(săn ăntō'nēō, Әntōn'), city (1990 pop. 935,933), seat of Bexar co., S central Tex., at the source of the San Antonio River; inc. 1837. The third largest city in Texas, it is one of the nation's largest military centers; Fort Sam Houston and the Air Force Aerospace Medical Center are in the city, and nearby are Lackland and Randolph air force bases, both training command centers, and Brooks Air Force Base, an aerospace medical headquarters. San Antonio is also the industrial, commercial, and financial center of a large agricultural area. Its manufactures include textiles and apparel, computerized mapping equipment, processed foods, motor vehicles, air conditioners, aircraft parts, and beer. Tourism is an important industry as well. The tree-lined river meandering through the downtown, the huge Mexican quarter, the Franciscan missions, and the warm climate attract thousands of tourists annually. In the late 20th cent. San Antonio was one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities. Its outlying suburban area developed significantly in the same period.
Points of interest include the Alamo; La Villita, the reconstruction of a 250-year-old Spanish-speaking settlement; the Spanish governor's palace (c.1749); the Paseo del Río, a downtown river walk; the Hertzberg Circus Collection; and numerous old homes. The Hemisfair Plaza, site of the 1968 world's fair, contains the Institute of Texan Cultures and the 750-ft (229-m) Tower of the Americas. A new central library designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta opened in 1995. Among San Antonio's educational institutions are Trinity Univ., St. Mary's Univ., Univ. of the Incarnate Word, Our Lady of the Lake Univ., and the Univ. of Texas at San Antonio. The Southwest Research Institute is notable for its research into the technical problems of the region. The city has artists' colonies, an art institute, and numerous museums including the San Antonio Museum of Art. It is also home to the Spurs (National Basketball Association).
The city's site had been visited by the Spanish long before the expedition under Martín de Alarcón founded a mission (San Antonio de Valero) and a presidio (San Antonio de Béjar or Béxar) there in 1718. Other missions were opened along the river—San José (1719), Concepción (1731), San Francisco de la Espada (1731), and San Juan Capistrano (1731)—and the neighboring town of San Fernando (now the heart of San Antonio) was founded in 1731. San Antonio was the most important Texas settlement in Spanish and Mexican days. During the Texas Revolution it was captured by the Texans (Dec., 1835) and was the scene of the Mexican attack on the Alamo in Mar., 1836. Later a group of Comanche were killed (1840) in the “council house fight,” and in 1842, San Antonio was taken and held briefly by Mexicans. After the Civil War and especially after the coming of the first railroad in 1877, San Antonio prospered as a roaring cow town with a Spanish flavor, which it still retains.