossomed, started building their walled pueblos of Indian dwellings, conventos, plazas, churches, workshops and granaries in the early years of the 18th century. Some anthropologists, understandably enough, claim that the missionaries' message and way of life created an irreversible and harsh impact upon the lifestyle of the Coahuiltecos and other Indians in South Texas. But few scholars on the prehistoric natives in Texas assign motives less than generous service and spiritual care to the penniless missionaries. With the arrival of the Franciscans, Christianity and European values spread across the Texas landscape. A new civilization would absorb some of the ways of the Indians and incorporate them into the distinct community structure. Vestiges of other native customs were to continue for a while but, as so many mid-morning shadows, would fade away. For ill or good, the Indians were to see the ways of their ancestors disappear and their lives change with the Spanish mission system.
Traces of the Indians' new life brought about by the mission centers are vividly depicted by the missionary chronicles. In this volume, descriptions of Indian community life at Missions Concepción, San Juan, and La Espada are found in a report made by Fr. Mariano Francisco de los Dolores y Viana, a Veteran missionary who labored in Texas for 35 years. President from 1750-1763 of the Franciscans from the College of Queretaro and stationed in Texas, Fr. Mariano addressed his report to Fr. Guardian Francisco Xavier de Ortiz on March 6, 1762. The account of Concepción was written by Frs. José Guadalupe Ramirez and Pedro Parras, the latter stationed at Concepción from 1758-1765. The 1762 account of San Juan Capistrano was written by Fr. Benito Varela who resided at San Antonio de Valero in 1755 and by Fr. Manuel Rolan who, with Varela, cared for the Indians at San Juan during the year of the report. The report on Espada mission was written by Fr. José Ignacio Maria Alegre who was stationed at San Juan through 1759, and later reassigned to Espada where he was assisted in developing the 1762 account by Fr. Tomás Antonio Arcayos. Fr. Tomás was later stationed at Mission San Antonio de Valero at least through 1771.
This vivid 1762 report remains an unpublished document recently transcribed and translated in rough draft by Franciscan Fathers Benedict Leutenegger and Marion Habig. It was graciously made available to me and portions of their work are noted in this publication. Other sections of the report reflect my thoughts, based on my paleographical experience, on what the translation of the original document should be. Entitled, "Report from Missionaries at San Antonio on the Missions and their Labors," by Fr. Mariano Francisco de los Dolores y Viana and Companions to R.P.G. Francisco Xavier Ortiz, Missions at San Antonio, Texas, March 6, 1762, this document is deposited in microfilm (Roll no. Caja 1, #33, frames 444-463, Archivo Franciscano, Departamento de Manuescritos de la Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico) at Old Spanish Missions Research Center, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas.
The report of neophyte life at San José mission was written by Fr. Gaspar José de Solis while on an official inspection of the Zacatecan missions of Texas in 1768. Well done English translations of the document are easily available. Outstanding examples are seen in Diaric . . . en la Visita, 1767-1768, by Peter Forrestal, Austin: Texas Catholic Historical Society Preliminary Studies, I, No. 6, 1931, and another by Margaret Kenny Kress and annotations by Mattie Austin Hatcher. Southwestern Historical Quarterly XXXV (July, 1931), No. 1, pp 28-76.
The contemporary talks preserved in this volume represent collaborative efforts on the part of scholars, administrators, and the institutions they represent along with a respectable number of Texans who zealously watch over their beloved missions. This publication is an anthology of presentations given on the occasion of the Second Annual Mission Research Conference sponsored by the National Park Service, Old Spanish Missions and Our Lady of the Lake University, on August 6, 1983. The conference enabled participants to dialogue, share and assess past research on the San Antonio Missions. The superintendent of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park foresaw the value of the Conference and directed that the proceedings be prepared for publication. The purpose of the volume is manifold: to acknowledge the speakers, to enlarge the NPS informational base on the missions, and to preserve this knowledge for future generations of Americans. The National Park Service is grateful to Deborah Large, Director of Library Services, Institute of Texan Cultures, who generously donated considerable time in meticulously reading the volume's set of galley proofs. Thanks are also in order for Mrs. Joann Archer, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, who gave time in reviewing the galley proofs.
Over the centuries, countless Texans have supported the leaders of the ancient church in restoring these venerable institutions. This is as it should be. The missions represent the proud heritage of Texans of all faiths, cultural backgrounds and ethnic lineages. This volume, in a sense, is a tribute to them. O'Neil Ford, the noted San Antonio architect, worded this sentiment by saying, "The Missions are the most important and most beautiful examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, and though once they were loved and admired by a few . . . now . . . millions of persons from all over the world have come to San Antonio to wonder at them, to study their history and their great significance. Now we know that they are the jewels of our river valley and the greatest documentation of our eighteenth century beginning."
Gilberto R. Cruz
Last Updated: 24-Apr-2011