May 9, 2017
Ghosts of the Alamo
We love Texas, from the vast emptiness of West Texas, to the beauty of the hill country, to the humid marshlands of the east. The people of Texas can be stubborn when the situation calls for it, but they can also be kind. Right is right and wrong is wrong and there is not a lot of confusion about which is which. Not in Texas.
Nowhere is that clearer than at the most holy of holy places in the state – the Alamo, located in the middle of downtown San Antonio. The Alamo is where William Travis, Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and a small band of Texans met their fate at the hands of the Mexican army under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The date was March 6, 1836.
There is truth, and then there is the legend. And sometimes the second is more important than the first. What we know for sure is that the Texians were outnumbered about 10 to one, that Santa Anna issued an order to take no prisoners, that the Texians fought to the last man, that Davy Crockett died on the ramparts, swinging his rifle like a club before being overwhelmed by the Mexican soldiers, and that Bowie almost certainly died in his sick bed, armed with pistols and the Bowie knife that he had designed.
The bloody battle was meant by Mexico to quell any idea of resistance from the remaining Texas population, but it had the exact opposite effect. “Remember the Alamo” became both the rallying cry for Texans in their efforts to separate from Mexico and a reminder for the generations to come of the independent spirit of the state.
Today the Alamo seems small, almost insignificant, in comparison to the hotel and office towers of downtown San Antonio. It has become both a legend and a tourist trap. There are self-guided tours with rented headsets, a gift shop full of “Remember the Alamo” souvenirs, and a grassy, shady plaza leading up to the entry. City streets near the Alamo bear the names of the heroes – Travis, Crockett, and Bowie. You can stand at the corner of Crockett and Bowie and almost hear the gunfire pounding and the men screaming.
The river that ran near the old Alamo mission is still there, but it has long-since been channelized and developed into the Riverwalk – a popular dining and drinking venue lined with restaurants, bars, and tourist shops that meanders through the downtown area.
The brave men who died at the Alamo – on both sides of the battle – are long gone. The battle ground where they fought and died is a busy cityscape of skyscrapers and crowded shops. Like the little mission itself, the men who fought there have faded into legend.
Once they were actual flawed and heroic human beings, caught up in a bloody and historic encounter. Now they are mere memories – glorified and deified shadows of themselves.
– George Lee Cunningham
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