Are We Remembering the Alamo for the Right Reasons?

The Alamo, the “Shrine of Texas Liberty,” was a San Antonio mission-turned-fortress caught in an 1836 battle against the Mexicans. The party line, and a lot of the truth, is that Texas was declaring independence from Mexico. Remember that Texas wasn’t yet a United state; and given overpopulation of Americans in the territory, Mexico abolished the colonists’ rights as Mexican citizens to stem the flow of white people into their land (ironic, isn’t it?). The response: Upheaval and a declaration of independence. One of the rights that was abolished, and is kept hush hush, was slavery. Mexico ended the era of slavery in their own country and the Texan colonists didn’t like that the law was applied to them.

And then came war, and with it the battle cry “Remember the Alamo!” But are we remembering it for the right reasons?

Alamo

What Were We Doing in Texas?

Texas had a low population, and Spain and Mexico welcomed colonists to bring income. They lured white people with cheap land–and lots of it.

The American Congress passed the land act in 1820 that no longer allowed land to be bought on credit. Folks now had to pay $1.25 in gold or silver per acre, with a minimum of 80 acres. By comparison, Texas land was available for 12.5 cents an acre–and on credit. Within ten years there were 30,000 Americans living in Texas. I think it’s endearing and naive that they had to provide character references in order to move to Texas.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Turns out Mexico wasn’t all that happy with this rapid influx–it outnumbered Mexicans 10:1. Ooopsie. So the Mexican government closed the territory to American immigration, and established forts to strengthen their presence. Same thing as today; only different.

Americans living in the territory had their rights revoked as Mexican citizens, and were now subject to Mexican law, which included no slaves. “Almost a quarter of the original American settlers in Texas owned slaves. When the Mexican government abolished the practice, Texans viewed it as yet another infringement on their liberty” (source: a website whose name I neglected to write down).

Recall that the issue in the Civil War was not whether to have slavery in the North and South, but whether to expand to the West with slave labor. This would define fortunes to be made–and slave labor meant even more money could be earned.

In 1836, Texas declared independence from Mexico. (Again, it’s like the same story but a different time–2012 succession, anyone?)

Why the Alamo Was Critical to Defending Texas

Alamo

The Mexican government wasn’t having this petulant behavior. You declare independence? Fine. We’ll declare your right into a time out. With cannons and fire power.

The Alamo was situated across the river from San Antonio. If it fell, so did a key city and many settlements. “Victory or Death”–and for many it was the latter. 200 Texans–with no reinforcements coming–fought to defend the Alamo against 1,000 Mexican soldiers. They were unsuccessful.

And yet…this led to the Republic of Texas. which in turn led to the Mexican-American War, which brought about the establishment of Texas as a State in 1845 and Mexico ceding the land that became New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California. That’s a lot of history crammed into just a few lines. But alas, this post is about the Alamo, not everything.

Alamo Lore and Famous Characters

Jim Bowie was a respected knife fighter and his prowess led to the Bowie knife named for him. It’s a smaller butcher knife, with features that aid in wounding and killing and inflicting pain. We don’t need to read about those–I already did and want to curl into the fetal position and think about butterflies and unicorns.

Davey (Davey) Crockett was also at the Alamo. While the man had skills, his greatest was in exaggeration, which, candidly, is why we know more about him than we really should. He served two terms in Congress representing Tennessee, and after some rift said, “You can all go to Hell; I’m going to Texas.” He died defending the Alamo. I wonder if he was wearing a coon hat?

Remembering the Alamo

Remember the A la Mode

So…the Alamo is remembered as the bastion of defending Texas rights. That’s a good thing.  But politics took out references to slavery–high school textbooks in Texas were actually banned for mentioning it. Not such a good thing. History is the whole story–the good, bad, and the ugly.

***

What do you think of the removal of slavery from the Alamo’s lore?

Do you know of other omissions in pop-culture’s understanding of history–for any event.

4 Responses

12.28.12

Very educational and witty. I love “remeber the a la mode” – this is one of my top blog entries. Thank you.

El Jefe…. one of your tops?! Thanks so much!

You know how Austin’s motto is “Keeping it weird”? I’m thinking that maybe it should be the official motto for the entire state. (I read RedState.com to keep myself from becoming complacent and I can assure you that Texans feel the same way about blue staters.)

I was not aware that the issue of slavery was one of the motivating forces behind Texans’ determination to secede from Mexico even though I know the Alamo came up at some point during my studies of American History. However, my most important takeaway from your Alamo post is that when I’m curled up in the fetal position, I should think about butterflies and unicorns. (Palm slap to forehead. Why didn’t I think of that!?!)

Best wishes for a healthy and contented 2013 from Philly—or rather, from me–in Philly. Where will you be for New Years Day? We’ll be at the Mummers Parade.
Just One Boomer (Suzanne) recently posted..The Overseas Highway to Key West, FloridaMy Profile

Suzanne – so glad I could help with the fetal position protocol. And thanks for introducing me the Mummers Parade – sounds awesome! I’ll be at a blues bar in rural TX. Should be, umm, interesting.

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