tv Spanish Missions in San Antonio CSPAN January 13, 2019 1:25pm-1:46pm EST
for black americans. for us,s not created the idea you could do better than your parents if you work hard enough to it does not matter your lot in life. it does not seem like that is the reality, even now. i think that is a profoundly disappointing thing, at least for me. >> watch book tv this weekend on c-span2. >> today, five spanish missions make up the san antonio missions national historical park, a unesco world heritage site. next, texas a&m humanities librarian joel kitchens talks about the history and the process of preserving missions about 300 years old. american history tv recorded the interview at the western history association's annual meeting in san antonio, texas.
host: joining us from san antonio, we have joel kitchens, the humanities librarian at texas a&m university where he earned his doctorate. we wanted to focus on the missions in san antonio in particular and across texas. what are they and what were they? joel: the missions were settlements created by the franciscan friars to bring the indigenous people into the spanish colony. the goal was to convert the indigenous populations into spanish towns. it was a way to extend the empire by converting indigenous people into spanish subjects. they would bring them in and settle them in towns. they would convert them to roman catholicism. they would also teach them
trades, agriculture, blacksmithing, animal husbandry. that kind of thing so they could be essentially their own independent spanish colony. steve: many in existence today are still operating in the san antonio area. why and with whom? joel: four of the five missions in san antonio are still catholic parishes. they were not continually in use as a catholic church but they have been. they were created as a sacred space for the native americans and they were still considered a community center for the indigenous people. and after mexican independence, the mexican-american population
lived around mission churches. now, they are considered part of the community. and the catholic church frequently wanted to use them. in the 1970's and 1980's when four of the missions became under the protection of the national park service, the park service wanted the archdiocese to restart the parishes and so forth. four are now active parishes in the catholic church. steve: if you could explain what the unesco status means for the missions. joel kitchens: the unesco status hopefully means an increased tourism, increased fundraising for the missions, for their continued preservation. when unesco came in and the recognition and criteria they
used was to recognize the joining of the spanish and indigenous nation at the missions. the missionaries brought the monumental architecture. they also taught the native americans european agricultural techniques. i brought in and built irrigation, sophisticated irrigation system that can still be seen today. one of the dams still exists. you can visit. and so, this was part of what unesco was trying to recognize and preserve with its designation. steve: let's talk about the alamo. what was there pre-1836?
joel kitchens: you had the remains of a mission church and a number of outbuildings associated with the mission. the mission had already been secularized, a fancy term for being closed, and turned over to the indigenous population. some of the indigenous were still living in the area. as far as the church services, they were still going to san fernando cathedral within the villa of san antonio. it was a fortress, a mission church remnants. there was not much to it when davy crockett and william owieett travis and jim bu
took up in 1836. steve: you are in san antonio. is the alamo today what it looked like in the 1830's? joel kitchens: not hardly. what they saw back then in 1836 was different from what we would see today. the main example would be the alamo did not have a roof in 1836. 10 years after the battle as the u.s. army was heading down into mexico, they decided the alamo had four sturdy walls and would make a good storage facility for their materials if they could put a roof on it. so they did. but it also necessitated increasing the height of the front facade. the facade you see today looks very different from what you would have seen in 1836.
steve: give us a tutorial. a historical tutorial. what happened in 1836 and at the alamo? joel kitchens: this was a time when the predominantly anglo population in san antonio and texas in general was unhappy with the way the mexican government had been established and the dictator, santa ana had , established himself in mexico city. they were rebelling against santa ana who had changed the constitution of 1824. they wanted to break off from mexico.
they were trying to bulk up and defend the city of san antonio with the alamo. they had been given orders -- there were suspects of whether they should have even been there, whether the alamo was considered defensible. some of the higher ranking texas generals, sam houston and some of the others, did not think it was defensible. owie felt itnd bu was worth defending. they stayed and defended. steve: you mentioned davy crockett. explain his role. joel kitchens: davy crockett came in just before the siege.
he had lost his election bid in tennessee and was deciding to start life anew like so many anglos did in this part of the 19th century. they came to texas where there was land and opportunity and he found himself in san antonio at the time and decided to make a stand where he was. steve: why is it important to remember the alamo in understanding texas history? joel kitchens: the alamo -- it becomes part of the texas creation myth. the alamo and its defeat -- that is something a lot of people can , the anglosorget lost at the alamo because it was a complete defeat. but just a few weeks later, it became a rallying cry at the
battle of san jacinto where sam houston completely routed general santa ana and a larger mexican army that he had caught unawares. it is more important from a symbolic point of view than a military point of view as a rallying cry. steve: if we visited you at the texas a&m library, which authors and books would you point us to to better understand this time? joel kitchens: i would probably compile a list of several from richard florez to holly blair. i would also pick a book on san antonio. holly brair and richard florez have both written specifically
on the alamo and how it has been used by various groups over the years. and how it has come to be such an important part of texas identity. those would be my top three. steve: for those who lived through that time, if they were to come back, they would not recognize the alamo today, correct? joel kitchens: that is correct. they probably would not. one fellow who came down to san antonio, he was an illinois volunteer. they were marching in 1846 to mexico. they stopped at san antonio. he was wounded on guard duty and could not go to mexico with his group. but he did a lot of sketch work in san antonio.
and he made some very beautiful sketches of the alamo. he was not happy with the way the army had redone the facade of the alamo. he thought it was poorly done when they put the roof on. he was not happy. he said it looked like a ridiculous scroll of a bedstead. steve: is that the facade we see today? joel kitchens: that is the facade we see today. yes. steve: how did americans outside of texas understand or learn or visit these missions? joel kitchens: the missions became used as marketing. the romance of the missions as a symbolic of a mythological
spanish past, the alamo for its tragic romance story. these were used by railroad companies, southern pacific and others, to bring tourists from the east to the frontier to see the americas, certainly in the parts of the 20th century there a move to see america first. that became a rallying cry among many boosters, people who wanted tourists to spend their dollars in america. the rail companies, southern pacific's premier line ran from new orleans through san antonio and out to california and they highlighted the missions and
the alamo as something exciting, exotic, romantic to see. steve: this is an area of your expertise and one of your passions. why? how did you get interested in this? joel kitchens: two reasons. i started taking black and white photography. i transitioned from using a 35mm film camera to using a large format film camera. it is especially well-suited to architectural photography. i started reading about the missions to make better informed pictures. the other questions that came to mind is, what happened to the buildings after they ceased to be used as missions? that is where my work, i think, and some of my scholarly work,
really takes off in trying to answer the question, what happened after they ceased to be missions to the native americans? steve: what surprised you the most? joel kitchens: i think what surprised me the most is something i started reading. a lot of were saying the missions were forgotten about after they were secularized. they fell into ruins and nobody cared about them. and i do not think that is quite true. i think the people in san antonio, they recognize the value of the missions. whenever important people came to san antonio, they would take them to the missions. people like frederick olmsted he , came to san antonio before the civil war. people in new york may recognize the name as the man who designed central park. other people who came to the
missions were poets, sydni lemaire, stephen crane, and others, richard harding davis, another author at the time who came to the missions and wrote these wonderful travel logs and narratives about the missions. talking about how they were forgotten about, if they were, why do san antonio citizens always bring someone to missions? they were not all that forgotten about. steve: joel kitchens is a humanities librarian at texas a&m university. he is joining us from san antonio. thank you for being with us. joel kitchens: thank you for having me. it has been my pleasure. >> i remember as a little kid, you knew when the flag went by,
you were to stand up and put your hand on your heart. you knew that you were to stand and sing the national anthem. and you learned to recite the pledge of allegiance. pressay at 4:00 eastern, interviews with president ronald reagan from the oval office during the final weeks of his presidency in january of 1989. >> when i said doing nothing wrong, this was encountering what i have to say was the total media distortion of the process that was underway. and i cannot understand it because, as you know, the day after that week -- leak revealed the covert operation. i went before the press and told them exactly what the operation was. we were not doing business with the ayatollah. we were not trading arms for hostages. way of aceived word by third country, israel, that a delegation of people, at a time
when everyone was saying that the ayatollah was not going to live out the week and that factions were rising up as to who and what was going to be the government of iran, this group was vouched for by a third country as responsible citizens withanted to meet representatives of the united states as to how there could be a better relationship between the government of iran and the united states. >> watch reel america this weekend on american history tv on c-span3. >> sunday at 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. eastern, historians discuss controversial monuments in the west, including 19th-century statues and plaques that honor u.s. military leaders who massacred indians and monuments to pioneers and missionaries who colonized the west. here is a preview. >> i am going to argue that the
earliest pioneer monuments which were erected beginning in the 1880's and 1890's, the same time the confederate monuments are going up in the south, really were about enshrining white civilization or white supremacy. strongmenhite, towering over their indian , as in this one in front of the statehouse in iowa. and then, san francisco's pioneer monument from the 1890's which has minerva, the goddess of war, embodying eureka, the spirit of california, on top of the pillar honoring many men who achieved the conquest of , from indian
savagery, through spanish imaginary past and romance, to .hite anglo civilization statueng the early day that was protested in the 1990's and removed last month. >> you can watch the entire discuss and -- discussion on controversial monuments in the west sunday here on american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> in 1990, president george h.w. bush and the democratic controlled congress failed to agree on federal spending levels, resulting in a three-day government shutdown. from the white house, here is the president briefing reporters are super six --