TEXANA READS: Authors dispute Alamo 'myth,' seek to revise history

Dr. Manuel Flores
Texana Reads

What’s all this malarkey about “Forget the Alamo?”

The Alamo is the shrine of Texas liberty, an inspirational historical icon that catapulted Texas into national and worldwide prominence.

I’m of that certain age that I wore a coonskin cap, a la Davy Crockett, when I was young.  I remember my relatives talking about the importance of the Alamo in our family. Why, I was certain that one of my relatives fought not only at the Alamo but at San Jacinto. By the time I was 7, I was sold. The Alamo was part of my family lore. I was a proud Mexican American, Tejano to be exact, with ties to the cradle of Texas liberty. The pride I felt was infectious and my other friends, Tejano kids mostly, joined me. But I wondered why my mom and dad smiled and even laughed at me while I played being Davy Crockett?

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Then, it happened. In the seventh grade my teacher, a nun from the Order of the Sacred Heart, told my class that the Mexicans were the enemy at the Alamo and that we had killed all the Texas soldiers, including Davy Crockett.

Wait, my ancestors killed Davy Crockett, Travis, Bowie and all those heroic and valiant soldiers?

As I was prone to do, even as a youngster, I argued.

“No! we were there. We fought against Santa Anna!” the Mexican general that led charge at the Alamo in 1836, I proclaimed loudly.

Most of my classmates and Sister Grace laughed.

Perhaps they were right.

Now comes a book that helps explain the dichotomy of the Alamo and, in particular, how it affects the Mexican American,  the Tejano. In “Forget the Alamo – The Rise and Fall of an American Myth,” the authors want to tell the “real” story of the Alamo and the development of Texas as the Lone Star State.

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It’s not pretty.

“Forget the Alamo” is a provocative and controversial read that will anger some as they review the history and anger others, different people, who are against having the true story of the Alamo surface.

The book repudiates much of the folklore attributed to the Alamo and its heroes – the trinity of Crockett, Bowie and Travis. Why, these people were racist and slave owners and scoundrels and just happened to be caught in a middle of an uprising they had no choice but to become a part of and fight, the authors say.

Davy Crockett did not die swinging his musket --  “Ol’ Betsy” -- at the approaching Mexican soldiers. He surrendered and was executed.

Wait, that’s not what the movie showed, right?

The authors make it clear, just as my elder family members had taught me when I was a youngster donning my coonskin cap, the Tejanos were there and had a much larger role than history has given them credit for in books and historical data.

The “Myth of the Alamo” is a lie and Texas schoolchildren have been lied to since books were adopted to teach students in junior high and high school, the authors claim. Sadly, authoritative and historical texts used at the university level also continued that lie. The contributions of State Board of Education member Mary Helen Berlanga to tell the truth about Texas History are praised by the authors. Berlanga did not succeed, but fought valiantly.

First, the struggle against Mexico was not to overcome the dictatorship of Santa Anna. Instead, it was a plan for the Untied States to add another “slave state”  to the union. That worked.

Truth is, the real story of the Alamo has been forgotten. Instead, we have the “Heroic Anglo Narrative” overwhelming the contributions of Tejanos who fought alongside the Anglo rebels. The real story has been erased from the history books. Neither is the narrative that Mexico had abolished slavery told.  The authors claim that, historically, the Alamo became an echo of the Jim Crow South, and it has survived only because the myth persists.

Now come the revisionists – wanting to tell the “true” story of the Alamo. As the authors reveal as they explain what the City of San Antonio is battling now as it aims to make the site a world-class museum that covers all aspects of the development of the Alamo, it won’t happen. The Alamo myth is too strong and too inspirational to be replaced by the truth. Coonskin caps are still sold online and at every store in the “Alamo City.”

So, “Remember the Alamo!” It is part of our history, as ugly as it may be, but it resonates with freedom and all that it means being a Texan, to many.

Little Manuel Flores would not argue. Educated Manuel Flores, however, knows the truth.

About the book

“Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth”

By Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford

Penguin Press, New York, N.Y.  (2021)

ISBN: 978-1-9848-8009-3

HC - 405 pages

Available at: amazon.com – Kindle - $13.99, HC - $29.99. Similar prices at other websites and also available at all major bookstores

About the authors

Bryan Burrough is the author of seven books and is currently a special correspondent for “Vanity Fair.” His books include “Days of Rage,” “The Big Rich,” “Public Enemies” and “Barbarians at the Gate.”

Chris Tomlinson is a columnist for the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News and author of the New York Times bestselling “Tomlinson Hill,” about this family’s slaveholding history in Texas. From 1995 to 2007 he reported from more than 30 countries and nine wars for the Associated Press.

Jason Stanford is a writer and former communications director for the mayor of Austin. As a political consultant, Stanford has helped re-elect at least 30 members of Congress.

Texana Reads

This weekly column focuses on new and old books about Texas or related to Texas. It includes fiction and nonfiction books, reports on political and sports books as well as cultural or historical works. The common thread among these books is their relationship to Texas, specifically South Texas.

For suggestions on topics or books, email manuelf78407@yahoo.com.

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