This is a guest post by Sarah Haro. Sarah is working with the education team at the Library of Congress as part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Internship Program.
As a resident of the state of Texas and a student in the city of San Antonio, I have visited the Spanish missions and witnessed the popular tourist attractions they have come to be. While the famous Mission San Antonio de Valero – the Alamo- is inundated with visitors, the other four missions sit quietly in the background. Along the San Antonio River, you can find these gothic and Romanesque style buildings which house a rich history for Hispanic Americans all over the world. Studying these missions using primary sources from the Library of Congress is one way to help students learn about some of the contributions of Hispanics in America.
The Spanish missions are a lasting contribution that began in the 18th century. After the conquest of Mexico by Cortés, the Spanish failed to find gold, but they succeeded in establishing missions in different regions of the south. These missions contributed immensely to the development of the region by establishing industries such as weaving, iron work, and carpentry. These newly learned trades were the foundation of the economy in San Antonio and significantly shaped the Spanish-American frontier.
Students can explore the map of the missions of San Antonio and question the geographical location of the missions. What other landmarks are they close to? What patterns are there in the location of the missions? Why is the surrounding environment important to the success or failure of the missions?
The Library has floor plans for each mission shown on the map: San Jose, San Juan, Concepcion, Espada, and the Alamo. Students can study a floor plan and make predictions of what they think the mission would look like, and draw or write a description of what they predict. Students can then make comparisons to the photographs.
Other possible activities:
- Investigate the locations of other missions in the map collections of the Library of Congress.
- Design a mission. In groups, students can plan and design their own mission buildings. Students can also dare to build the mission and discuss the size, shape, texture, proportion, and colors.
- Learn about the metric system by measuring objects in the classroom and comparing them to those of the missions.
Missions are only one accomplishment of Hispanics in America. Learn more at Hispanic Heritage Month. What other ways can you incorporate Hispanic-American history in your curriculum?