Trinity University Press

Chili Queens, Hay Wagons, and Fandangos

The Spanish Plazas in Frontier San Antonio

Lewis F. Fisher (author)

Snapshots of a more colorful time in San Antonio history

As San Antonio's frontier era was ending in the 1870s and 1880s, Military Plaza was a vivid outdoor market. By night it was a crowded dining venue where storied chili queens dished out spicy meals and saloons and fandango halls pulsed nearby. A cathedral dating from 1738 faced Main Plaza, where Apache chieftains and Spaniards had long ago buried a hatchet, a lance, six arrows, and a horse to signify peace. On Alamo Plaza, a demonstration of how barbed wire constrained a herd of cattle changed the course of the American West.

Plazas were the heart of San Antonio since its earliest days on the remote northern frontier of New Spain. Not until a railroad was built in 1877, providing easy access to the rest of the nation, did San Antonio experience the rapid growth that made it more like cities elsewhere.

Chili Queens, Hay Wagons, and Fandangos displays more than 100 rarely seen images of San Antonio, bringing to life the frontier era of one of America's unique cities, seen through its Spanish plazas. Colorful iconic paintings and drawings are mixed with nineteenth-century photographic stereoviews and cabinet cards.


  • Winner of San Antonio Conservation Society 2015 Publication Award


“The greatest strength of the book is the rarely seen photographs and artwork that bring the plazas to life. Fisher illustrates the book with views of the plazas and their people, as seen through the lenses of the scores of photographers who chronicled life in frontier San Antonio, as well as paintings by fine artists such as Theodore Gentilz and folk artists such as Charles Herff, whose eyewitness watercolor of the desperado Bob Augustine's hanging from a chinaberry tree in Military Plaza in 1861 is fascinating.”

San Antonio Express-News

Chili Queens, Hay Wagons, and Fandangos cover
  • Price: $26.95 buy »
  • Pages: 120
  • Size: 10 X 10
  • Published: Dec 2013
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595346728
  • Price: $38.95 buy »
  • Pages: 112
  • Size: 10 X 10
  • Published: Dec 2010
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595346711


Texas, Food / Cooking, History, Hispanic