King & Queen of Spain Celebrate San Antonio Tricentennial

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia visit Mission San José in San Antonio on Sunday. (CNS photo by Daniel Conrad.)

SAN ANTONIO (CN) — Spanish royalty visited one of their nation’s early New World settlements on Sunday, with King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia helping state and local officials celebrate San Antonio’s tricentennial.

The king and queen were met by a crowd of about 100, shouting “Bienvenidos!” and “Welcome to San Antonio!” at the Governor’s Palace in the Plaza de Armas, then joined Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Governor Greg Abbott inside the building nearly as old as the Alamo City itself.

Indigenous Americans lived in a village they called Yanaguana for centuries before Spanish explorers came across their settlement on June 13, 1691, the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua. In his honor, the Spaniards christened the river and surrounding area San Antonio.

One generation later, in 1718, a Franciscan missionary founded the Misión San Antonio de Valero — now called the Alamo. Not long after, Spaniards erected the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar, where the Plaza de Armas and Spanish Governor’s Palace sit today. From 1722 until 1804, the building housed Spanish military captains. On Sunday, it briefly housed Spanish royalty.

After the meeting on Sunday, the king and queen set out for Mission San José, where they visited with religious leaders inside the church and a Texas park ranger took them on a tour of the grounds.

The mission, built by Spanish missionaries in 1720 after the completion of the Alamo, is called Queen of the Missions for its towering height and spacious design. It was once home to as many as 350 residents, primarily Native Americans the friars sought to Christianize and assimilate into Spanish culture.

King Felipe and Queen Letizia also attended three art exhibits this weekend, most notably a traveling multimedia exhibit at the Bexar County Courthouse, “Designing America: Spain’s Imprint in the U.S.”

For the next year, courthouse visitors will be greeted by 18th and 19th century Spanish maps of their North American explorations, architectural drafts, photo and video galleries and more.

The installation presents a timeline of Spanish influence on the United States and its history, from the early travel logs of Cabeza de Vaca and Ponce de Leon to in-depth examinations of Spanish civil works projects in the cities and settlements they built in modern California, New Mexico, Texas and Florida.

The royal couple Felipe and Letizia met with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff before joining the governor and other officials for a private dinner Sunday night.

San Antonio was the second of three stops for the king and queen in their U.S. tour. New Orleans — also celebrating its tricentennial — hosted Felipe and Letizia from Thursday to Saturday. They will fly to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for a reception with the president and first lady.


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