From its earliest encounters between people of all nations, Béxar became a mestizo community, a place where our humanity was transformed.
GEOLOGICAL TIME DWARFS human time, but the two are closely intertwined. For millennia San Pedro Springs have risen to the surface from a deep, purifying underground aquifer. These abundant waters once formed a swiftly flowing creek that sustained myriad indigenous peoples for 12,000 years before the Spanish arrived to establish a permanent settlement here in 1718. Following the settlement of families from Spain’s Canary Islands in 1731, land along San Pedro Creek was apportioned among them by royal land grants for farming and collective grazing.
Gradually a community of Spanish soldiers, civilians, indigenous, and diverse mestizo (mixed) residents developed along the creek. These early settlers would be joined, beginning in the 1820s, by colonists from the United States and Europe who came seeking land and opportunity in Texas, then still part of Mexico. The influx of new residents accelerated after Texas became an independent republic in 1836 and a state in 1845. San Antonio became a frontier community of many nations where Native Americans, Mexicans, Germans, French, Poles, Lebanese, Italians, and African Americans lived and worked side by side. Many of these communities mixed with others, and San Antonio became increasingly mestizo. But as other ethnic divides widened, San Pedro Creek would eventually become a boundary line between the emerging city’s Anglo and Mexican enclaves.
The neighborhood here on the creek’s upper reach was home to many Italian immigrants who sold produce and other traditional specialties at the nearby municipal market. Members of this vibrant community formed the Christopher Columbus Italian Society in 1890 and built San Francesco di Paola Church and the adjoining parish hall in 1927. Though much of this neighborhood was demolished when expressways were constructed beginning in the 1940s, this area along San Pedro Creek is considered to be the center of San Antonio’s Italian community.
Indigenous people hunted, fished, and camped along area streams for thousands of years before Spanish explorers arrived in the late 1600s. Camp of the Lipan depicts a similar scene outside of San Antonio in the late 19th century.
Large numbers of European immigrants arrived in San Antonio in the mid-to-late 1800s seeking new opportunities. Many settled along and near San Pedro Creek including French artist Theodore Gentilz and his wife Marie, seen here in front of their home on North Flores Street just east of the creek.
Italian merchants operated stores nearby and sold vegetables and other goods at San Antonio’s municipal market, a short distance south of here.
In the 1800s the main thoroughfare west of the creek was Laredo Street, and the area became informally known as Laredito. La Esparanza Grocery No. 3 near San Pedro Creek on North Laredo Street was typical of the small businesses operated by the area’s residents.