The association held its annual membership meeting in San Antonio on October 12th and 13th. The event celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio and the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, and it included numerous activities that allowed the public to experience the trail and learn about its history!
The meeting kicked-off with a signage dedication at La Villita, located in the heart of San Antonio. As one of numerous trail resources in the city, La Villita’s dedication was the first time that trail signing was placed in the urban center of town. Speakers and attendees included Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, City Councilman Roberto Treviño, San Antonio Conservation Society president Susan Beavin, NPS superintendent Aaron Mahr, and board members Dr. Sarah Gould and Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark. The signage is located at the corner of South Alamo and Villita Streets and it is dual-sided for both pedestrians and motorists.
Later that evening, the festivities moved to Con Safos Restaurant, where Dr. Jesús F. de la Teja spoke on “Cattle Drives and Cattle Society in early San Antonio.” Dr. de la Teja’s presentation was well-received and helped to set the stage for our visit to mission ranchos, which would occur the next day.
On Saturday, the meeting kicked off with a presentation by Anthony “Tony” Souther, site manager of Caddo Mounds State Historic Site. Tony spoke on the history of the Caddo and their relation to the Camino Real, and provided updates about developments at the site. Tony’s presentation was followed by Sergio and Melinda Iruegas of GTI Environmental. Their presentation focused on 18th-Century Spanish Colonial Mission Historic Cultural Landscapes: Caminos Reales, Mission Ranchos, Architecture, and Genealogy as Archaeological Artifacts. It was a fascinating presentation, covering everything from the Hapsburg to Bourbon Monarchy and their work for the association at Lobanillo, the Rancheria Grande, and the Ruiz – Herrera Rancho. The morning was rounded out with a presentation by the National Park Service – National Trails Intermountain Region, which provided updates on developments with the trail and highlighted mapping efforts and techniques to document historic trail resources. Combined, the presentations were a good segue into the tour of Spanish Mission ranchos that afternoon.
The tour kicked off by traveling the trail from San Antonio to the Rancho de las Cabras in Wilson County. About thirty miles from the center of the city, the rancho was the historic mission ranch for Mission Espada of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Park archaeologist Susan Snow led a tour of the site and discussed different archaeological findings that have been uncovered over the years. Most attendees had never visited the site before, and with Susan’s leadership, a wonderful experience and deeper understanding of the trail and the site’s history were to be had! From Las Cabras, attendees traveled to the Ruiz – Herrera Rancho, which served Mission San Jose. At the Ruiz – Herrera Rancho, we were greeted by Juan Manuel Ruiz, descendant of Jose Francisco Ruiz, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Mr. Ruiz and the Iruegases guided us on a pleasant tour of the archaeological site and we learned a great deal about its antiquity! The occasion was a true rarity, as the ranch is not typically open to the public!
All together, the meeting was an enriching experience that will be remembered for years to come by those who were a part of it!