Goliad State Park in south Texas has something for everyone: History buffs will be intrigued by the Visitor Center, with American Indian and Spanish colonial artifacts, and dioramas that tell their story. The park's 188-acre area also has camping, picnicking, hiking trails, boating, fishing, and swimming. Goliad State Park is less than a mile from the small town (population about 2,000) of Goliad, Texas. The town may be small in population, but it is large in history, as it is listed as one of the oldest towns in Texas!
Goliad State Park is where you will find Mission Espiritu Santo De Zuniga, a reconstructed 1749 church. Guided tours of the mission are available, which show the church's period furnishings, as well as a workshop that displays period craft materials. A museum displays exhibits that tell of mission history and daily life of the Spanish missionaries and Karankawa Indian converts.
Although there is no charge to check out the Visitor Center, a small fee is in place to guide visitors through the church, which is located a short walk from the Visitor Center (phone 361-645-3405 for updates about current hours of operation).
At its peak, the mission was headquarters for hundreds of residents, with vast herds of livestock that supplied Texas and Mexico.
The architecture of the Visitor Center reflects that of colonial Spain, and the Spanish-style archway makes a nice frame for this photo.
Historical markers emphasize what the Visitor Center, Mission Museum, and textbooks teach about the location. If you have ever celebrated "Cinco de Mayo", you have a connection with Goliad State Park! That is because this area was the birthplace of Ignacio Zaragoza, the general in the Mexican army, best known for defeating French forces on May 5, 1862! Hence, "Cinco de Mayo" is celebrating that victory! The park also has the ruins of Rosario Mission, which is now an archaeological site.
Just across the San Antonio River from the mission and Visitor Center, you will find the impressive Presidio La Bahia, which is a fort constructed by the Spanish army. It was the only Spanish fortress for the entire Gulf Coast area from the mouth of the Rio Grande to the Mississippi River. Civilian settlements sprang up around the Presidio in the late 1700's.
Besides being a fortress, there was also a small Catholic chapel within the walls of the Presidio. Presidio La Bahia is a fort, however, and not a mission. The chapel (called Our Lady of Loreto Chapel) was erected in the quadrangle for the sole use of the soldiers and Spanish settlers living in the town of La Bahia, surrounding the fort. It is the oldest building in the compound, in continuous use since the 1700s. The chapel is still used for services.
The First Declaration of Independence was signed inside the fort's chapel in 1835.
The chapel is also where General Fannin's men were held during part of their captivity before being massacred. James Fannin was the commander of La Bahia Presidio. He and his men were executed by Mexican Soldiers outside the walls of the Presidio, March 27, 1836, in an event called The Goliad Massacre.
All these different flags flying at La Bahia attest to the many conflicts that it witnessed over the decades. Soldiers from Presidio La Bahia assisted the Spanish army fighting the British along the Gulf Coast during the American Revolution. This action gives Goliad the distinction of being one of the only communities west of the Mississippi River to have participated in the American Revolution!
La Bahia is ranked as the most attractive of the Presidio sites in the U.S. For all the readers who enjoy eating beef, it is also interesting to note that La Bahia is where the cattle industry of America had its beginnings. The soldiers of the Presidio presided over vast herds from the nearby missions, and supplied troop escorts for cattle drives to supply other settlements in the Spanish Southwest.
When I first drove by this location, I had no idea what it was (students from Arkansas are not required to take a course in Texas state history---a fact that astonished my Texas-born-and-bred-and-educated brother-in-law!). The thing that caught my attention was the architecture, because I noticed immediately it was the same design as the tourism logo for Puerto Rico. I had purchased a ceramic candle holder with this design when I visited Puerto Rico, so I look at this design element every day. The turret along the walls of the fort serve to GUARD it from unwelcome invaders. Therefore, I am using this image as the visual aid to help me learn one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses that says, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7). I am so thankful that I turned my car around, and went back to this impressive mountain-top fortress, to learn about its colorful history. Likewise, if you would like to pay a visit to this area, log on to www.presidiolabahia.org for more information. I think you will find that, like me, exploring this area will give you "MILES OF SMILES"! Tricia