Yesterday marked the beginning of this year’s Fiesta celebrations in San Antonio, Texas. Fiesta is a San Antonio tradition that initially began as a means of celebrating Texan independence and the victory at the battle of San Jacinto as well as commemorating fallen heroes at the battle of the Alamo. These days, it’s more of an excuse to party between spring break and the summertime, a means of attracting middle-aged tourists and an example of the gentrification of Mexican-American culture, but remains an irreplaceable part of San Antonian identity.
I won’t go into the entire history of the ten day celebration, but here’s an excerpt from the official Fiesta website:
By 1890, San Antonio, Texas, was a thriving trade center with population of 38,000. In 1891 a group of citizens decided to honor the heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto with a Battle of Flowers.
The first parade had horse-drawn carriages, bicycles decorated with fresh flowers and floats carrying children dressed as flowers. The Belknap Rifles represented the military. The participants pelted each other with blossoms.
The Battle of Flowers Parade is the only one in the country to be planned and directed completely by women. Today it’s the largest parade in Fiesta. It’s second in size nationally only to the Tournament of Roses Parade.
Fiesta becomes a San Antonio tradition
The Battle of Flowers was an immediate success. Within a few years, more events were taking place on or near April 21—a carnival, balls and coronations of “royalty.” The Fiesta tradition had been born. Other early events included street dancing, children’s fetes, a Trades Display Parade and an orphans party. Fiesta has taken place every year except for 1918 during World War I and 1942 through 1945.
At this point, I’m not entirely sure how many events are included as official Fiesta events, but the number must be in the hundreds. River parades, street parades, dance festivals, carnivals, oyster bakes, masked balls, the coronation, the crowning of “el Rey Feo” and of course La Villita’s Night In Old San Antonio are some of the events I can name off the top of my head. Growing up in San Antonio, participating in some kind of fiesta event is inevitable. If just kind of happens. Last year, I remember being so sick of Fiesta. I hated hearing about it all the time, seeing it on the news every night, having the entire city shut down for over a week while drunk people took over downtown San Antonio in the name of “Texan patriotism.” I was especially sickened by the Fiesta Queen and Princesses Coronation in 2006, but I won’t go into all of my issues with that event here, as I don’t know that much about the specific duties and history associated with the Fiesta court.
I don’t really know why I’m writing about Fiesta. To be frank, it feels weird to be away from it; not as weird as say, skipping Christmas, but kind of like my birthday or Halloween just decided not to happen one year. At the beginning of the month, I remember being excited about getting the Monday of Battle of the Flowers off school, before realizing that they don’t celebrate Battle of the Flowers in New York. I don’t have to go dance awkwardly in Market Square or crack cascarones on my sister’s hair. I haven’t seen a river parade in over a year. As much as I complain about San Antonio, I’m glad I grew up in a place with such rich history, diverse culture and uniqueness. As terrible as it is that the Riverwalk effectively displaced hundreds of people many years ago, I won’t pretend that it isn’t one of the most beautiful places in the world when it’s lit up around Christmastime and Fiesta. It’s really tempting to end this post with some kind of line about how I’ll always remember the Alamo even though I’m miles away, but to be honest, it’s a little hard to forget the Alamo after having the whitewashed, distorted version of its history pounded into my head for the past 17 years. I’ll never stop thinking that those bullet holes in the wall are really cool, though.
There was no point to this post, but I hope you learned something about crazy San Antonio traditions. I’ll leave you with some pictures.
(Riverwalk at Christmas, with random British flag from Mad Dogs pub.
< Texas Cavalier River Parade
The Alamo at night
And last but not least, it’s not spring until you see bluebonnets covering the side of the road. This is the first year I’ll miss them.
Sorry for the random, boring nostalgia.