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4   from private visions to public culture the making of the alamo The Alamo is the most visited site in the state of Texas. As a place dedicated to the brave men who fought and died within its walls, this shrine remembers the “Battle of the Alamo” between “Texans” and “Mexicans” in 1836. However, unlike Gettysburg, the Alamo did not become a site of public culture soon after the battle. Instead, the physical structures of this former Spanish mission, already in ruins at the time of the battle, were used as a grain facility for the U.S. Quartermaster’s Depot, as a supply store, and as a saloon, to name several of its purposes after 1836. It was not until the late 1890s that two women, Adina De Zavala and Clara Driscoll, collaborated to preserve the Alamo and then disputed quite openly over their different visions of how to save it as a site of public history and culture. Recent studies concerning the formation of places of public culture, especially locations connected to power, identity, and community, have received critical attention in anthropology (Friedman 1992; Karp and Lavine 1991; Karp, Kreamer, and Lavine 1992; Lass 1988). These efforts explore the dynamic and processual relations between the past and its objectification in the present. And, when these reproductions concern the making and establishment of national, regional, or cultural identities,alongwiththeirconcomitantasymmetriesofpower, as does the Alamo, it behooves us to explore and understand the social processes and conditions that transform private visions into public places. 61 04-T2008 2/25/02 11:44 AM Page 61 Sites like the Alamo emerge from specific sociohistorical conditions, andtheneedtouncovertheinitialimpulsesanddesiresthatinfluencetheir making is critical for understanding how places of public culture reproduce partial visions of the past. How, then, do we map the coordinates of placesofpubliccultureinwaysthatrevealthesocialtracesoftheirmaking? Because these traces are not readily evident—they are repressed and embedded in the politically volatile work of public history and culture— whereandhowdowedetecttheunspokenandunformulatedprovocations that shape the formation and establishment of places of cultural memory like the Alamo? The response I propose in this chapter is twofold. First, because the Alamo is produced as a place of history in history, any attempt to understand the contemporary evocations of this place must consider these antecedent concerns. Therefore, I examine the writings of Clara Driscoll and Adina De Zavala as a means of detecting the unspoken motivations these womenhaveconcerningthesignificanceoftheAlamoanditsplaceinturnof -the-century South Texas. I read Driscoll’s and De Zavala’s narratives for traces of the social processes and conflicts occurring in Texas and in which the making of the Alamo as a public place is a critical factor. It is no coincidence that during this time of social and economic transformation these two women focus on the Alamo as a means of publicly representing modern-day Texas. Juxtaposing Driscoll’s and De Zavala’s efforts at cultural preservation and their literary writings on the subject allows me to explore how and why their private visions inform their efforts of making the Alamo a public place. Second, I have argued thus far that the Alamo operates as a multiply in- flected sign that serves the social, political, and economic interests of the dominant Anglo population. But such service on the part of the Alamo must also be rendered personally, working on the practical lives of individuals as they make their way through the social maze of early modern San Antonio. For reasons that will become clear, De Zavala serves my interpretive needs in this capacity as well. Not only is she instrumental in the effort to preserve the Alamo, but her mixed ethnic ancestry, Mexican and Irish on her father’s side and Irish on her mother’s, and her strong allegiance to the memory of her grandfather, Lorenzo de Zavala, who served as Mexico’s ambassador to France and the first unofficial vice president of the Texas republic, allows us to witness the turmoil and contradictions between the Alamo as a sign and the life as lived. I do not wish to imply that allMexicansof DeZavala’sgenerationexperiencedtheshrineof theAlamo as she did; hers was a unique conjuncture of biography and history. But I The Alamo as Place 62 04-T2008 2/25/02 11:44 AM Page 62 am suggesting that the emergence of the Alamo in the early 1900s serves a social meaning negotiated at the subjective level. The original mission complex of the Alamo consisted of a church, a convento, a granary, workshops, storerooms, and housing...

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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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