Friday, November 26, 2010

Remembering the Alamo

Texas is a state with a long memory, and nowhere more than at the Alamo, But on a recent visit to San Antonio, I found that the story of the battle of the Alamo is getting a more nuanced and truthful treatment that takes into account Mexican perspectives.

As a child in the early 1960s, I worshipped Davy Crockett. With my coonskin hat and long rifle, I spent many hours reenacting my last stand. For me, Davy Crockett and his comrades died defending freedom against overwhelming odds. I could not imagine a more honorable death

The chapel at the Alamo, which I visited, maintains this narrative. But exhibits outside the chapel, and in the Alamo's Long Barracks, tell a more complicated story. They depict the Texan war of independence as a struggle between a centralizing government in newly independent Mexico and supporters of a federal system. The Texas war, in this version, was one of a number of rebellions against authority in Mexico City. Exhibits also recognize Tejanos who fought for Texas independence.

What gets lost in this, of course, is the fact that Texans from the USA wanted to establish slavery. Once that becomes part of the story, the Alamo becomes something less than a full-blown fight for freedom.

That doesn't make the Alamo any less worth visiting. I made a point of standing at the site of the low wall defended by Davy Crockett and boys from Tennessee. I also read a plaque bearing the words of commander William Barrett Travis' letter from the Alamo that concludes "Victory of death," an recalled how many times I was stirred as I read those words.

But what most heartened me was a guide who told visitors that the story of the Alamo was not a story of good guys and bad guys, but a story of politics written in shades of grey. I'll take that over the old version any day. And I'll make a point of reading some more Texas history


Anonymous said...

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