We came here by public bus; it was really easy and not very long. In all of the guide books, they suggest that you start with the San Jose Mission, as it was called the Queen of the Missions as it was the largest, and at the height of its activity, held about 300 Indian "converts". This was yet another way for Spain to extend its imperialistic arm, and when they realized that fame and fortune would not be found through these complexes, they lowered their sights by spreading the gospel.
This mission was quite imposing to say the least; as we walked through the granary, the church (whatever is left and restored is still being used today)and some of the open air areas, I was anguished by the height of the stone walls. They towered over me and I imagined how hopelessly diminished the Indians must have felt when surrounded by them.
Founded in 1720, the mission was named for St. Joseph and the governor of Texas at the time. Its construction was completed in 1782, and like its predecessor, the Alamo, was erected on the banks the banks of the San Antonio river. There has been extensive restoration and preservation work done here, and the mission now falls under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Parks.
Visits to the mission are free, but you are encouraged to make a small donation. Don't miss the short feature film they show in the small theater by the gift shop. We saw it prior to walking on the grounds, and it definitely enhanced the distate I was already feeling about the mission. It talks about a loss of culture, a loss of tradition, a loss of a people.
You can view some videos of the cemetary at the mission as well as its interior HERE
It does not come as a surprise that the local Indians did not rejoice at the prospect of joining the mission; a mere 10% of the eventual total population of San Jose Mission made it here the first year. Eventually Indians came from miles around to build the church, sleeping "cells", workshops and other rooms at the mission.
There are 4 other missions on this trail, if you wish to continue. For my take on the mission in Carmel, you can click your browser here