From the collection of Lewis Fischer
As our fair city nears the midpoint of its year of Tricentennial festivities, recollections and commemorations, a new book from Trinity University Press aims to tell the story — in a casual, deeply human, not necessarily scholarly or exhaustive kind of way — of San Antonio and Bexar County.
The book, smart and modern in design/layout and positively yearning for the savvy San Antonian’s coffee table, is entitled 300 Years of San Antonio & Bexar County. It was edited by writer and San Antonio native Claudia Guerra and features writing and photography from more than 45 contributors.
With section titles such as “We Are All Visitors Here,” “Becoming San Antonio,” “The Soul of San Antonio,” and “San Antonio and the U.S. and the World,” and individual essay topics like “First Americans: Integral to Building the Frontier Community,” “The Advent of the Canary Islanders,” “Jewish San Antonio,” “Tejano Legacy in San Antonio and Texas,” “African American Settlements in San Antonio and Bexar County,” “The Historical Narrative of San Pedro Creek,” “Cartas, Novelas y Librerías,” “Conjunto Music and San Antonio,” and “The Birth of Latino Rights Organizations,” 300 Years explores an impressive cross section of our city’s complex history and culture. The book aims to come across as inclusivity/equity-minded while keeping the page count low and the reader’s workload light.
The relatively breezy read is more like a series of vignettes and essays out of time than a historical treatise.
Nevertheless, Guerra, communicating with the Current
via email last week, does hope that the book will inspire others to look deeper into all facets of San Antonio’s history. And, perhaps for the historians of tomorrow, the book will inspire more academic investigation and kindle a passion for telling this city’s stories yet untold.
“I think the value of the book is simply to look at what was documented in the book, pick out what remains to be documented and being documenting now so we don’t lose those stories over the next 300 years,” she explained when asked about the historical value of the book.
Guerra, who works as a cultural historian with the City’s Office of Historic Preservation, mused that a comprehensive history would take many years and many volumes, but believes that “this book will launch that comprehensive edition or series of volumes.”
From the outset of her work on 300 Years, Guerra “engaged with people from academic levels as well as everyday levels and from varied backgrounds to give [her] ideas on approach, themes and topics.”
“Based on my knowledge and input from diverse perspectives we tried to make sure there were a variety of voices included,” she explained.
The book’s contributors represent a diverse array of San Antonio communities, age groups and organizations, and the tone of the pieces vary, producing a feel of plurality and wide perspective. If it doesn’t provide all the important facts and stories from our city’s first 300 years, it is all the better for it. It leaves the work to do, it suggests the work, it begs the questions. It provides much needed context to the history of San Antonio — as it has been written and as it will one day be written.
Guerra, asked what she sees as the key takeaways of 300 Years, summed it up well:
“It is a story book. The key takeaway, I think, is how all of these stories interweave to tell a complete story. San Antonio is a complex place with multiple layers of time, people, identity and even geography weaving together. Sometimes those stories conflict with each other. I hope this book makes San Antonio feel like the intriguing place it is. A place where one can come and transform into something new, complicated and wondrous. Think about that. That’s exactly what happened to our earliest ancestors here — from the first people here (the indigenous), the second people (the European), even people like Travis and Crockett — all coming here to begin new lives. In doing so, they created a unique place.”
The book, and the release event to celebrate it, are exciting and momentous occasions for San Antonio and come highly recommended for those who prize the sharing of our separate and entwined stories as important to developing a better understanding of each other and what our city can be.
300 Years of San Antonio & Bexar County Book Launch
Free, 10am-noon Wed, Jun 20, Trinity University, Lobby of the Center for Science and Innovation, One Trinity Pl., (210) 999-8884, tupress.org
300 Years of San Antonio & Bexar County Book Launch and Celebration with Readings by Contributors
Free, 2:30-4:30pm Sun, Jul 15, (210) 999-8884, SAY Sí, 1518 S. Alamo St., tupress.org
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