What is Fiesta? Fiesta San Antonio started in 1891 as a parade to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto.
If you have lived in San Antonio for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed a fascinating tradition. Once a year, people dress up in elaborate outfits, throw expensive parties and parades, and attend a series of events.
But it isn’t a federal holiday. In fact, it isn’t even something recognized or practiced outside of San Antonio.
Locals know it simply as Fiesta, or “party” in Spanish.
But what is Fiesta, and how did it get started? What are some common Fiesta traditions, and what do the celebrations mean to San Antonians now?
Read on to learn more about this special tradition and its place in Texas’s rich, historical tapestry!
The Battle of the Alamo
We cannot discuss Fiesta without mentioning the most famous of Texas historical events, the Alamo.
Founded as a mission when Franciscan monks brought Catholicism from Europe, the Alamo used to be the home of Native Americans.
Many of these native peoples were driven to missions such as the Alamo due to raids from the Apache tribe, drought, and disease. To obtain sanctuary, the friars asked them to give up their previous cultures and religions and live as Catholic Spaniards.
With the exception of the Alamo, all of San Antonio’s missions still operate as churches. Franciscan monks still live and serve in one.
The Alamo served as a mission through 1793. It became a military outpost in 1794.
In 1835, tensions between Texan settlers and the Mexican government exploded into armed conflict. The Texan opponents of Mexico’s General Santa Anna began gathering in the Alamo, using it as an armed fortress.
Santa Anna’s army marched on the Alamo in March of 1836. Even though it was well-guarded, the Mexican militia killed almost everyone inside. The dead included prominent American hero Davey Crockett.
The Battle of San Jacinto
Weeks later, the Texan militia, headed by Stephen Austin, confronted Santa Anna’s army in San Jacinto. Enraged over the deaths at the Alamo, Austin proclaimed the now-famous words, “Remember the Alamo!”
Then, the fight began. The Mexican army was soon defeated, and Texas became an independent republic.
The Battle of Flowers and the Beginnings of Fiesta
Because of this, the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto have always been important events for Texans, especially those in San Antonio.
By 1890, San Antonio had gone from the sight of one of the most famous American battles to a thriving city with a booming economy. By then, it had also been incorporated into the United States.
Still, the people of San Antonio wanted to honor the men who fought for Texas’s liberation from Mexico. So, in 1891, they launched the Battle of Flowers.
The initial Battle of Flowers was a parade consisting of carriages, rifles that represented the military, and bicycles and children outfitted with flowers. Today, the Battle of Flowers remains a centerpiece of Fiesta.
In addition, it is the second largest annual parade in the United States.
The Development of Fiesta Traditions
Almost immediately, people loved the Battle of Flowers and began to institute their own traditions around the event.
One particular tradition includes selecting royals to preside over the proceedings of Fiesta. Although money is not an official requirement for royal selection, they are usually from upper-crust San Antonio families.
These royals are selected from two main organizations.
The first, the Order of the Alamo, selects the Fiesta queen and her court, including princesses and duchesses. The second, the Texas Cavaliers, selects the king.
Each year, the royals are coronated at an elegant ceremony in San Antonio, where they wear heavily bejeweled dresses. They also attend balls and participate in the Battle of Flowers parade.
Because of the selectiveness, being part of the royal court is one of the highest honors available to San Antonio residents.
At its heart, Fiesta is a celebration of San Antonio, its history, and the people who died to make it a possibility. Because of this, many make an annual pilgrimage to the Alamo, which is now situated at the city’s center.
The Daughter of the Alamo has hosted its pilgrimage every year, and everyone from military personnel to school groups takes part. They bring wreaths and flowers to the site and hold a small memorial service for those who died.
Honoring Native American Heritage
As part of its tribute to San Antonio culture, Fiesta seeks to honor the Native Americans who have always played key roles in Texas history.
Each year, the Fiesta organizers host a pow wow. This gives Native Americans an opportunity to gather and celebrate their cultures. Members of the public may also attend the pow wow and be reminded of San Antonio’s original people.
What Is Fiesta to San Antonians Today?
Today, when asked, “What is Fiesta?” many San Antonians will say different things.
To some, it’s a reason to celebrate who they are. To others, it’s a fantastic blending of the American, Native American, and Mexican cultures, for which San Antonio has become so well-known.
To still others, it’s an opportunity to both reflect and look forward to the future.
Many San Antonians also use Fiesta to give to many local charities, hoping to brighten the future of their city.
Overall, Fiesta is a celebration of San Antonio as it was, is, and is becoming. It has become an unerasable part of the city’s cultural landscape.
Ready for Fiesta?
You’ve learned how to answer the question “What is Fiesta?” Now, get ready to attend some events!
As mentioned above, Fiesta can be a deeply elaborate affair, filled with people dressed in clothing with traditional and cultural significance. Even if the event you’re attending doesn’t require a fancy outfit, don’t go unprepared!
Plenty of people show up wearing casual clothes. Yet, it is not unusual for people going to Fiesta events to be wearing something a little celebratory, such as a flower crown.
No matter what you’re wearing, pizzazz up your Fiesta outfit with one of our fiesta medals! Buy them here today!