The Fall of the Alamo by Robert Jenkins Onderdon (1903)
Today marks 181 years since a group of mostly newcomers to Texas fought against the Mexican government in an effort to secede from the Mexican nation. From this battle came the cry that has reverberated across time, "Remember the Alamo!" I shuddered when I looked on Twitter today and saw that #RememberTheAlamo was trending. Along with the predictable tweets about Texians fighting for freedom (we know they were fighting for slavery in reality) and the bravery of the men fighting Mexican troops is another more insidious message, one that Tejanos and Mexican Americans understand well.
In a land that was ours, Euro-Americans crossed the border illegally by the thousands and then fought to take Tejas from us in order to create a society based on the work of enslaved people. Yet somehow, the true history has been reversed in the minds of many.
In this version of history, we become the foreigners. It is no wonder that Tejano Juan Seguin, from a long-established, large land-owning family who had initially welcomed the foreigners, wrote that he has become a "foreigner in his own land."
Another message revolves around the number of Mexicans needed to defeat "Texans." The so-called "Texans" at the Alamo were newcomers who had played no part in building Tejas. Many were adventurers, certainly not seeking freedom for anyone.
The Mexican army was weakened by lack of rations, snow and hypothermia, and the fact that many were forced into the army and were untrained.
When I taught Texas history at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the 1990s, I made regular visits to the Alamo to listen to what people said. I often heard tourists say something like Kathleen above. Somehow, in this skewed version of history the "illegals" (the white Americans) became the heroes while the Tejanos who had lived here for generations become the "illegals."
It is no wonder that generations of Mexican American children growing up in Texas were traumatized by the way history has been distorted.
"Remember the Alamo" was and is simply a motto to promote racism. Today, I will remember the Alamo and the takeover by foreigners from the United States who brought slavery, racism, and violence.