We arrived in San Antonio in the pouring rain for one reason only – to see The Alamo. I can still remember watching the Walt Disney mini-series called “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier” which aired in the late 1950’s – amongst boys my age it was hugely popular and at one time, I even owned a ‘genuine’ coon skin cap ! Back then, television watching was an event, with the whole family set in front of our black and white Hallicrafters TV each Sunday, watching good old Walt introduce whatever was going to be featured that week. In the Walt Disney series, the scene that still sticks in my mind after all these years is the closing where the stockade is being over run and the sound track with that idiot, but cheerful song comes on, and Davy Crockett battles away as the scene fades and the credits start to roll. At the time of course, I was too young to appreciate that very nearly everyone including Davy Crockett died, or even why they were there in the first place, but it made a big impression on me. As we were in the area I wanted to see the actual location where the event had taken place.
Native Texans (referred to as Texians) , and many Americans hold The Alamo in a very special place – the phrase “Remember The Alamo” still is used to rally Americans – but I have to admit that for me it was actually a bit of a disappointment. What I had understood since childhood to be “The Alamo” building actually is just the small chapel, which admittedly was the location of the final moments of the battle, but which once occupied only one corner of the complex. Most of the fort isn’t there any more having been paved and built over during the past 170 odd years.
History is generally written by the victors, and for this area of the USA this is most certainly true. If you take a squinty-eyed look at the history of that period in time, one could argue that essentially it was a case of American settlers ultimately being successful in doing an illegal land grab from what was a legitimate government. In some respects I suppose it wasn’t too much different from American attempts to invade/annex parts of Canada (war of 1812, 1837 raids along the St. Lawrence, etc.). The main difference was that in the north, the Americans lost, but in the south they won – at least they did back then. Now as you travel in the southern parts of the USA it is interesting to see that Spanish speaking folks seem to predominate in many areas, to the point that English is almost a second language. Many hotel, industry and agricultural support staff do not even speak understandable English, leading me to wonder if what was lost by force of arms may ultimately be won via the cradle, but I digress.
The Alamo site is maintained by a group called ‘The Daughters of The Republic” and it is now regarded as an official state shrine. As such, when you enter the chapel you are directed to remove your hat and not take any photos – inside the chapel people tend to talk in whispers amid an attitude of reverence and (almost) awe as you walk the “hallowed” ground. Naturally as many of the locals still carry firearms just in case the government gets out of hand, one complies with this behaviour !