7 Hispanic Heritage Sites in San Antonio

Formerly part of Mexico and Spain, Texas has deep Hispanic roots. Much of the food, entertainment, and celebrations Texans enjoy are part of its Hispanic heritage.

Casa Navarro State Historic SiteCasa Navarro State Historic Site

Casa Navarro State Historic Site

José Antonio Navarro’s house in the former Tejano neighborhood of Laredito showcases his life at the restored 1850s limestone home. Navarro was a rancher, merchant, one of only two native-born Texans to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence

Now a THC state historic site, Casa Navarro State Historic Site was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1962, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and named a National Historic Landmark in 2017.

El Mercado

Just around the corner, at West Commerce Street and Santa Rosa Avenue, visitors can wander the papel picado-lined walkways of El Mercado (Historic Market Square). Traditional and modern Mexican craft, clothing, and cookery stalls line the space.  

The City of San Antonio sponsors many working artists to create and sell hand crafts. Many shops also sell traditional cookware and ingredients, such as molcajetes and dried chilies. At the back corner of the intersection, the Texas A&M University–San Antonio Educational and Cultural Arts Center hosts Latinx art and cultural exhibits. The market moved to this location in the 1890s to make room for the influx of diverse new settlers.

Immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia added their own flavor to the Mexican market, establishing grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, and social clubs. Also around this time, the tradition of “Chili Queens” emerged. Women would cook traditional Mexican delicacies with finesse over mesquite fires. The tradition continues to this day with eateries serving street food such as gorditas, elotes, and aguas frescas.

Dolores Applewhite Crossing (2014) by Texas Historical CommissionCasa Navarro State Historic Site

Dolores-Applewhite Crossing

In the Medina River Natural Area, several trails on the city’s south side hold historical significance dating to Spanish Colonial times. 

One of these trails, the El Chaparral Trail, passes through a reconstructed jacal, a hut believed to be part of the Perez Ranch. The property belonged to Spanish Texas governor Ignacio Perez. Dating to the 1700s, the trail was used as part of the El Camino Real de los Tejas, earning the site a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (2014) by Texas Historical CommissionCasa Navarro State Historic Site

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

A group of Chicano artists founded the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) to preserve and promote Chicano, Latinx, and Native American culture. 

Located at Guadalupe Ybarra and Brazos streets, the institution offers art and theater classes, concerts, and performing arts events. The GCAC also hosts an international Latinx film festival and exhibits works by local artists.

1926 Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church

Nearby sites include the 1926 Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church—established to offer Spanish Mass to those who settled here after fleeing the Mexican Revolution; the family-owned La Chiquita Bakery; the MujerArtes art cooperative. 

The Instituto Cultural De Mexico represents the Mexican Government of San Antonio. Located at the heart of Hemisfair Park, the institute hosts a variety of events in its three galleries, multi-purpose room, and auditorium.

The Founders Monument

The Founders Monument is in front of the historic Bexar County Courthouse, which received restoration assistance from the THC’s Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. Now commonly referred to as Main Plaza, it was originally known as Plaza de las Islas Canarias. 

Created by Laredo artist Armando Hinojosa, the figures in the monument represent the founders of San Antonio. They include Canary Islanders, American Indians, a Franciscan friar, and presidio soldiers.

In 1731, Spanish immigrants from the Canary Islands settled and formed a civil government in this area. Here, they lived with members of the mission, presidio, and villa communities. Each group attempted to maintain their own identities yet eventually worked together. A historical marker about the Canary Islanders was placed in 1971 in Main Plaza between San Fernando Cathedral and the Bexar County Courthouse, at the site where the Canary Islanders’ journey of about 5,000 miles ended.

Trabajo Rustico (2014) by Texas Historical CommissionCasa Navarro State Historic Site

The Trabajo Rustico

The trabajo rustico (rustic work) or faux bois (imitation wood) technique uses cement to create pieces appearing to be made from nature. Dionicio Rodriguez and colleagues such as Maximo Cortes utilized this trend when crafting bridges, benches, and fences. 

In San Antonio, this handicraft can be seen at the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Spanish Governor’s Palace, and the Japanese Tea Garden. Today, Mexican artists, including Cortes’ grandson Carlos, continue to use this Mexican method, maintaining the area’s trabajo rustico tradition.

Trabajo Rustico (2014) by Texas Historical CommissionCasa Navarro State Historic Site

Credits: Story

Content is provided by the Texas Historical Commission, which manages over 30 State Historic Sites, the Texas Heritage Trails Program, Texas Main Street Program, and many more heritage tourism and historic preservation initiatives across the state.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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