The Heart of Texas, The Alamo

While living in a place sprinkled with history may sound exciting and appealing to many people, actually appreciating the historical site that might be located across the street from where you live might require an extra second of consideration. The importance of historical events, historical constructions, or historical places might dwindle if you see them every day, but taking a spare moment to acknowledge them will make you feel a sense of wonder, humility, and appreciation. That is what the residents of San Antonio, Texas, experience every day as they walk past the most important historical site of Texas, also known as the heart of Texas, the Alamo.

Like many other historical cities, the city of San Antonio, Texas, began from one structure. One structure that had a mission and managed to attract people to the region. While in the old world in Europe, you might encounter fortresses that stood the test of centuries passing by, in Texas, there is the Alamo. Built May 1, 1718 by Father Antonio de Olivares, the Payaya, and the Pastia Indians, the Mission San Antonio de Valero, known today as the Alamo, is a historic Spanish mission and fortress compound meant to bring education and Christianity to the local American Indians.

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By 1793, Mision San Antonio de Valero was secularized, meaning that its purpose was cast aside, and the dissociation from religion took place. However, the structure remained. Decades went by, and history reshaped it, but the Alamo maintains its appeal for visitors from all over the country. From its stone front to the stories they whisper, this Shrine of Texas Liberty can share its story one more time. If you’re interested in living in the shadows of Texan history, go ahead and contact the local real estate agents in San Antonio TX. You might even discover some new things about the city from them.

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The Mission
At the start of the 18th century, the Spanish settlers and their government established several Roman Catholic missions in the Eastern side of Texas. As the distance between the missions was too large, the need for a waystation to simplify supply access resulted in the new mission, San Antonio de Valero, being built in 1718 near the San Antonio River. The leader of this mission was Father Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares, and it started with three to five converted American Indians from Mission San Francisco Solano. Close by, the governor of Spanish Texas founded San Antonio de Bexar, the first civilian community in Texas, the present-day city of San Antonio.

As the first settlement was considered a risk area for flooding, they moved the mission on the river’s west bank within a year. It expanded to 3 acres, and the permanent buildings were erected. The number of mission Indians grew to 300 by 1744, and the mission was self-sufficient with 2,000 head of cattle and 1,300 sheep. The farmland surrounding the mission was covered in crops of corn, beans, and cotton. Aside from the church that was never completed, around 30 adobe buildings were constructed for storerooms, workrooms, and residential quarters for the Indian residents.

The mission walls could withstand raids from Apache and Comanche attackers, and in 1745 around 100 mission Indians drove off 300 Apache raiders, saving the mission and the town from destruction. As a precaution and response to attacks on other missions, walls were built to enclose the convent, church, Indian homes, and cannons placed near the main gate. Because of their increased liability, the missions were stripped of their influence, Apache tribes stole the horses, and the Alamo lost its ability to support a large number of converts. With only 12 mission Indians left, by 1793, the mission was secularized.

The Battle
A nickname like the Alamo might make one wonder about its origins. Nowadays, the Alamo stands for the structure that began the foundation of the city of San Antonio, the original name is still used but it is less known. Still, the name actually started during the 19th century from either the Spanish word for cottonwood trees or from the “Alamo Company” of San Carlos de Parras. The source isn’t clear.

The Alamo saw the first conflicts during the Mexican War of Independence as Mexico fought to secure its independence from Spain. The regional struggles transformed parts of the mission in the political prison and hospital between 1806 and 1812. From 1821 to 1835, the Alamo was under Mexican control until the Texan Revolution came. According to historians, there was a siege at the San Antonio de Bexar that lasted nearly two months after which the garrison was surrendered by the Mexicans to the Texian forces. The victory was deceiving. While General Cos assumed command of 100 Texian and Tejano soldiers, he requested 200 more men from the Texian government, fearing the garrison might not withstand an attack. While the government denied the request and sent only 60 more men, fortification began, and cannons were installed to help defend the Alamo.

Mexican attack started with 1,500 men and the siege lasted for 13 days. The Texian army had limited chances of victory against such numbers. William Travis, co-commander of the Alamo, wrote a letter “To the People of Texas & All Americans around the World”, pleading for reinforcements under the patriotic vow “victory or death”. The result was that 300 men started the Alamo journey, but only 100 reached their destination. The Mexican reinforcements increased their numbers by 1,000. The courage to stand their ground and not cower in the face of such power, even if they knew that death awaited them, lives on to this day in the spirit of San Antonio. Almost all Texian defenders of the Alamo died in battle, and a third of the Mexican forces were killed.

While the Mexican President-General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna saw this victory as a tool to strike fear into the hearts of the Texian soldiers and assumed that it would end their resistance, the opposite happened. The Mexican army was defeated at San Jacinto Battle, and Santa Anna was captured, resulting in the retreat of the Mexican army and the end of the Texas Revolution. This year, the Fiesta San Antonio, the city’s biggest festival that commemorates the Battle of the Alamo was postponed due to COVID on June 17-27, having usually been planned during April.

The Legacy
After the Battle of the Alamo, views of Santa Anna alternated between the national hero who conquered the Alamo and the pariah. With his defeat and capture at the Battle of San Jacinto, disgrace followed his memory, with many Mexican accounts written by outspoken critics of the former President-General Santa Anna. Historical facts from the Battle of the Alamo were overshadowed in Mexican history by the importance of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

The Alamo remained known by the largely Tejano population for its decades of assistance as either a mission, a hospital, or a military post. However, the growing English-speaking population knew it best for the Battle of the Alamo. Determining which of the two sides had more reason and justification for their view is up to you. Still, the growing English-speaking population was heard, and the Alamo imagery of Texian resistance grew. This led to a discrepancy between the two people living in the area, Texians and Tejanos, a drawn line with long-lasting effects until the early 20th century. Social differences divided the inhabitants, and this could also be seen in Mexico. Newspapers were either glorifying Santa Anna as the “Illustrious General” with his “Invincible Army” until his defeat or questioning the Battle of the Alamo’s logic that came at a great cost.

In the United States, the Alamo was remembered and used as a parallel to the Vietnam War. Rationalizing the need to send more troops to Southeast Asia, US President Lyndon Johnson remarked, “Just like the Alamo, somebody damn well needed to go to their aid” when speaking of the soldiers already on the front who were struggling. The backlash came from the public and the media (newspapers), with New York Times underlining the need to remember the Alamo for the “gallant men [who] died needlessly … To persevere is folly. To dare to retreat from error can be the highest form of courage.” The Alamo was the foundation for many anti-war protests during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alamo inspired historians to write it down, directors to film it, and songwriters to sing it. Its legacy lives on through the books The Fall of the Alamo by Reuben Potter, The Alamo by John Myers Myers, the movies The Immortal Alamo by Gaston Melies (1911), The Alamo by John Wayne (1960), The Alamo by John Lee Hancock (2004) and several ballads like The Ballad of Davy Crockett by Tennessee Ernie Ford, The Ballad of the Alamo by Marty Robbins, or Remember the Alamo by Johnny Cash.

Conclusion
The cry “Remember the Alamo!” was heard first during the battle of San Jacinto when 800 Texans defeated the 1,500 men of the Mexican army. The same cry was revived during the Mexican-American War as the two armies fought during 1846-1848. The most exciting thing about history is that it allows us the time to see how lessons can be learned from it. However, the most important thing is not to forget history because then we are destined to repeat it.

The stories of the Alamo can still be felt, seen, and experienced in the city of San Antonio, Texas. Some might be known by many, some by few, and we are curious to learn more about what happened there. Many long-time residents, possible descendants of survivors of the battle, might have some uncovered histories to share, but you can try to learn more from them.

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Let us know in the comments section below if the history of a place influences your relocation decision. It might make a difference for some and none for others. We’re only asking because we know that this country was forged on the backbone of many small or large battles, and this was just one of them. This was the Heart and Shrine of Texas Liberty. Like & Share this article with friends and family as these little pieces of national history should be remembered and treasured by all.

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