I first visited Texas and San Antonio in 1979 when I was a sportscaster covering the Spurs in the playoffs. Upon arrival, I immediately went to the Alamo. I have loved the heroic Alamo story since I was a kid wearing a Davy Crockett coonskin hat. I fell in love with Texas on that visit, and a few months later, I was hired by a Houston TV station. I could never have imagined one day I would be lieutenant governor and in the middle of a fight to save the history of the Alamo.
I want San Antonio to think even bigger and partner with the state to create a huge historic district — like the Boston Freedom Trail — to tell its many stories.
But since the Texas Historical Commission voted last month not to move the Alamo Cenotaph, the future of the Alamo redevelopment project could be in doubt if certain issues are not addressed. If the Alamo is not rebuilt to re-create the fort as it existed in 1836 to tell the story of the battle, if a world-class visitors center is not built and if millions of visitors don’t come to San Antonio to see what can be the finest historical site in America, it will be the fault of one member of the San Antonio City Council and a few others who want to erase history.
City Councilman Roberto Treviño, chair of the Alamo Management Committee, or AMC, recently told a local podcast the story of the battle of 1836 that “has been well-known, well-recognized for all these years, is a mythology.”
“It’s wrong. It’s bunk,” he said. “San Antonians don’t want that. San Antonians don’t want to tell that. It perpetuates a lie.”
George Cisneros, a member of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee, called the Cenotaph “a white establishment icon … everybody knows that’s not the story.”
What part of the story is “bunk” and “a lie”? Did almost 200 Texians not die there on March 6, 1836? Did William Barret Travis, Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett and their volunteers not fight bravely against overwhelming odds? Did the battle of the Alamo not lead to Texas’ independence, and inspire millions in America and around the world of what it means to sacrifice oneself for the cause of freedom and liberty?
What “white establishment icon”? What about the brave Tejanos who died at the Alamo (inscribed on the Cenotaph) and the revolutionary leadership of Juan Seguín, who continued to recruit troops after the Alamo fell, and Lorenzo de Zavala, who helped draft the Republic of Texas Constitution and served as its first vice president.
The Historical Commission stopped plans to move the Cenotaph by a vote of 12-2, and 29,000 Texans contacted the commission and asked it to not move it. Only 1,600 asked for it to be moved.
I am committed to fighting back against those like Councilman Treviño, Cisneros and others who want to erase the history of the Alamo battle. They have threatened to blow up the Alamo redevelopment plan if we do not follow their direction.
I can’t let that happen. The Alamo is the pride of San Antonio, but it belongs to 29 million Texans who all have a stake in it. The state of Texas has almost $140 million invested in the Alamo redevelopment project. That investment by the Legislature was made with the understanding the project would focus on the 1836 battle.
I told the Historical Commission that I believe the Legislature will vote to fund the entire Alamo redevelopment if we have the right plan. First, we need Mayor Ron Nirenberg to replace Treviño and appoint a new lead negotiator to the AMC who doesn’t want to erase history and understands the Alamo story is not “bunk” or “a myth.”
While Mayor Nirenberg decides if he wants the project to continue, the Legislature needs to know how dollars that have been allocated to the redevelopment project have been spent so far and how much remains from the original state funding. To get some answers, I will ask the state auditor to begin a complete audit of the Alamo Redevelopment Project.
I believe the people of San Antonio, like all Texans, want a restoration of the battlefield that will stand for generations so their grandchildren will know that in 1836 a few hundred Texians gave up their lives for Texas, for liberty and for freedom. That story of heroism and bravery continues to inspire us today, and we must stand up to those who believe it is all “bunk” and “a lie.” We cannot allow them to erase our history.
Editor’s note: Edits made to an earlier version of this commentary omitted some of the writer’s points. The column has been updated.