Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Alamo, its protection, operation, and guidance


     When Texians gather to bloviate, opine, and and palaver....all of which are favoured pass-times for us.....the topic might turn to something like, "What is the most important place or site in the Republic of Texas?"    Responses can be as varied as the number of people sitting around the table or at the bar.   One might say, "the home", another "the beaches", one might even say something like his home-town's name, or the Astrodome.   After name a score of more of this place and that thing, someone will inevitably say, "The Alamo".  

     Everyone at the table or bar, or on the deck in the patio will quiet for a bit, and then agree.   The Alamo.

      There are relatively few people living in Texas who can say that their lineage dates from a time of the First Republic of Texas or before.  Most understandings, even of citizen Texians, about that time and the time of the Siege and final Battle of the Alamo, come from the Davy Crockett series of productions by Walt Disney, other movies including but not limited to John Wayne's fusion of  The Alamo and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.  Both movies had considerable fact and impressive casts and colour, but each also made detours and convenience stops on the way to the place that would actually permit a totally true image of the circumstances.

    We have stated many times on this fountain of information and commentary that both overall commanders of the theatre of action by the Texian  and Mexican Centralists would have been tried before a military court for dereliction during any saner time.   It was a case where both sides, if fully committed to their respective offence and defence, would necessarily lose that battle.  The only question to resolve would be, who would win the final battle later.

     Our issue here concerns another battle.   It is one that has brewed for scores of years and it involves the deportment of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and their stewardship of the building, grounds, and operation of all things directly pertinent to The Alamo.  To be sure, it has been a difficult task, requiring considerable acts that would challenge even the most competent high-wire performance artiste.  Crossing the Niagara Falls cataract would probably be simpler.

    (1)   For instance, The Alamo is not a movie prop.  It is a mission chapel of Roman Catholic missionary orders who established a string of small to medium sized churches and plantations in and around an outpost known as San Antonio, fairly late in the Spanish Colonial period.   It was designed to attract what can only be described as primitive Indians who were caught between very superior military and cultural Indian nations...to the north, the Comanche, certain Apaches, Kiowa and Kickapoo raiders....to the east by Caddos and related types of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Alabamas, Creek,  all of whom were accomplished and strong in war and agriculture and internal cultural complexity.  To the south there had been an array of advanced MesoAmerican ''Indians'' over the millennia, among them the Huastec, Tarascan, Totonac, Nahua (Aztecs), Mexica, Otomi, Tlaxcala, and others who regarded the Indians of that area that would in these days be known as "Texas" as inferiors and essentially sub-human.
     The friars strove, with varying degrees of success and failure, to educate and instructive and guide the Indians from around-and-about what was San Antonio de Valero.   Incessant Indians raids, chiefly from the north, seemed to always set all or most efforts back every few years.   But, at their finest and during their best hours and days, El Alamo and the Mision de San Jose rose to true Spanish and Roman Catholic grandeur.
    One of the "lesser" problems is that it is known that both pre-Spanish and post-Spanish arrival, there were many interments of native peoples in and around the place generally associated with the plantation zone of the Alamo.
   Massive, quality crops, animals, irrigation, mills, fibres of many kinds, Indians with two grades of school...or more....and elegant structures marked various cultural and economic high-water marks in an area that the Spanish Court had to consider what we would equate with a colony on Venus or Saturn's moons during these days.
     These things all are fed into the "computer archive" of reality concerning this fabled place.   And, of course, we have another huge elephant in the parlour when it must be considered that The Alamo was and will remain forever, Christian Holy Ground.

     (2)    It is an historical place.  For all the things that went on before the famous battle, it is historical.  For the events of November through the first week of March of 1835 - 1836 it is famously historical.  And its legacy as a football in the game of high-stakes tourism, cultural preservation, sociological egocentrism, has been involved in a minimum of five to ten per cent, directly or indirectly, of everything that has made politics and cultural issues percolate in San Antonio since shortly after the War Between the States.
     Angling for position at the very centre of the second largest metroplex in the Republic now, are all new and continuing commercial interests.  One needs to consider, for instance, that the Alamo Dome, where the San Antonio Spurs play, can be reached by a not too distant 20-minute walk (with comfortable shoes) from The Alamo.   HemisFair Plaza, La Villita commercial district, and all nature of business and accommodation is within the same walking distance.

     Mistakes have been made and successes have been achieved with reference to the space, time, and application of activities and resources in the centre of San Antonio.   But, festering just out of sight, during the past two or three generations, has been the discord and disagreement concerning the handling and administration of the physical, abstract, literary, and legal use rights  of the property and existence of "The Alamo".
     Much of the "sticking in the craw" has been a perceived difficulty in dealing with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.   As stewards of the property, by deference and Legislative Act of the Legislature of the State of Texas (Congress of the Republic of Texas) the ladies have done considerable work and improvement of the physical plant and good order of the Alamo.  The problem is that they have been perceived by some as becoming increasingly high-handed and hermetic in their operations.
     There is all manner of disagreement about the handling of important documents and accounts of the events.   Rumours and complaints arise, some frivolous and selfish, others that raise legitimate question according to respected observers, about favouritism and unjustifiable selectivity concerning historical interpretation, access to documents, and matters that are very serious...in no wise petty....about substantial administrative issues concerning the state of affairs to-day.    We defer from participating or commenting further so as to not mislead and so as to avoid being dragged into court.
     The fact remains that State of Texas, its Legislature and Governor, acting through the good offices of appropriate authority, the Land Commissioner of the State, have decided to re-assume ownership and control of the overall operations of The Alamo.  It is my estimation that the overwhelming majority of Texians....both of the ancient and studied order and those who have come later....are in favour of this action.  A powerful group of philanthropists / business people with a long history of doing things in the great and general good of the Republic of Texas, along with the good order of the Republic will make a good thing better.   It will become more involved in the deep academics of the issue of what was and is The Alamo, and the Sanctity of the Place and those who have lived and died at and about it will be protected.

     I endorse the assumption of The Alamo by the Texas Land Commission, although it is my recommendation to oppose at all costs any further allowance of the dedication of The Alamo and all of the Spanish Colonial Missions and structures...to the category of UNESCO World Heritage site.

El Gringo Viejo