San Antonio, you’ve been on my mind.
It started a few weeks ago when I came across a San Antonio bracelet. I don’t consider myself a huge San Antonio cheerleader, but something pushed me to get it.
Don’t get me wrong—I like San Antonio. It’s been our home for eight years now and it will forever be where we became a family of three. My son is a native San Antonian. But what does that mean?
I came to live in San Antonio by way of the U.S. Army, though my first introduction to the city was back in college when a friend said we needed to drive down from Austin. Around 10:00 one night. But we were in college, which meant the night was as young as we were. Since I went to college before smartphones and social media, there’s no evidence of anything that might have happened that night. Most of what I remember is the beauty of the River Walk.
San Antonio is a city that people don’t always understand. We can be hard to describe—we don’t fit in any sort of mold or conform to how others try to generalize us. We don’t proclaim ourselves as the capital of anything (I’m looking at you, Austin). We don’t share our name with another city or have any sort of punctuation (Hello, Dallas/Fort Worth). Our neighborhoods make sense and are manageable (Sorry, Houston, but your lack of zoning is mind-boggling).
Despite being the seventh largest city in the United States, we all seem to know each other. Or at least we act like we do. We smile, we say hello. We welcome visitors and give them insider tips on where to find the best food (which we have A LOT of and we like to share).
In today’s world where seemingly no one gets along with anyone who is different from them—at least if you believe what you see/read in the cacophony of media that streams 24/7—that’s not who we are.
We rally to defend our dominance in the world of breakfast tacos. (Really, Austin? Get over yourself.) We cheer for our Spurs, win or lose. We drive around town honking and waving out of windows and sunroofs to celebrate important wins. We turn out in throngs to greet them when they bring home a championship. We turn out in throngs to greet them even when they don’t. We line up to buy the latest championship shirt, no matter how late the winning game might have ended. And we collectively mourn the retirement of our beloved Number 21.
We stand in line together to get into Fiesta events. We stand in line together to eat at Fiesta events. And you better believe we fight to the death together for Fiesta medals, but in a really nice way—we say please and hope the Fiesta spirit will shine on us. We throw flowers and we “politely” ask people to show us their shoes. We parade on the river, we parade with flowers, and we parade at night with lights.
We celebrate. You name it, we celebrate it: we have festivals for margaritas, tamales, art, cocktails, barbacoa, and the mud that occasionally fills the River Walk. (Shut it, Mark Cuban and Charles Barkley.) We rodeo like nobody’s business, there’s always a party in Market Square, and a birthday isn’t a birthday until the piñata breaks.
We celebrate Dia de los Muertos with Calaveras and altars and we mark the fall of the Alamo with reverence. We share our history with the world thanks to the fantastic missions that adjourn our city, the picturesque, historic building that together are the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas. (Everyone else, get over yourselves.)
We are a unique mix of nationalities and religions, a veritable blending pot of Mexican, Italian, German, Spanish, Native American cultures and influences—and more. And of course, we celebrate each of those cultures and backgrounds with festivals and events. We even have a festival to mark ALL of those influences at once because, well, we can. And we like to celebrate, especially if there’s food and music involved.
We mark Dia de los Independencia—better known in the U.S. as Diez y Seis—with style. We have a fantastic Greek festival, amazing spaghetti dinners, Kristkindlmarkts and Oktoberfests, and pow-wows. You can join in a celebration of Diwali, the breaking of the fast of Ramadan and enjoy a Hanukkah celebration on the River Walk. No matter who you are or what you do or don’t know about the religion, nationality or culture being celebrated, you are welcome to join in the party.
That open, welcoming attitude and the belief that EVERYTHING deserves to be celebrated is what makes San Antonio so . . . well, San Antonio.
I was wearing my San Antonio bracelet recently as I stood in Market Square to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Mi Tierra Café y Panadería. The Cortez family, the folks behind Mi Tierra and so many other flavors and favorites that are woven into our city, were celebrating 75 years of food, family and culture in San Antonio. It was a night of Mariachis, papel picado, and food, food, and more food. In other words, a true San Antonio celebration.
The evening included El Grito, or Cry of Dolores, a tradition that marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. Diez y Seis (September 16th) is Dia de los Independencia, but the celebration kicks off on the eve of Diez y Seis with El Grito.
Market Square was a sea of people enjoying food, music, family, friends, and culture. A mix of young and old, couples and families, guayaberas and T-shirts. English and Spanish freely flowed together as those of Mexican descent—and everyone else—saluted the Mexican Color Guard, sang the Mexican National Anthem (or tried to) and chanted “Viva Mexico.” And “Viva” just about everything else.
The crowd was a perfect reminder that our differences can bring us together in beautiful ways. There was no conflict. No questioning of who was from where. No judgment. Just the melding of cultures and celebration.
In other words, just another day in San Antonio. And a pretty great place to call home. ¡Viva San Antonio!