Friday Friends – The Alamo, Well Remembered

Friday –This 2012 Spur Award winning article, “The Alamo, Well Remembered” comes to us from Paul Andrew Huton writes this great nonfiction short story on the Alamo.

It began in 1718 as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, just east of the San Antonio River on the northernmost frontier of New Spain. It was another 40 years before workers began construction of its famed church, and they never completed its domed roof. Still, it was a formidable structure, harking back to the Old World and sprawling across nearly 4 acres. From the beginning the stout mission served as a fort, offering protection to the Franciscan fathers and their native converts from hostile tribes to the north, east and west. In 1793 it ceased to serve as a mission and became a parish church. In 1802 a Spanish cavalry company from the Mexican town of San José y Santiago del Alamo de Parras occupied the post. Local residents called the troopers the Alamo Company, and the mission-turned-fort became known simply as the Alamo.

Its power over the American imagination derives from a 13-day siege that culminated on March 6, 1836, in the annihilation of some 200 Texian rebels by a far superior Mexican army under the command of General Antonio López de Santa Anna, self-styled “Napoléon of the West” and president of the Mexican Republic (whose liberal constitution he had overthrown). Among the dead were legendary American frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. From the ashes of their funeral pyre rose a legend of heroic defiance that rallied the Texians (as Texans were then known) to defeat Santa Anna and win their independence and then, a decade later, to join with the United States in liberating the present-day Southwest and California from Mexican misrule. It is no exaggeration to see the Battle of the Alamo as the pivotal historical moment leading to the fulfillment of America’s continental destiny. Little wonder it is still remembered on its 175th anniversary.

Mission, fortress, ruin, army storage depot, mercantile warehouse, contested historic site, shrine of Texas liberty and flashpoint in the postmodern culture war for America’s soul, the Alamo has served many masters. Thus a name enshrined in our collective national memory has been celebrated by generations of poets, painters, novelists and filmmakers, abused by a stunning array of political groups on both the right and the left, exploited as a sales pitch by fast food, rental car, dog food, real estate, railway, cigarette, beer and banking companies and made the focal point for both history and propaganda.

While most Americans embrace the Alamo as part of our national story—ranking it alongside Lexington, New Orleans, Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor and D-Day among a handful of instantly recognizable and symbolically powerful clashes from our past—it is even more vital to Texans as a creation myth. Texans have long embraced a rather exceptional nativistic vision of themselves as distinct from the rest of America. Ten years as an independent republic encouraged that mindset, but the story of the Alamo is even more central to it. Meet someone from Dallas, Houston or Lubbock in a London bar and ask where he is from, and the answer will invariably be “Texas.” Ask the same of someone from Atlanta, Peoria, Seattle or anywhere else in the Lower 48, and the answer will usually be “the United States.”

Read the rest of this great article here.

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