The Alamo Cenotaph….
These pictures were taken in 1972 and commemorate the work of political pranksters that made a statement by tagging the Alamo Cenotaph, a monument to the “heroes” of the Alamo, with the eagle symbol, the huelga (farm worker’s strike) eagle, as we called it, used by the United Farm Workers union of California and a potent symbol of the Chicano political movement prevalent in San Antonio at the time.
Recent events have made these photographs relevant after almost half a century. An ambitious plan is underway to re-imagine the Alamo area to reflect the story of the mythical “battle” (massacre, actually) and the origins of the Republic of Texas. A plan to relocate the Cenotaph outside the perimeter of the historic Alamo compound stirred up ill feelings and led to a halt of the plans, though they have picked up momentum again, but without the relocation of the Cenotaph. It remains to be seen if the true story prevails.
The Alamo itself is spectacularly mischaracterized as a symbol of freedom. It is no secret that part of what used to be Mexico was a handy piece of real estate that could, if taken by force, expand the Confederacy with one more slavery-allowing state….the founding of Texas was all about slavery and that will forever taint its origin story. The scheme led all the way up to President Andrew Jackson, better known as an exterminator of Native Americans. Texas has been in denial about this but that erodes year by year. Under pressure, only a couple of years ago, a plaque denying that slavery had any part in the founding of Texas was removed from the Texas Capitol. Currently, a bill in the 2021 session of the Texas legislature effectively limits the discussion of race’s role in this country’s and Texas’s history.
It is a stretch to think of a land-grab for the purpose of creating one more “slave” state as having anything to do with freedom. The Alamo Cenotaph props up the myth of the Alamo’s “noble” defenders when in fact, they were fighting for the right to own human beings and totally ignores the true cause behind it. In fairness, Texas’s history is no messier than our whole country’s history and for that matter, the history of so many other countries. The way to put that behind us is to admit the truth and teach it in our schools and stop perpetuating myths. Don’t get me going about the Texas Rangers….
The Alamo Cenotaph deserves removal, not relocation and a good place for it would be where all Civil War statuary is ending up these days.
The pranksters continued to tag the huelga eagle all over the west side of San Antonio but with a different affirmative context. “Viva La Raza” the huelga eagle seemed to be shouting….