SAN ANTONIO – Comanche Lookout Park is home to a new public art installation that honors the indigenous ancestors of San Antonio and South Texas.
At the peak of Comanche Hill, the fourth-highest point in Bexar County with an elevation of 1,340 feet, sits the new “Najo Jām” which means “our home” in the Coahuiltecan language Pajalate.
San Antonio artists Carlos Cortés and Doroteo Garza collaborated on the “Najo Jām” installation which features stylized benches, a planter, and a monument that symbolizes peyotism which has historically been a part of indigenous religious ceremonies.
“The use of Trabajo Rustico for this project is meaningful and intentional, as both the technique and symbols of indigenous culture represent deep and rich traditions,” said Cortés who is a third-generation Trabajo Rustico concrete artisan.
The video player above shows how the artisans built the “Najo Jām.”
The central piece of the installation is a monument featuring a half-moon and deer imagery which has been carved into the faux stone. Deer is an important food source for indigenous cultures and the animals were revered in spiritual traditions.
According to legend, where the deer steps peyote cacti grow, a press release from the city of San Antonio states. The monument also includes a peyote stitch pattern made of tile reminiscent of beadwork from various tribes including South West and Plains tribes.
“It is inspiring to use the skills passed down to me from my father, who learned from my great uncle, to honor and reflect on the ancestors and heritage of this land,” said Cortés.
Garza said he hopes “that when park visitors see the installation, they gain an understanding that indigenous stories and memories existed here long before their hike.”
As a multimedia artist with nearly two decades of experience, Garza said “nature is so integral to the indigenous way of life and I am excited for people to connect with the land by viewing and interacting with the artwork while standing in the center of an area so important to indigenous culture and heritage.”
Comanche Lookout Park is a 96-acre public park located at 15551 Nacogdoches Road.
According to the San Antonio city website, Native Americans used to use Comanche Hill as a vantage point for warfare and hunting. “The Apache, and later, the Comanche Indians dominated the area as they hunted along waterways including nearby Cibolo Creek.”
The park offers multiple trails with stunning views of San Antonio and is frequented by walkers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
There’s also a four-story, medieval-style stone tower at the top of Comanche Hill and some remnants of an old foundation that was built by retired Army Colonel Edward Raymond Coppock in February 1923 after he bought the land for $6,000.
“San Antonio recently celebrated its Tricentennial, but there is more than 10,000 years of indigenous history and culture in this area, especially at Comanche Lookout Park,” said San Antonio District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry. “Not only does this artwork serve a functional purpose as a peaceful place to rest after climbing the trails, but it also provides a unique perspective on the people who thrived on and honored this land for many years.”
The artist team of Cortés and Garza also collaborated on a “Najo Jām” oversized planter in the shape of a peyote bud at the River Walk Public Art Garden near the corner of Market and Alamo Streets. The planter will eventually move to the Comanche Lookout Park installation.