Had Monday not recently been Columbus Day, “The Arts in Latin America” might have closed before I realized it was there. I stumbled across word of it while perusing the Internet last week for meditations on Christopher Columbus.
Better latish than never. And all things considered, the timing seemed serendipitous.
It was during Hispanic Heritage Week, which just ended Monday. And two weeks ago, while visiting San Antonio I was impressed with its preservation of a history that we in California share — the period when the places we now inhabit were in Spanish possession.
It’s nearly impossible to turn a corner in downtown San Antonio without encountering the sense that it was once part of Spanish territory. The Alamo stood adjacent to the historic Menger Hotel where I stayed.
Four of the state’s five missions — established by Spanish Roman Catholic missionaries — form the Missions National Historical Park. The fifth, Mission San Antonio de Valero (a.k.a. The Alamo), is owned by the State of Texas and operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
The city’s 276-year-old San Fernando Cathedral is a few blocks from it. Built by 15 families from the Canary Islands, it’s the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the United States.
A short distance from San Fernando stands the well-kept palace of the Spanish governor, founded May 5, 1718. Its artifacts don’t rival those on display at LACMA, but they are still instructive.
In carved, wood pictographs, the palace’s dark and heavy entry doors tell the story of Spain’s exploration and colonialism of the Americas. The furnishings — beds and trunks, game tables and musical instruments, paintings and devotional religious objects, linens and crockery — provide a glimpse of this stratum of Spanish colonial life.