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2   history, memory-place, and silence the public construction of the past Twenty-seven years after my initial visit I return to the Alamo, sitting in a small, low-ceilinged room, facing a large monitor, waiting for the film to begin. The renovated stone room, what is known as the convento, or long barracks, grows dark as the “officially authorized” story of this place begins. “In 1691 an exploratory expedition chanced on the precise spot where the modern city of San Antonio now stands,” claims the narrator. The film is provided free of charge to all tourists and visitors, by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.1 After a few more chronological notes about Spanish and French explorers, the early history of the Alamo, initially the mission of San Antonio de Valero, begins. The role of the early Franciscan missionaries in Christianizing and civilizing the native population and the subsequent abandonment of the mission, in 1793, when Mexico’s secularization laws took effect , is recalled. The year is now 1835, and the Mexican general Martín Perfecto de Cós, charged with protecting the province of Tejas from Anglo-American unrest, is defeated at the siege of Béxar, now San Antonio. After being captured, he and his soldiers are sent south of the Rio Grande. Sam Houston takes charge of the Texas forces and after Cós’s defeat orders Col. Jim Bowie to destroy the Alamo lest it become occupied and fortified by Mexican forces. But Bowie, according to the narrative, becomes “fascinated” with the old mission and declares that he “would rather die in these 15 02-T2008 2/25/02 11:41 AM Page 15 ditches than to give them up to the enemy.” He refuses to destroy the fortress.2 Soon, Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis and Bowie assume joint command of the Alamo and are joined by David Crockett and his dozen or so volunteers from Tennessee. There are about one hundred fifty men in the Alamo, few of whom are trained soldiers. The majority are from outside Texas, a number from Europe. “They had come to aid the revolution.” The only outside help the defenders receive are thirty-two men from Gonzalez , Texas, who believed that “[t]his was the place and this was the hour to stand opposed to tyranny.” On February 22, “governed by the ruthless will of the dictator, Santa Anna’s cavalry arrived” in Béxar. On arrival, Santa Anna orders the men in the Alamo to surrender. Unwilling to do so, Travis answers with a cannon shot aimed at the Mexican forces. “One hundred fifty valiant volunteers against the dictator’s trained brigades. The siege had begun.” The men at the Alamo begin the battle alone. The help they request is not delivered, as the battle continues. Bowie, sick and bedridden, passes the full command of the Alamo forces to Travis. After twelve days of fighting , on the morning of March 6, Santa Anna sounds the deguello, the Mexican bugle melody that announces “no prisoners will be taken, no quarter will be given.” As the Mexicans begin their attack, Travis gives the order, “The Mexicans are upon us. Give them hell!” The Texans fight bravely, pushing back two assaults on the Alamo. The third assault breaks the Texans’ forces and the Mexicans soon reach the inner fortress of the old mission. Travis falls holding his sword, Crockett dies fighting in the plaza, and Bowie, still bedridden, fights with his pistol and knife in his hand. All the defenders are killed. ThebattleoftheAlamowasnotinvain,forSantaAnna’sarmyistattered and needs weeks to recuperate from its victory. Less than six weeks later, Sam Houston’s army defeats Santa Anna’s forces at San Jacinto, screaming , “Remember the Alamo! The Alamo! The Alamo! The Alamo!”   This film provides visitors with the most extensive portrayal of the 1836 battle available at the Alamo.3 The drt provides a pamphlet titled “The Story of the Alamo: Thirteen Fateful Days in 1836,” but it is less than two pages long and offers only a summary. The presentation of the past at the Alamo merits special attention since “the powerful grip of collective cultural memory,” as Michael Frisch (1989:1155) writes, must be differentiThe Alamo as Place 16 02-T2008 2/25/02 11:41 AM Page 16 ated from “real people and the processes of history.” Or, as Trouillot (1995:2) suggests, we must distinguish between the past as process, or “what happened,” and the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780292796478
Related ISBN
9780292725393
MARC Record
OCLC
191662170
Pages
216
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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