Remembering the Alamo

Recently, while on a theological convention trip to San Antonio, Texas, I revisited the Alamo, the nearly 300 years-old mission site where on March 6, 1836, about two hundred Texas patriots fought to the death to try to preserve their newly-proclaimed independence from Mexico.

While touring the new museum housed in the very building where the last of the defenders died, I was struck by the irony of the explanation of what had led to this fatal showdown.  Mexico had already won its independence from Spain but the sparse Spanish settlements and frequent clashes with the French in east Texas had left the territory with few occupants. So Mexico first encouraged Americans to move into Texas, which they quickly began to do. All these new settlers had to do was to renounce the US citizenship, swear allegiance to Mexico, and become Catholics — apparently a small price to pay for all the free land.

But the Mexican plan quickly backfired.  So overwhelming was the immigration of Americans and other assorted European immigrants that the population of Texas was soon over 80% non-Hispanic and the Mexican government reacted by trying to shut down all immigration into Texas — except of course by Mexicans heading north.  The "Tejanos" as they were called themselves — even though there was no requirement that they all learn Spanish, quickly rebelled.  They declared their independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836 and within four days they were facing General Santa Anna's overwhelming force.  However, just about six weeks later, on April 21, 1836, General Sam Houston routed Santa Anna's troops at the battle along San Jacinto river and Texas became an independent republic, not joining the United States until 1845.

All this quick-moving history should make us think twice about whose rights are being threatened by immigration.  The first inhabitants of the area were the Tejas tribe from whom came the name "Texas" and members of other tribes of Native Americans. The first European colonists were French, but were quickly replaced by Spanish. The first non-native inhabitants of the San Antonio area, after the Franciscan missionaries, came not from Mexico, but directly from the Canary Islands. The family of one of San Antonio's most prominent early business men and politician-patriots was from Corsica, Napolean Bonaparte's homeland.  The next largest ethnic group to move into San Antonio were Germans, at whose 135 years-old parish church, where I stayed for four days, is only about 350 yards from the Alamo. The remains of the heroes of the Alamo, including Davy Crockett, William Travis, and Jim Bowie, are all enshrined in the vestibule of the 275 years-old San Fernando Cathedral a few blocks away, where both Spanish and English are equally the languages of worship.  There are even other towns in Texas where the traditional language, especially in church, has been Polish and Czech.

So my advice to those who are up tight about uncontrolled immigration is that they journey down to San Antonio and the Alamo and think twice. Yes, I know that Texas is "a whole different country" — as some of their tourist brochures openly proclaim.  But it is also a mirror of our whole nation, a nation of immigrants.  Stop immigration, as the Mexicans tried to do in Texas, and you stop America from being American. Just remember the Alamo.

R W Kropf  6/13/06                                                    

Alamo.mss  550 words  06-06-13.html