San Antonio Mission Concepciòn

National Park Service – Four Voices

Four Voices:

An exhibition showing at Mission Concepciòn, San Antonio, Texas

Historian – Native American – Administrator  – Stone Mason
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Photography & Audio Exhibition by Michael Nye

National Parks connect our past to the present. Sometimes they illuminate natural landscapes while other times they amplify and honor historical events. Our Parks are agreements between generations, symbols of significance, care and deep reflection.

The stories from The San Antonio Missions represent divergent and significant points of view: 17th Century explorers – Native American groups of the Southwest – Early Texas history – Spanish colonization – Stone masons and builders of the Missions – Battles of opposing interest – There is also the point of view of the land and creeks and pecan trees and the deep blue South Texas skies above.

The history of the Missions did not end in the 17th, 18th or 19th century. No. History is energetic and invites present participation. In every corner, every room, in every mission, light grows brighter or dims. New emerging voices and experiences bring life and breath into a larger understanding.

Four Voices: This small project is about listening. It was an honor to spend time with each of these individuals. I learned so much.


Robert Garcia – Historian:

“On March 5, 1731, the Testimonial de Possession ceremony took place. That was the ceremony of the physical taking of possession of the site of Mission Concepciòn. I immediately had it translated and there was the name of a grandfather of mine, many generations back. I was proud that he had been part of that ceremony. He saw the raw land before the church was built. He saw the Indians that were there.”

 

Olga Gonzalez – Administrator of Mission Concepciòn:

“I was the administrator. I was the maintenance. I was everything. The rangers used to call me the boss because I had the keys to open all the rooms. I did all the books. I paid the priests. I used to sweep all the church, mop it and washing the linens. It’s hard to explain how I feel for Mission Concepciòn. I love my house is the way I love Mission Concepciòn. And I love my house.”

 

Estella Kierce – Native American – Coahuiltecan

“My great-great-grandmother was a Coahuiltecan Indian born February 23rd, 1826 at Mission Espada. She was actually raised there. As I go through Mission Concepciòn, I have lots of questions. What were my ancestors thinking when they saw this beautiful church and heard the music? Can you imagine how their hearts must’ve been beating with anxiety? They were changing so much of their culture and their spirituality of nature, the sun, the moon, the waters, the calmness of the waters.”

 

Steve Siggins – Head Stone Mason

“It’s all about the missions and that’s what it’s all about. It’s the only reason why I do my work. You just can’t go out there and throw mud in that wall. I’ve seen plenty of masons get on a historic wall and it’s just another job. They don’t care if they’re matching, they just want to get out of there. You have to have a respect for the history of it or else you won’t do it right, you really won’t.”

 

I’m deeply grateful to Rangers, Lauren Gurniewicz and Thomas Smith for initiating this idea. I also thank Alexei Wood, Madison Nye and Tess Graul for their help in the process.

  • Estella Kierce
  • Olga Gonzalez
  • Robert Garcia
  • Steve Siggins