We drove from Austin to San Antonio to spend the night for two reasons – to shorten the drive to Laredo and the Mexican border and to visit the Alamo. We checked the Alamo off the bucket list this morning.
I’ve been excited by stories of the Old West since I saw the Brady Bunch episode where Bobby idolizes Jesse James as a hero only to have the grandson of one of his victims relate the story of how James shot his grandfather in the back as evidence that he was a lowdown, dirty, train-robbing, scoundrel. That did not have the desired effect on me, however, and I’ve always romanticized James and other Western characters like Cole Younger, Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, and Wyatt Earp, not as heroes necessarily, but I admired their grit under pressure, their ability to thrive in harsh living conditions, and the fact that they probably never changed their underwear.
The Alamo, being from that same general era of history, holds the same appeal for me. Now, I’m not going to go so far as to say that visiting the Alamo was a dream come true for me, but one of the first things I thought of when we planned our route to Mexico was going through San Antonio to see the Alamo. You could say I was pretty jacked about it. Yet, everyone I know who had ever seen it was, shall we say, less than impressed.
Well, I say, pistachios to them! While it is true that most of the compound that existed during the battle is buried under the asphalt and concrete of modern day San Antonio, the façade of the church, perhaps the most recognizable feature, remains intact. I don’t know if I would have been satisfied if that was the only thing I saw, but fortunately I don’t have to say because there was a shrine and museum attached – both free, otherwise we might not have gone in – so we got to see important artifacts like James Bowie’s knife and Davy Crockett’s hair brush (they both died at the Alamo) and get a history lesson that allowed us to rate the experience two thumbs up.
I’m going to condense three centuries of Alamo history into a few sentences, and - spoiler alert! – I am going to reveal the ending. The Mission San Antonio de Valero, the original structure on the Alamo site, was a church and out buildings built by the Spanish in the early 1700’s as a means to convert Indians to Catholicism and thereby increase Spanish rule. It was eventually abandoned as the Spanish lost influence in North America and then re-established in the early 1800’s as a strategic military outpost because the town it was situated near, San Antonio de Bexar, was a crossroads and center of commerce. It was referred to as the Alamo starting from this time in honor of the hometown of the Mexican cavalry that was garrisoned there and the name stuck. In Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico in 1835-36, which ironically was brought on in part by Mexico’s restriction on further immigration of U.S. citizens into Texas, it was the scene of a famous battle where the greatly outnumbered Texans who were defending the compound made the decision to stay and fight rather than surrender. They were all killed, but their bravery in electing certain death gave rise to the rallying cry “Remember the Alamo” which inspired an outnumbered army led by Sam Houston to defeat the Mexicans at San Jacinto just a short time later and secure an independent Texas – which was admitted to the Union as the 28th state in 1845.
Surprisingly, Coconut and J were relatively interested in all this because when we stayed in North Carolina a few weeks ago with a sister of a college friend, Frank the husband let us know that his ancestor had been killed at the Alamo. Having this connection made it more bearable for Coconut and J to go through the exhibits looking for his name and reading about what an honorable guy he was. It turns out that James Butler Bonham was one of four commanders and had snuck through the Mexican siege line at one point to get help. Upon learning no help would be coming, Bonham snuck back through the lines, which the other couriers that had been sent out did not do, to let his compatriots know that they were on their own. He died with them on March 6, 1836. One has to wonder why, if it was so easy to sneak through the Mexican lines, the whole army didn’t sneak out and attack the Mexican rear, but I’m not a military strategist so I guess it didn’t make sense at the time.
We didn't do anything else in San Antonio, except leave our iPad in the hotel lobby. After we reached Laredo and realized it was missing we called the hotel but it had not been turned in as lost and found. It's a bummer, but the only things that are irreplaceable on it are some photos that we took with the GoPro and potentially all of our personal banking information.