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Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Just a Thought" Column continues in La Prensa of SA, 3-16

Just a Thought: Remember the Alamo
By Steve Walker

The first time I remember visiting the Alamo was in 1956 when my family moved here from Dallas. As a 10-year-old 5th grader recently enrolled at St. Gregory’s Catholic School in Balcones Heights, we had been here a whole week when it happened. We were ecstatic when my parents took my then 4 younger brothers and me to see the historic shrine. My fifth younger brother was privileged to be born in San Antonio In 1959.

Since my fellow classmates had already learned about the Alamo since 3rd grade I had a lot of catching up to do. Unfortunately we moved again in 1960 up north and I didn’t get the opportunity to take a course in high school on Texas History.

Texas History reminds us of the famous Battle of the Alamo that was fought in 1836 from February 23rd to March 6th.  Texas students in particular are taught in school that it was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution.

March 2nd we celebrated the official State Holiday for Texas Independence.  On that day the Texas Declaration of Independence document was signed by 59 people. Settlers officially broke from Mexico creating the Republic of Texas. The Battle of the Alamo was a significant part of that history which led to the signing of that document.

It now appears we have a modern day siege on the Alamo with a controversy between the state and local officials over the possible transfer of the oversight of the national shrine to the state. Local control would be forfeited and the up keep of the symbol of Texas pride would be under the jurisdiction of the state. That is fodder for another column for another day.

The Alamo began as the San Antonio de Valero, a Spanish Mission, in the early 1700’s, one of the first in Texas. The establishment of this mission played a crucial role in the settlement of San Antonio, and the Southwest.

Historically in 19th-century Texas, the Alamo complex gradually was touted as a battle site rather than a former mission. We know the Texas Legislature purchased the land and buildings in the early part of the 20th century and designated the Alamo chapel as an official Texas State Shrine.

The Alamo is now "the most popular tourist site in Texas." Thousands come every year just to see the Alamo. The Alamo has obviously been the subject of numerous non-fiction works beginning in 1843.

Most Americans, however, are more familiar with the myths and legends spread by many of the movie and television adaptations including the 1950s Disney miniseries Davy Crockett and actor John Wayne’s 1960 film “The Alamo.” I saw John Wayne’s movie in Massachusetts months after I moved from San Antonio.

In the early nineties when I taught in Harlandale ISD a number of the elementary teachers took their students on a field trip to visit the Alamo. Unfortunately I was teaching high school in other subjects even though I volunteered more than once to be a chaperone.

I would point out in terms of ethnicity among the Texian defenders, 13 were native-born Texians, with 11 of these 13 being of Mexican descent. The rest of the Alamo defenders consisted of 41 men born in Europe, two Jews, two blacks, and the remainder were Americans from states other than Texas.

Today the Alamo hosts living presentations and tours the 1st Saturday of each month from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Finally don’t forget the Letter written by Colonel William B. Travis while under siege, to the people of Texas on display as well.

And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”  

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

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