Photo report: Discovery of Mission San Juan | Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Underground passage

“Where I End and You Begin”, a mural created by San Anto Cultural Arts in 2017, is located at the SE Military Underpass on Mission Parkway. Lead artist Jason Eric Gonzales Martinez is an acclaimed Chicano artist who assembles his work “in a way that questions the effects of time and how we determine the value of beauty, history, and knowledge. “. The mural is displayed along the San Antonio River. Visitors walking south eventually come across Mission San Juan, one of the last remaining Spanish colonial missions in San Antonio.


Ramon Diego Vasquez talks about the history of Mission San Juan and the indigenous people who once resided there. Vasquez is a member of the Auteca Paguame Tribe of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation and works to preserve indigenous practices and culture through Spanish Colonial Missions throughout San Antonio. The mission, once owned by the Archdiocese of San Antonio, is now under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and is open to the public from sunrise to sunset.


Vasquez cleans the cemetery of the natives who built the mission in the 18th century. Like other Spanish missions in Texas, Mission San Juan was built for the purpose of converting native groups to the Catholic faith. The remains of the natives were excavated and removed in 1967 during an archaeological dig. It was not until 1999 that the remains were moved. Vasquez recalled being present as a boy for the ceremony that took place when the remains were returned to the ground. The ceremony was held simultaneously by the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the descendants of those to whom the remains belonged.


A man sits in quiet contemplation on a pew inside the chapel at Mission San Juan. The small chapel, like the mission and the park that surrounds it, is open to the public. Hymns are played and candles are lit at all hours of the day as tourists peek in to watch and others enter in reverence. The remains of those who had the “highest social status” during the years of Spanish colonization are buried under the chapel.

Jack C. Nugent