This coming Thursday, March 2 we celebrate the official State Holiday for Texas Independence. On that day, 59 people signed the Texas Declaration of Independence document. 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.
Texas History reminds us of the famous “Battle of the Alamo” that was fought in 1836 from Feb. 23 to March 6. Texas students, in particular, are taught in school that it was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution.
The first time I remember visiting the Alamo was in 1956 when my family moved here from Dallas. We were here one whole week when we drove down to the plaza to see it. I remember how excited I got at the time thinking about the chance to walk through the Alamo and see all the historical treasures. Over the years, I have re-visited it many times.
As a 10-year-old fifth grader, who was recently enrolled at St. Gregory’s Catholic School in Balcones Heights, I was ecstatic when my parents took my then four younger brothers and me to see the historic shrine. My fifth younger brother Sam was privileged to be born in San Antonio in 1959.
Since my fellow classmates had already learned about the Alamo since third 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. What a tragedy.
The Alamo began as the San Antonio de Valero, a Spanish mission, in the early 1700s, one of the first in Texas. The establishment of this mission played a crucial role in the settlement of San Antonio and the Southwest. Those of you fortunate to have lived here all your life grew up already knowing that. I came to it much later.
I later learned that 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.” Tourists from all over the United States and other countries as well, swarm to the Alamo and then leisurely stroll down the River Walk and check out other tourist sites in the city. The Alamo has obviously been the subject of numerous non-fiction works beginning in 1843.
Most Americans from elsewhere, 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 Wayne’s movie in Massachusetts months after I moved from San Antonio.
In the early 90s when I taught in Harlandale ISD, a number of the elementary teachers took their students on a field trip every year to visit the Alamo. I volunteered more than once to be a chaperone. Unfortunately, I was never picked since I taught high school.
I would point out in terms of ethnicity among the Texan defenders, 13 were native-born Texans, 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 still hosts living presentations and tours on an ongoing basis. Finally, don’t forget the letter written by Colonel William B. Travis while under siege to the people of Texas on display. And, of course, “Remember the Alamo!!”
And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.