Bexar County is largely taken up by the city of San Antonio and surrounding suburbs. San Antonio itself is the county seat, and the present-day courthouse sits on what was one of the original municipal plazas; Military and Main, bisected by the present-day San Fernando Cathedral.
Although in Spanish, the name is pronounced “Be-har” or "Bay-har" the usual pronunciation is “bear”. (The 'X" in Bexar is silent.) San Antonio was established by the Spanish as the seat of the civil government in 1731, being in a relatively lush and well-watered location just below the line of the Balcones Escarpment – which marks a transition between the limestone uplands of the Hill Country and the lower coastal prairie and relatively arid deserts to the south-west.
Tourism and the military are the two stalwarts upholding the economy: San Antonio is the home of the Alamo – Texas’ most popular and renowned historical monument, and the Riverwalk – a stretch of landscaped river-bank, adorned with gardens, restaurants and ornamental bridges – which began as a flood-control measure in the heart of downtown. Presently the Riverwalk is extending by leaps and bounds, as far north as Breckenridge Park, and south to link up the series of Spanish missions. Sea World San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas also attracts large numbers of visitors to amusements, entertainment venues and water parks during the summer months.
The US military maintains three large bases in San Antonio: Lackland AFB – is the training center for all enlisted Air Force personnel, historic Randolph AFB, which supports a pilot training program and serves as headquarters for the Air Force’s military personnel center, and the Army’s Fort Sam Houston, which historically served as headquarters for the US Army in the southwest since the 1870s. Presently, Fort Sam is the main training school for military medical staff, and supports Brook Army Medical Center. If Fort Sam would ever be closed and the facilities revert to the city, the number of historic buildings administered by the municipality would immediately double.
Two well-traveled interstate highways cross within the county limits – the IH-10 which runs roughly east-west, and the IH-35 which runs north-south. The population of the metropolitan areas is estimated to be well over 2 million and growing, the third largest in Texas.
The Greater San Antonio/Bexar County area serves as headquarters for five Fortune 500 companies: Valero Energy Corporation, Tesoro, the insurance company USAA, media giant Clear Channel Communications, and NuStar Energy. Regional powerhouse grocery chain HEB, and internet web hosting company Rackspace also have their headquarters within San Antonio.