I grew up in Texas in the 1950s, learning what every young man learned then – that football is proof of God’s grace and that only white people defended the Alamo.
Rarely was it put that baldly. But in movies and TV shows about the Alamo, as well has commentary from adults, the 180 heroic Texan defenders were white and the enemy, who died in well-deserved droves, were Mexican. When kids played Alamo, nobody, not even the Latino kids, wanted to be the Mexicans army.
To my shame, I did not know until I returned to Texas after five years exile in Oklahoma that native-born tejanos were instigators and actively engaged in the revolt against Mexico and that ninedied in the Alamo March 6, 1836.
Now comes a report in the Dallas Morning News that we can forget that part of the Alamo.
Seems the Texas Board of Education (oh, the irony of that name) decided that Texas school history books will not include the tejanos’ sacrifice. This, of course, is the same board that ruled Thomas Jefferson would also be jettisoned from statewide texts, while adding such conservative heroes as Phyllis Schafly and Newt Gingrich.
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, official custodians of the Alamo, have caught righteous hell for decades for their adherence to an Alamo myth that fed belief in Anglo supremacy. The focus on honor and sacrifice of the defenders of Anglo-Saxon heritage spoke to the tenor of the times and the ancestry of the Daughters.
Time finally caught up with the Daughters. After decades of resistance to acknowledge the contributions and blood sacrifice of tejano defenders, the Daughters energetically opened up the historical and cultural reality of the Alamo. They hired a historian and expanded on the Alamo story to include its beginnings as a Spanish mission and the native Indian tribes who helped build it. And gave some prominence to the seven tejanos who died there.
The names Juan Abamillo, Juan A. Badillo, Carlos Espalier, Gregorio Esparza, Antonio Fuentes, Toribio Losoya, and Andrés Nava are proudly inscribed in the list of defenders displayed on the Alamo’s website.
You just won’t find those names in future Texas school books.
And that is just wrong. The Alamo became a symbol for the cost of duty and honor even as the smoke cleared from the battle. Newspapers in New York and London reported the battle. Poems were written and the meaning of the symbol evolved over time. But the story is bigger than Texas and bigger than the feverish reactionaries on the State Board of Education.
If we loose the full story, the richer story, than all of us are poorer for it. And shame on Texans for letting it stand.