Thursday, March 06, 2008

Remembering the Alamo in Historical Geopolitical Context

One hundred seventy-two years ago today, forces under Mexican dictator Santa Ana seized control of the Alamo Mission. Today the battle is viewed as a key event in the Texan Revolution. While true, it played a small role in the greater contemporary geopolitic of Mexico and the United States.

In 1823 the Mexican government invited Americans to move into Mexican Texas if they accepted Mexican citizenship, converted to Catholicism, spoke Spanish, and freed any slaves under their possession. Texas at that time (under the constitution of 1824) was part of the state Coahuila y Tejas. When Santa Ana established a dictatorship in 1835 and changed the federal republic to a centralized one under his authority the state of Coahuila y Tejas went into rebellion along with other parts of northern Mexico. In late 1835 a provisional government was formed in Texas to oppose the central Mexican government while staying true to the 1824 Constitution. They also supported slavery, remain Protestant, and the ability to conduct government in English.

Texas was ripe for war. 30,000 Anglos or simply “Texans” (Texans of American origin) and 15,000 Tejanos (Texans of Mexican origin) were torn between the 1824 constitution or the more radical choice of independence. A few quick Texan victories in late 1835 scared Santa Ana so much that the full force of his army was brought down upon the rebellion.

The Battle of the Alamo itself began started February 23, 1836. Before the end of the battle on March 6, Texas declared independence as the only way to “preserve the liberties” originally promised by the Mexican government. While mostly signed by “Texans” a few Tejanos also signed the declaration. The first (interm) vice-president was a Tejano named Lorenzo de Zavala.

The Alamo fell, Texas won its independence, and the republic then state became part of the vernacular American South. Most “Texans” were from the American South and made sure that the land was made in their image.

With the success of the rebellion and a few years of development other Mexican states rebelled against Santa Ana. In 1840 the Republic of the Rio Grande was established and crushed. In the 1840s the Republic of the Yucatan was established and temporally fought off Mexican reconquering attempts. The rebellion inspired the native Maya to launch their own war against the Hispanos of the Yucatan. The Indians nearly won and the United States was promised by the republic that if it would put down the Maya that the republic would recognize American annexation. Congress failed to act and the republic accepted reunion with Mexico in exchange for military aide.

The Alamo itself remained a rally cry for both Tejanos and “Texans.” Legal tussels were fought over how it should be restored (the now day “look” of the curved top of the Alamo is much different than the original Spanish mission look – the Catholic and Spanish design was abandoned for a more “American look”).

Today; however, the Alamo is becoming a battle again. The influx of Hispanos from Mexico with no ties to the pro-revolution Tejanos see the Alamo as a symbol of Anglo imperialism against Mexico. The controversy is being played out in Texas history textbooks and even in soccer where the Major League Soccer team Houston 1836 renamed itself the Houston Dynamo after Hispano activists launched protests.

Remember the Alamo.

1 comment:

Adrian said...

re: the Houston 1836 thing, I know some New Englanders were planning on having a banner with the 1836 crossed out, saying "Houston 1865" instead. Name change ruined our fun.