San Antonio is the second-largest city in Texas (after Houston) and the seat of Bexar County. Situated on the San Antonio River, this progressive city has managed to achieve a cosmopolitan air, even while retaining its sense of tradition and history. The result is a mingling of Southern, Tejano, German, and Wild West cultures. The city has a military tradition that extends back to 1718, when Don Martin de Alarcon constructed a military fort to protect the fledgling settlement. Today, San Antonio is home to several military installations, including Fort Sam Houston, Lackland and Randolph Air Force Bases, and Brooks City-Base.
The city actually began as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, founded in 1718 by Friar Antonio de San Buenaventura Olivares and named for Saint Anthony of Padua. The original purpose of the mission was to convert the native peoples living in Texas. However, the constant attacks from the Comanche and Apache led to a withdrawal of the clergy in 1794. The Spanish cavalry arrived from Mexico to occupy the mission in 1803, changing its name to Mission del Alamo del Parras.
San Antonio became part of Mexico following the Mexican Revolution of 1821. The new government issued a land grant to Stephen F. Austin, who brought 300 families to settle in Texas. When General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna abolished the Mexican constitution and declared himself president, the Texas settlers refused to acknowledge his rule. This act of defiance led to the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, where 189 brave defenders held the old mission against the onslaught of 4,000 Mexican soldiers for 13 days. Though they were eventually overrun, their heroic stand inspired the famous Texas battle cry, "Remember the Alamo!" According to popular legend, it was this cry that rallied the troops and enabled them to defeat Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto later that same year.
The city of San Antonio has grown around the Alamo, which lies in the heart of downtown. The old mission has been preserved as a Shrine of Texas Liberty, and is featured prominently on San Antonio's flag and seal. It is, by far, the most popular tourist attraction in San Antonio. The San Antonio Riverwalk is also a favorite with locals and visitors alike, with its numerous shops and restaurants lining the banks of the San Antonio River. Floating parades have become something of a tradition in San Antonio, and it's not uncommon to see folks gathered along the Riverwalk, watching the procession of barges and buoyant floats. The Texas Cavalier Parade is probably the most popular of the river parades, featuring floats and displays that honor the heroes of the Alamo and San Jacinto. This parade actually kicks off the Fiesta San Antonio, a nine-day celebration of San Antonio's heritage and diversity.