Lewis Fisher returns! Chili Queens, Hay Wagons and Fandangos: The Spanish Plazas in Frontier San Antonio
Lewis Fisher returns!
Chili Queens, Hay Wagons and Fandangos: The Spanish Plazas in Frontier San Antonio
In 1573, the king of Spain decreed that each new town in Spanish America be built around a central plaza. San Antonio, established in 1718, got three Military, Main and Alamo plazas. As focal points of the community, their visual record captures the sense of San Antonio's picturesque evolution, particularly in the 1870s and 1880s as the city's frontier era was waning.
Military Plaza started as the base for the presidio garrison. After the Civil War it became an outdoor market teeming with all manner of vendors, their stands scattered among wagons heaped with cotton or hay for the horses and mules that kept the city running. Chili queens served spicy foods on makeshift tables during the day and at night spread to the edges of the plaza, serving diverse lantern-lit crowds in scenes still vivid in tribal memory.
Main Plaza began as the center for the civilian community. Many elements of its original church, begun in 1738, remain in today's San Fernando Cathedral. In the 1880s the nearby White Elephant Saloon and lesser establishments hosted gamblers drawn to the wide-open frontier town.
Alamo Plaza was first the plaza for the Mission San Antonio de Valero, its unfinished church now known as the Alamo. When the modern era reached San Antonio in full force by 1890, Alamo Plaza had already seized the lead as a commercial center.
Rare images not before seen together join with descriptive captions and a concise narrative for an unmatched portrayal of the frontier drama played out on San Antonio's Spanish plazas.
Lewis F. Fisher is a longtime journalist and publisher who lives in Texas and has Virginia roots. His books include "Saving San Antonio: The Precarious Preservation of a Heritage."
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