Remember the Alamo …

I’m in San Antonio this weekend after a quick business trip to Denver at the end of the week. We almost ended up stranded in Dallas thanks to a snowstorm yesterday, but the snows abated, we were moved to a new flight and we arrived here 4 hours later than planned.

That left enough time to go over to the Alamo. I’ve been to San Antonio several times and love the city, but I’d never seen the Alamo. It was pretty cool, but I really wasn’t awed by it. And I can’t put my finger on why. The grounds are really nice, and walking amid the cactus and live oak and pecan was really the highlight of the visit. There’s just something too, well, propagandistic about the whole thing. But I guess that’s half the fun of preserving shrines like this. I felt the same way in Puebla when I visited the fort where the Mexican army held off French invaders in what is now celebrated on Cinco de Mayo. The flags, monuments, cannons and jingoism are a little spooky to me. I started thinking about the death threats one historian was receiving when he posited that Davey Crockett really was executed after pleading for his life rather than dying valiantly in battle. People really get freaked out about this stuff, especially when you start questioning the legends they worship.

Overall, it definitely was worth a visit, especially if you can flash back to the battle and wonder what was running through the minds of the fighters on both sides. I read Stephen Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo a few years ago and thought it did a great job of presenting all sides of the conflict in highly readable historical fiction. That’s worth checking out.

Now it’s time to toss Dr. Atkins under the bus and gorge on Mexican food …

5 replies on “Remember the Alamo …”

  1. My favorite sight at the Alamo: The Alamo fudge for sale in the gift shop. What on earth does fudge have to do with a band of rag-tag white squatters who trespassed on Mexican territory and then got shot for refusing to leave when the owners told them to get out?

    Ozzy Osbourne had the right idea when he peed on a wall at the Alamo back in the 1980s. He was arrested and charged with defacing a state shrine.

  2. Give ’em hell, Leanne. I have to admit, Ozzy ran through my mind as I toured the Alamo. Apparently, when the police picked him up he was wearing a dress and couldn’t really explain why. Gotta love it.

    But I do think it was more complex than noble Mexicans trying to evict rag-tag squatters. That’s almost as much of a caricature as the Texians’ version of events.

    The Harrigan book does a good job of showing the aburdity that was rampant on both sides of the Rio Grande/Bravos …

  3. Oh, I know I’m simplifying. But when faced with the fudge, the coonskin caps and the declarations of God as ally to the white man that are all part of the Alamo myth, I want to embrace an opposite and equally absurb version of history just to irk the Texans. Can the population of an entire state be clinically narcissistic? When I am in Texas, I believe it can.

  4. I visited the Alamo as an 18-year-old Airman just finishing basic training.

    I’m glad I did it, but I can’t say it left a lasting impression. Visiting the Vietnam Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial was much more meaningful. Even any one of the dozen or so visits I’ve made to various California missions has left a deeper impression on me. I know the Alamo is big in Texas, but I’m not sure it is that significant otherwise. Except that it gave us a great all-purpose catch phrase.

    Of course, my impressions may be colored a good deal by Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

  5. Damn. How could I have forgotten Pee Wee. That’s one of my favorite films, especially the scene in the biker bar. I didn’t even think to look for the Alamo’s basement … maybe next time.

    As for the Vietnam memorial, I know what you mean. It’s the most effective, appropriate monument I’ve ever seen. How can you go there and not fight back tears?

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