Monday, March 6, 2023

Remember the Alamo!, maybe

The Battle for the Alamo ended 187 years ago today.  Following a thirteen day siege, the Mexican army under President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo mission.  Most of the occupants and fighters within the mission were killed.

"Remember the Alamo!" 

The battle cry of the Texians in the Battle of San Jacinto would become an unofficial motto of the state, propelling the site into the public consciousness and to perhaps a loftier position that it deserves.  Within weeks of the battle, it was even compared to the Battle of Thermopylae in the Greco-Persian Wars.  Like many things, the myth is more understood than the reality.  And that myth has a tangled history.

The myth often ignores and downplays the contributions of the native Tejano population in the defense of the Alamo and their contributions to the broader Texas Independence movement.  It downplays the problematic underpinnings of Texas Independence, started in part as opposition to Mexican policies regarding the abolition of slavery and the curtailing of immigration from the United States to Texas.  It overplays the certain death the defenders of the Alamo felt, as there was initial hope for support coming to aid them.  It creates dramatic lines in the sand that never existed.

As such, your perception of the Alamo depends on your background.  Especially because the myth is popular.

"There can be little doubt that most Americans have probably formed many of their opinions on what occurred at the Alamo not from books, but from the various movies made about the battle."  

Films certainly have done much to continue to perpetuate the myth of the Alamo.  Films of the Alamo date as far back as 1911 with The Immoral Alamo by George Melies.  And this spirit continued in the Davy Crockett television show (all myth) and the 1960 John Wayne The Alamo, which have continued to present the battle as the ultimate heroic sacrifice.  "There is not a single scene in The Alamo [1960] which corresponds to a historically verifiable event."  Meanwhile, the more character driven and historically accurate 2004 film, The Alamo, while praised by critics for its accuracy, bombed at the box office.

So, here's my plea for you today. Please, do remember the Alamo.  We don't need to go as far as the call of "Forget the Alamo" that was written in opinion columns a few years ago.

Instead, let's just remember it completely.  Let's understand all of the complexities of the battle.  All of the actors, all of the contributors.  

Let's enrich our understanding of history, not just continue to perpetuate myth and legend.

Because the truth is so much more interesting.

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