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News

‘Si, San Antonio: Our Favorite Places, People, and Things at Christmas’

December 17, 2020 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper

Topics: Archbishop, In the Press, Breaking News


‘Si, San Antonio: Our Favorite Places, People, and Things at Christmas’

There’s something magical about San Antonio at Christmastime, when historic sites break out in holiday decor and trees and buildings sparkle with dazzling lights. Capturing this special season in a book of striking photographs are two resident San Antonians -- author Patricia Hart McMillan and photographer/graphic designer Natalia King-Sun.

Their coffee table book, Si, San Antonio: Our Favorite Places, People, and Things at Christmas, is receiving international distribution, but being managed sale-wise locally and regionally, by Marco Barros, retired CEO of the San Antonio Tourism Council, who assisted in determining and arranging photo sites and subjects.

This is not McMillan’s “first rodeo.” Si, San Antonio is her 22nd book involving interior design/architecture, and she has degrees in English literature, art history and interior design. Originally from Missouri, she lived and worked in New York City for 25 years, doing editorial work in home decorating for such publications as Ladies Home Journal, House Beautiful, USA Today, Parade and the New York Times. For five years, she headed her own public relations firm, with clients that included Nelson Rockefeller and Oleg Cassini.

She and her husband later spent a decade in Florida before deciding it was “time to go home,” home being Texas, where her mother and other family members were then living. A West Point classmate of his suggested San Antonio, and they fell in love with the city on their first visit and bought a home in 2007.

Si, San Antonio is McMillan’s second book with local flavor. She and photographer King-Sun previously teamed up for a one on homes decorated for Christmas, Christmas by Design, which featured eight San Antonio residences.

Of their new book, McMillan notes, “People who read this book and read about the city will have their knowledge and awareness of its origin firmly impressed again, in case they didn’t know it or had forgotten it.” The city, she relates, has not forgotten its beginnings and that cultural influence remains.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, in the book’s foreword, harkens back to its founding by Fray Antonio de Olivares, and San Fernando Cathedral and its Christmas Eve Mass is one of the book’s featured sites. Others include the River Walk, Guenther House, Mi Tierra, The Pearl and Morgan’s Wonderland, to name a few.

Christmas is a season especially dear to McMillan. She remembers chastising the editor of House Beautiful for what was becoming the “fashionable” trend of dropping Christmas features and was glad to see this changing. When her first Christmas book came out, she dedicated it and those that followed “to Jesus Christ, whose birthday we are celebrating.”

Natalia King-Sun, a native of Latvia, spent nearly 20 years in South Florida before moving six years ago to San Antonio, where her husband had a business. A commercial photographer, she holds a bachelor’s degree in art history and master’s degree in education from the Daugavpils Pedagogical University in Latvia and a degree in graphic design from the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Si, San Antonio is her third book with McMillan and she calls it a labor of love. “It gives us an opportunity to give back to the city with our talents,” she says, “and doing what we love to tell the story of the city we live in.”

It was a year and a half in the making, with photography taking place from late November of 2019 through the first week of January. “I was shooting almost daily,” recalls King-Sun, “and we still covered only a fraction of what we wanted.” Of 19,000 images shot, only about 100 of the best went into the book.

Every shoot was one-of-a-kind, she notes, but most memorable for her was the Alamo, where living history re-enactors wore period costumes and she met and photographed Bella, the Alamo cat. At the San Antonio Zoo, she delighted in photographing Santa Claus helping a mother and daughter feed a flamingo. (McMillan and King-Sun concurred on using shots featuring people to emphasize the city’s joyful dynamics, and locals may recognize some familiar faces.)

King-Sun came away from shooting San Antonio with a greater knowledge of historical facts and inside stories of the various sites. “I basically fell in love with San Antonio in a new way because of the things I’ve learned,” she says.

They received much help from the community. “It really took a village for this book to happen,” she notes. “It’s not just the work of two people, it’s the work of probably 200 people, of everybody who came together and the effort they took to tell the story with us.” And the timing of this pictorial story of San Antonio’s 2019 Christmas could not have been better.

“When we photographed the book last year,” King-Sun explains, “we had no idea the world was about to change.” Due to COVID-19, this will be a very different Christmas, with social distancing and the limiting of gatherings and events.

McMillan and King-Sun hope these photos of San Antonians enjoying last Christmas together will bring hope. “We can all be armchair travelers this year,” King-Sun adds. “We can visit San Antonio through the pages and remember the good times and also anticipate the good times in the future.”

They have held several local book signings to benefit charitable causes and are available to schedule more through the third week in December. Contact Marco Barros at [email protected] or (210) 771-7134.

“Sí, San Antonio: Our Favorite Places, People, and Things at Christmas;” by Patricia Hart McMillan and Natalia King-Sun; Schiffer Publishing; 2020; hard cover; 160 pp.; $34.99.