Saturday, 13 March 2010

Remember the Alamo!

After Sonora Caverns, Dan and Marlene decided to drive to Austin, the capital of Texas and increasingly, a center for music and art. One big draw for them was the Pecan Grove RV Park, which is smack-bam in the middle of the city and one of the country’s coolest trailer parks, according to many.

That all sounded great, but as we knew we’d soon be driving 1700 miles to New York and that our time in the trailer was quickly running out, we decided to go to San Antonio instead.

My friend Jesse is from there, and as we weren’t able to go to his wedding a couple of years ago, I wanted to see the place.

Also, San Antonio is home to…The Alamo, a place integral to two important things: American history and the movie ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure’.

History students learn about how the former Spanish mission was the site of a standoff between some 160 soldiers led by James Bowie, William Travis and including the likes of American frontier legend Davy Crockett, and the Mexican Army, led by Mexican President and General Santa Ana, in 1836.

Texas – or Tejas – had long been part of Mexico, first under the Spaniards and then under Mexican rule, after independence.
Anglo-Texans including Crockett, Sam Houston and Stephen Austin, many of whom had emigrated from federalist America and owned large ranches, decided that the province would do better if it were independent of Mexico.

After scoring a surprise victor over Mexican troops quartered in San Antonio, an emboldened volunteer army occupied The Alamo, long a strategic stronghold for the region,

Unexpectedly, Santa Ana himself came to stem the rebellion. Barricading themselves inside The Alamo, the separatists waited for days for the Mexicans to arrive, and then fought to the death during a battle that lasted 13 days – the soldiers were all killed, although the women and children hidden in an adjoining room were spared.

This event was the spark that ignited the separatists, who went on to win independence for Texas. Texas was in fact its own republic for 10 years, before becoming America’s 28th state in 1846.

In ‘PeeWee’s Big Adventure’, man-boy Pee Wee Herman embarks on a cross-country adventure in search of his beloved bike, which has been stolen by a neighborhood bully. Having been told by a fortuneteller that his wheels are in the basement of The Alamo, he heads to San Antonio, only to find out that the building has no basement.

The weather was not on our side: most of southern Texas was enduring a cold front, and we got rain – both normal and freezing. So we spent most of our time there indoors – eating at a great little Mexican place with homemade tortillas just across from our trailer park, having tea with Dave the Englishman and then enjoying the d├ęcor at an old German deli right in town. It wasn’t the right time to do the Riverwalk – a two-mile pedestrian walkway and park area along the San Antonio River.

But The Alamo was great. There were more people in costume (well, we think they were, but you never know in the Southwest), dressed as Mexican soldiers, Spanish colonists, Crockett & co, mustachioed rangers with guns (those may have been real), etc.

In Spanish, ‘alamo’ means cottonwood tree, but the tree dominating the outside of the complex is a huge live oak..

Inside, in the mission’s main room – costumed historians tell the tale of what happened within its walls. Further on is a small museum telling the story of the native Americans, Spanish colonial life, the Mexican era and Texas’ own developing culture.

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