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Group Explores Native American History At The San Antonio Missions

Paul Casanova Garcia

The San Antonio Missions are great gateways for visitors to explore the city's Spanish colonial past. But an event at the San Juan Mission on Saturday is a reminder that the real story they offer may be much bigger than we think.

Historians and archaeologists have learned to appreciate the Native American history around the Missions, thanks in part to the group American Indians in Texas. Director Ramon Vasquez explains the group's mission.

"The majority of the work that we do is around the preservation of American Indian culture, primarily those families and culture and tribal communities that came out of the missions of South Texas and northeastern Mexico," he said.

Historically, Native Americans labored in the shadow of the San Antonio Missions as they wove an inclusive tapestry of the city's past. Vazquez said the event attempts to place San Antonio’s Native American experience into a larger context.

"At one point we had seven independent Pueblo communities living side by side, the five missions, the villa of San Antonio and the Presidio," Vazquez said.

Saturday's event will celebrate how Native Americans contributed to Mission history.

IF YOU GO WHAT: Founder’s Day Celebration WHERE: Mission San Juan WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday COST:  Free

"Mission San Juan is where everything will come together. We'll be having one of our four season Indian markets, so there'll be plenty of vendors there and food,” Vazquez said. “There'll be some fried bread, Indian tacos for sale there. We have the Yanaguana River Singers that are there that will sing some songs. And we also have the IndigeNecias, who is an all-female group as well that'll be there singing some songs.”

The group celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year, so Saturday's event will be something of a birthday party. And it will also be a reminder of how much San Antonians can gain from spending some time at the Missions. Vazquez said there is so much more to see than what the eye can reveal.

"These missions are, aesthetically they're beautiful to look at, but there's so much, they're so full of history, and human connections."

Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii