SAN ANTONIO – The last names of the men and women who traveled to San Antonio in 1718 from Spain and the Canary Islands with hopes and dreams to establish a new home were read aloud by their descendants to honor their lives and memory.
This was done after human remains were found near Milam Park in downtown San Antonio near Santa Rosa and Houston Streets during an archeological investigation before the start of city street construction.
Groups believed to be their descendants, like the San Antonio 1718 Founding Families and Descendants and Canary Islands Descendants Association gathered Tuesday morning for a small dedication before remains were exhumed by city crews.
“Yes it was emotional for us, because we have no place to honor our loved ones back in that time of history 300 years ago,” Sandra Perusquia, with San Antonio 1718 Founding Families said.
City archeologists say there are historical records that there were three former cemeteries in that vicinity of downtown, which is what prompted the investigation before construction. Where the remains were found the city says there used to be a city cemetery established around 1808 and stopped being used 50 years later.
Perusquia, whose fifth great-grandfather was buried in one of those former cemeteries, said she is grateful for the opportunity to honor the remains found.
“The link is that San Antonio is becoming more of a modern city and we want to see that go forward, but we do want to honor the remains that are here,” she said.
When the remains were first discovered on Santa Rosa street adjacent to Milam Park on May 13 as part of an archaeological and cultural investigation, city, state and project officials as well as local descendant groups were notified of the discovery per requirements in the Texas Antiquities Permit and Human Burial Remains Protocol.
Public Works will exhume the remains Tuesday and is “granting descendant groups an opportunity to conduct any spiritual ceremonies or practices at the site” before the removal process, city officials originally said via email.
“The city has worked with these groups throughout the process to ensure any such finds were treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, and in compliance with state and local laws and regulations,” city archaeologist Shawn Marceaux said.
A Bexar County District Court granted a petition from city officials for removal of human remains on August 14. San Antonio city officials also received approval for an exhumation permit from the Texas Historical Commission on August 24.
The remains will not be buried again until the construction of the bond projects is completed, which is scheduled for Summer 2023.
City spokesperson Joe Conger told KSAT that no decision has been made about where the remains will be re-interred but “descendant groups will be involved in that process. The city is committed to being open, transparent and respectful with the sensitivity of the removal and reinterment of human remains within the project area.”
The archaeological investigation is being conducted under an antiquities permit and is part of a larger 2017-2022 Bond Program Project to improve streets and corridors around Milam Park, Marceaux said earlier this year.
“The Cultural Investigation was built into the Bond Project timeline at a cost of $270,000.00 for the archaeological work,” Conger said previously.
The bond program is expected to bring more than 200 miles of new sidewalks to the city and make improvements to 25% of San Antonio’s parks, among other things.
“The human remains and all associated archeological objects will be temporarily stored at UTSA Center for Archaeological Research to await reinterment,” Conger said.