Confluence – the joining of rivers, or a coming together – is not the kind of word most folks use in casual conversation. Yet, it’s showing up all over San Antonio this year. It is particularly apt for this time and this place.
For one thing, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of HemisFair ’68, which was billed as “The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas.” Rightly so, the watery word conjures the San Antonio River as a central image. It was water – abundant creeks and rivers, and the precious limestone aquifer below — that brought people here and sustained them.
We’re also commemorating the city’s Tricentennial. For a delightful one-stop review of the Alamo City’s saga, the Witte Museum’s exhibit “Confluence and Culture: 300 Years of San Antonio History” is a great place to start. Plus, since the Witte, like many of this town’s most cherished attractions, is set on the banks of the San Antonio River, a tangible part of the municipality’s genesis is right there to enjoy in Brackenridge Park, one of our oldest parks.
On March 3, the San Antonio River Foundation unveiled Confluence Park at the spot where San Pedro Creek flows into the San Antonio River. It’s the city’s newest park, and one of the smallest, but every square inch of its 3-acre footprint is carefully designed to evoke curiosity and wonder; to draw youngsters and adults into learning about the natural environment we inhabit. You can get lost in the geometric patterns and swirls of the paved walkways, and marvel at the massive concrete “petals,” each weighing 40,000 pounds, that gracefully form sheltering arches; they funnel water into a man-made aquifer underfoot.
With Texas’ five different ecosystems on display, and a state-of-the-art, solar-powered classroom, the park includes all the elements of the STEAM curriculum – science, technology, art, engineering and math. About 7 miles south of Brackenridge Park, it’s also connected to the River Walk’s Mission Reach.
Physically linking the most beautiful, natural features of San Antonio is a fabulous kind of confluence in itself, but uniting us as a positive, healthy community is also well worth celebrating. Fifty years ago, HemisFair was a great step in connectivity.
“HemisFair was the first major project I had ever been a part of that involved all segments of the community” – people of all political parties, labor unions, and leadership including black and Hispanic San Antonians and women, Tom Frost Jr. told Sterlin Holmesly in his oral history “HemisFair ’68 and the Transformation of San Antonio.”
“For the first time,” added banker Bill Sinkin, the fair’s initial president, “there was a confluence not only of civilizations, which was our theme, but a true confluence in the community.”
I was again reminded of unification at the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest’s Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner. The honorees were as diverse as the audience – the SA Youth program, DreamWeek San Antonio founder Shokare Nakpodia, the El Bari Community Health Center and SA 2020 CEO Molly Cox. John Phillip Santos, the keynote speaker, spoke about confluence, too.
“As people of the borderlands, we live in a place where cultures meet,” he said.
In countless ways, the confluence of cultures, creativity and community can transform our city, our future and us. This is something worth celebrating daily.