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20 Facts about San Antonio, Texas

Updated on April 14, 2014
San Antonio Riverwalk
San Antonio Riverwalk | Source

San Antonio is the second-largest city in Texas and the seat of Bexar county. It is situated on the non-navigable San Antonio River, about 190 miles (304 km) west of Houston. A major manufacturing city, it serves as the banking, transportation, and retail trade center of south-central Texas.

1. The city was a focal point of early Texas history. The Alamo, a shrine of Texas independence, is in San Antonio. Today the city displays a variety of old and new, a modern and progressive city with the charm of Spanish-American influences that helped shape its character.

2. The skyline of downtown San Antonio is dominated by the Tower of the Americas (750 feet, or 225 meters), but one level below the narrow streets of the business district is the peaceful San Antonio River. Lined with boutiques, shops, and restaurants, the beautified banks, called the Paseo del Rio, are the delight of tourists. By riverboat, visitors can approach the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, which adjoins the HemisFair Plaza complex, built in 1968 as an international exposition. This blending of the picturesque and the practical is everywhere evident in the downtown district and immediate environs.

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3. A typical sprawling metropolis, San Antonio spreads out into many suburban sections served by enclosed shopping malls. The generally flat terrain slopes into rolling hills only in the northwest quadrant. An expressway system connects the suburbs and the city's downtown.

4. In the 2010 census San Antonio's population was 1,327,407. Some 63.2% of the residents were of Hispanic descent, and about 6.3% were blacks. The metropolitan population was 2,142,508.

5. Within the city limits lie five incorporated cities: Alamo Heights, Balcones Heights, Castle Hills, Olmos Park, and Terrell Hills. In the 2010 census the combined population of these cities was 21,203, and many of their residents worked in San Antonio proper. San Antonio's area is 460.9 square miles (1,193.8 sq km).

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6. Originally established in 1718 as a Spanish military post, San Antonio has always been militarily important. American troops have been stationed in San Antonio since Texas became a state. In October 2010 the U.S. military bases Fort Sam Houston, an Army facility, and Randolph Air Force Base and Lackland Air Force Base were merged and are now known as Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA). Fort Sam Houston is primarily a medical training facility and is the location of the Brooke Army Medical Center, the Army Medical Department Center, and the Army Medical Command. Lackland Air Force Base is a training base; it is the headquarters of the Air Force Intelligence Agency and is the location of the Wilford Hall Medical Center, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, and a training center for military dogs. Randolph Air Force Base is the headquarters for the Air Education and Training Command as well as a personnel center; it provides support service to all JBSA facilities and communities. The School of Aerospace Medicine is located at Brooks City-Base (formerly, Brooks Air Force Base and now owned by the city).

7. San Antonio is one of the leading livestock centers and one of the largest produce exchange markets in the United States. Although there are no major oil developments in the area, it is the commercial headquarters for the south Texas petroleum producing district. About 25% of the wool and 85% of the mohair produced in the United States are grown west of San Antonio.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Six Flags Fiesta Texas | Source

8. Manufacturing is widely diversified, from fabrication of executive airplanes to church furniture, from storage batteries to stained-glass windows. The production of clothing and the processing of food products are important. Products of the metal industry include structural steel, steel forms, and equipment for food handling, commercial refrigeration, and electronic data processing. Retail, wholesale, and service trades, the military payroll, and tourist and convention income also contribute to the economy.

9. Sixteen independent school districts provide public education in the San Antonio area. Private schools include many in the Catholic system and others that are nondenominational or Protestant-supported. One of the most famous is the Texas Military Institute, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur was once a student. The Alamo Community College District operates four two-year institutions. The institutions of higher learning are Trinity University (founded 1869), St. Mary's University (1852), University of the Incarnate Word (1881), Our Lady of the Lake University (1896), the University of Texas Health Science Center (1959), the University of Texas at San Antonio (1969), and the only U.S. branch of the National University of Mexico.

10. Good libraries are housed in the universities and on military bases. The modernized San Antonio public library system, established in 1903, has strong regional branches and mobile libraries that serve all of Bexar county.

11. Unusual exhibitions and audiovisual programs at the Institute of Texan Cultures show the contributions of the 26 ethnic groups that settled in Texas. The Lone Star Hall of Wildlife and Ecology is one of the outstanding exhibits at the Witte Memorial Museum. The McNay Art Institute is dedicated to modern art. The San Antonio Museum of Art, occupying a renovated brewery just north of the city, opened in 1981. The city's symphony orchestra is recognized nationally for its excellence.

12. The Southwest Research Institute conducts applied research for industry, government agencies, and individuals in such diverse areas as mineral technology, physics, chemistry, engines, electronics, and ocean engineering. The Southwest Foundation for Research and Education, which is endowed by national organizations and supported by grants, is involved in biomedical research. A citizen-supported Research and Planning Council conducts research into governmental problems.

San Antonio Botanical Garden
San Antonio Botanical Garden | Source

13. Communications in San Antonio reflect the bilingualism of its population, as several radio and television stations broadcast in Spanish. Numerous specialized and weekly newspapers are published in either English or Spanish. The principal daily newspaper is the San Antonio Express-News (established 1865). Historically, the San Antonio Light was published from 1889 until 1993.

14. The Alamo, "Shrine of Texas Liberty," situated in the center of the downtown area, is the outstanding tourist attraction in San Antonio. Within the enclosure are the chapel in which the Americans made their stand against the Mexican army in the Texas Revolution of 1836, two museums of Texas relics, and the Library of Texana.

15. Within walking distance of the Alamo is the Arneson River Theater, where the San Antonio River separates the stage from the grass-covered seats terraced on the bank of the river. Above it is the block-long La Villita, or Little Town, a restored residential section where the houses reflect the two nationality groups that have greatly influenced San Antonio -Spanish and German. It is also an arts and crafts center.

16. The four missions established about the same time as the Alamo (1718) atttract many people: Mission Concepción, San Francisco de la Espada Mission, San Juan Capistrano Mission, and Mission San José, a state and national historic site, which contains a famous rose window.

17. Other sights in the San Antonio area are the Spanish Governor's Palace, used by the Spanish governors as home and office; Buckhorn Hall of Horns, a collection of horns from almost every kind of horned animal; and the San Antonio Zoo in Brackenridge Park. This park also contains four early Texas homes rebuilt on its grounds. More than 75 other parks and playgrounds and several golf courses and swimming pools are also part of the city's recreation program. The AT&T Center is the home of the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association and the San Antonio Silver Spurs of the Women's National Basketball Association.

18. San Antonio is known as the "Fiesta City." The Fiesta de San Jacinto, commemorating Texas independence from Mexico, held in the week of April 21, is the climax of the entertainment year. A magnificent Battle of Flowers Parade; an illuminated night parade, Fiesta Flambeau; and a river pageant, a parade of illuminated decorated barges floating on the San Antonio River, highlight a week of varied entertainment. During Fiesta Week the visitor realizes anew the elements that have blended to make San Antonio fascinating -the Mexican-Spanish culture, the old West, and the modern city, with its important military installations. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is held annually in February. Rodeo shows, livestock exhibits, and commercial displays promote the ranching and farming industry.

19. When members of a Spanish expedition discovered the San Antonio River on June 13, 1691, they came upon a Coahuiltecan village, Yanaguana, along the upper headwaters. They named the site San Antonio de Padua in honor of the saint whose feast day it was.

20. Texas became a republic in 1836, and San Antonio was incorporated on June 5, 1837. For a few years it was almost a deserted town, due to lack of protection against Native American attackers and Mexican troops. These conditions were changed when Texas was admitted to the Union (1845), and San Antonio soon showed some population growth.

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