Several hundred miles west of Houston, along I-10, is the beautiful city of San Antonio. Back before the American Revolution, Spain, wishing to secure its presence in northern Mexico, dispatched the Franciscan Friars to the new world to establish a religious and cultural base in the area. In 1683, Ven. Antonio Margil, and 23 other Franciscan Missionaries left for Mexico. For the next 43 years he would travel through Mexico and what is now Texas, establishing a chain of Missions. At his death he was declared Venerable by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836. Along the San Antonio river where fish and game were plentiful, five missions were established in order to protect, train and educate the multitude of small Indian tribes, which prior to the arrival of the Franciscans, were unorganized and often waged war on each other. The design and architecture are similar in all the missions. A church and resident building for the friars make up one side of a large walled enclosure. The walls were made into small rooms all the way around. These rooms served as housing for the Indians that lived there. The size of the missions varied, with the largest being Mission San Jose. For 75 years the missions flourished with the Indians farming and raising cattle in the surrounding fields and living inside the compound. Eventually the dreaded European diseases took their toll on the population which was finally reduced below a level needed to keep the missions functioning. One by one they closed and were abandoned, only to be taken up for some other purpose and then abandoned again finally falling into disrepair to the point of collapse. Today, 4 of the 5 missions are consolidated into a Federal park, which is open free to the public. The fifth and by far the most famous, the Alamo located in what is now the center of town, was many things over the years, finally coming under the control of the State of Texas and has been entrusted by the State Legislature to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas since 1905. This private organization maintains the property free to the public without government support or assistance. Several of the missions are still functioning churches, holding mass and other church functions for its parishioners.
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