San Antonio’s biggest party of the year is upon us, and the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures is doing its part to build up the Fiesta spirit by educating locals and visitors about the 11-day festival’s history.

During Second Sundays, visitors may peruse the collections in the museum and wander the grounds for free. Fiesta Family Day will take place on Sunday, April 9 from noon-4 p.m., and kids especially will get even more bang for their proverbial buck.

The free offering, a staple in the Institute’s calendar of events, follows a different theme each month: “Buffalo Soldiers” honored Black History Month in February, “German Texans” took center stage in March, and April’s no-brainer theme will serve to usher in the city’s annual festivities, “before anyone has Fiesta burnout,” said Paul Stevens, ITC’s manager of volunteer services. Fiesta officially begins on April 20.

The Institute of Texan Cultures. Photo by Scott Ball.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“We added extra programming this month to make it more interesting and more family-friendly,” Stevens said. “We wanted to showcase the history of Fiesta in San Antonio, as well as the cultures that came together to shape [the beginnings] of Fiesta, going back to the Mexican Revolution, Native American cultures, and more.”

Historic photographs from early Fiesta celebrations, dating back to the early 1900s, will give attendees a glimpse into Fiesta’s extraordinary evolution since its inception in 1891 (see photo gallery above). Attendees may pose in front of the “Histo-Wall” full of vintage photos of the Battle of the Flowers parade, the Texas Cavaliers, and past Rey Feos, carnivals, and Fiesta coronations.

A selection of traditional clothing articles, such as elaborate Fiesta hats and rebozos (scarves), will provide more photo opportunities during the event.

“We will have scarves from every state in Mexico,” Stevens said. “We wanted to educate people about the roots of some of the garments they associate with or buy during Fiesta. These scarves are multi-functional: women would wear them to carry babies, pots of water, or ears of corn. What started as a necessity became a fashion item. Rebozos are deeply rooted in Mexican, Texan, and Tejano culture and then made it into mainstream fashion. It’s good for people to know where they originally came from.”

Mariachi bands from Harlandale ISD middle schools and Burbank High School will provide the soundtrack for the Second Sunday, which is predominantly volunteer-driven.

About 10 seasoned volunteers will lead four hands-on crafting activities, so children can learn about the beloved artifacts associated with Fiesta and create some of their own to keep: crepe paper Fiesta flowers, papel picado, plastic easter egg maracas, and handmade foil art that mimics hammered tin art ubiquitous at mercados.

Stevens estimates that Second Sundays attract between 300 and 600 people on average.

“I anticipate this event being even bigger because people are getting primed for Fiesta,” he said. “It’ll be great because they will learn about the history before they enjoy the party.”

The Institute is always looking for dedicated volunteers to assist in their programming. Those interested in joining the ITC team may call (210) 458-2226 or email for more information. For the museum’s regular hours, click here. 

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Hanna Oberhofer

Before moving to San Antonio in 2004, Hanna was a competitive rhythmic gymnast in her native Austria. She earned degrees from St. Mary’s University and the Texas State Graduate College before joining...