I am in San Antonio, Texas for a conference, and walked over to the Alamo yesterday afternoon, only about 2 blocks from my hotel. The first surprise is that it is right in the very heart of San Antonio. The second surprise was all the touristy things that have been allowed to grow up right beside it: Ripley’s, a wax works, the Buckhorn Saloon, etc. The third surprise was that it was free, and the fourth that the people here consider it a shrine, and ask for the same consideration you would give when visiting a church.
The Alamo Mission dates back to 1744 and is a World Heritage Site. It was crowded with people on this warm September afternoon. I expect we all know the story – we saw the movie at some time in our lives – but what I didn’t know, or didn’t remember was that there was great importance in holding this part of Texas in the war between Mexico and the United States in 1836. Mexico claimed what is now California, New Mexico, Arizona, and most of Texas. They had originally encouraged settlers from the United States, and then realized their mistake too late. The settlers wanted to be part of the USA, not a part of Mexico. And even though the Alamo was lost, it became the symbol and rallying cry of the Texas army, which eventually led to Mexico ceding all that territory to the USA. “Remember the Alamo” is an important part of our history as a nation.
As for San Antonio itself, in 1691 a group of Spanish explorers came upon an Indian settlement on the banks of a river. They named it San Antonio River in honor or St. Anthony. The actual founding of the city was in 1718, making it one of the oldest Spanish settlements in North America. As I said above, the Mexican government encouraged settlers from the USA, which led to the Battle of the Alamo and the Mexican-American War. It was not until 1845 that Texas became a state.