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Cordova argues that the Alamo myth ignores the lived experiences and systemic oppression of the more than 10 million Hispanic Texans — who, after all, represent 39 percent of the state and 52 percent of all public school students. The Alamo myth has been retold in every way imaginable, from glorifying Westerns starring the likes of John Wayne and Billy Bob Thornton to downright racist, Birth of a Nation -esque films such as Martyrs of the Alamo. The Mexicans were tyrants and murderers and whatever else they were charged with.
The 33 works that fill the walls include paintings, photos, a film, flags and sculptures. Founder Felipe Reyes painted what became the first work of the current exhibition. Reyes, born in San Antonio in , witnessed the rise of the influential labor union, joined the Raza Unida party and ultimately created the arts collective to fill the void he saw in Mexican-American cultural representation.
Other works were commissioned for the exhibition.
Together, they paint the full picture of what the Alamo myth has done to the perception of Mexican Americans — which Cordova said would be incomplete without representing the struggles faced by the current generation, prominently on display in the last room of the exhibition.
In a painting by Con Safo member Jose Esquivel, DACA recipients are suspended in the sky amid a sea of clouds, their arms outstretched like Christ the Redeemer — their state of limbo an on-the-nose representation of their experience not fully belonging in either Mexico or the United States. Alamo was visited in the years after the siege, and represented in paintings, illustrations, and photographs.
Deconstructing Mexican History – The Alamo
The first photograph to be taken in Texas is an daguerreotype of the Alamo, now in the custody of the Center for American History in Austin, Texas. In the early s, visitors could choose from paid guided tours at the Alamo mission, as well as buy souvenirs made out of stone from the " true walls" of the fortress Schoelwer, In some entrepreneurs built a monument from stone from the Alamo and unsuccessfully tried to sell it to the Texas government. A few years later they took the monuments on exhibition tours charging 25 cents per person Nelson, ; Schoelwer, In , the municipality was paying a custodian to " protect the building from mischievous or vandal hands and to show visitors through it, explaining the many points of interest.
Later, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the new custodians, started charging 25 cents, but discontinued the fee after a while. Tourism at the Alamo was also sustained by tourism in San Antonio, a popular winter resort at that time. A letter from a reader to a local newspaper speaks of the desire to see San Antonio in line with other great American cities and Denver is given as an example and the slums in certain districts disappear.
The colonial architecture C although in much worse physical shape than the new buildings C was not ignored at all. Most of the missions in and around San Antonio were prominently featured, with Alamo in the spotlight. Up until the s, the brochures would include not only pictures of the Alamo, but also detailed and vivid textual descriptions of the siege and its legends, sometimes on as many as four pages. Of course, the publishing styles of the time were dense in text and rich in illustrations, amazed at the recent advances in printing technology that made photographic reproduction possible and printing cheaper.
But, this also suggests that the period was a time of intense cultural production, when loose meanings and possible interpretations could be channeled towards dominant themes, favored by the larger historical context. As the time moved by, the references to the Alamo tended to become more and more iconographic. In the s and s, often times no information was offered about the siege or the history of the mission, just one very recognizable picture. The image that came to be known as " the shot "C the bell-shaped facade C appeared in every brochure, usually on the cover or the first page, sometimes even without a caption.
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The information that was presented as well as its rhetoric were not necessarily intentional neither isolated in the American cultural landscape of the time, beginning with the s. San Antonio was being positioned, through tourism and its texts, within the larger American nation and its contemporary search for identity. Earlier tourism in the United States, and here I am referring to the first half of the nineteenth century, tended to reflect C in style and destinations C European tastes of the time, mostly paralleling the role of English landscape in painting and literature.
New England and Connecticut seemed to be the preferred destinations Brown, ; Sears, Mid s and a new focus on the frontier in economy and politics brought to attention the majestic nature of the continent, very different from that in Europe and on the East Coast. Everything was at a much larger scale C the giant trees, the giant mountains, the giant waterfalls C and many tourists from the East came to admire them.
It was more than just discovery, it was purposeful visits to well-established destinations, organized into packaged tours by touring companies Sears, Educated Americans desperately wished to meet European standards of culture and, at the same time, to develop a distinctive national image. Tourist attractions are a feature of all modern societies. Sears, 4.
At the same time, and marking in writing the thinking of the time, Frederick Jackson Turner was proposing "American exceptionalism" as a way to think about the U. Driven by the move towards the West, pushing the frontier, America was different, distinctive, it was gaining its own character. It was the end of the nineteenth century, from s on, when the world witnessed a switch in economic and political domination. United States became the leader not only in technological innovation, but also in industrial production. Both as ideology and direct causes, industrialization, technical progress, modernization replaced the fascination with the gigantic American version of nature in defining the American character.
Tourism overall C in number of visitors and spending C grew in the years that followed, fueled mainly by an exploding network of roads and railways, growing income and leisure time among certain segments of the population Wilson, Also, starting with the s, more and more tourists moved their attention to the great, modern American cities, very different in character and look from the urban destinations of Europe.
If tourism is part of the "process of self inscription, indigenous self-documentation, and endlessly reflexive stimulation" Dorst, 24 that the culture of capitalism has known since its beginning, then tourism was for San Antonio a way to define its character and its place in the nation.
Through tourism, San Antonio was taking part in this process, of building a modern nation, and it made sense to promote itself within a system of meaning that was dominant at that time. By understanding the present-time San Antonio as modern, the local was transcended, and reconstructed as national commodity Cocks, At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the discourse of modernity took over the way the city was presented to its visitors C both tourists and possible investors.
The cry was born as a proclamation of strength, but what makes a simple building such a powerful and historic place? Originally a Spanish mission site, the Alamo, near what is present-day San Antonio, Texas, was repurposed as a military garrison in the early s. It was first occupied by Spanish and then Mexican soldiers. Its importance as a military settlement and proximity to San Antonio drew the attention of Texian forces during the Texas Revolution.
But, of course, battles have been fought across the United States, so what makes the Alamo — and the Battle of the Alamo, fought as part of that revolution — different? Wikimedia Commons A depiction of the Alamo, drawn in In the centuries before the battle, the Alamo had served as a Catholic mission, working to convert local Native Americans to Catholicism.
Built around as a mission complex by the Spanish government, the Alamo was not just a single building but a group of them that spanned three acres and surrounded a central courtyard. In the complex was a seminary for the priests, a chapel, barracks for missionaries and their families and a textile workshop. After several years, following the Christianization of the local tribes, the mission was abandoned. Run-ins with local, less than welcoming tribes combined with a harsh government had drained the mission of its wealth and resources.
Though most locals were uninterested in the adobe buildings, the once-ornate Alamo complex served as a tourism site for visitors for several decades. After Mexico gained independence in , the Alamo complex shifted from Spanish control to Mexican control. Colonel James C. Neill stepped up and assumed command of the men who had been left behind. Together, they formed the army that would oppose the Mexican Army in a siege that would last 13 days. Panicked, he wrote to the Texian government and requested more men to help him defend the compound.
Travis arrived in early February with reinforcements, including frontiersman and politician Davy Crockett. While the extra men were welcomed immediately and put to good use, it is estimated that there were only between to men holding the garrison at any point during the war. Sam Houston, the commander of the Texian army, believed that it was too risky for the men to remain at the fort due to the insufficient number of reinforcements, and wanted them to abandon the post.