“Remember the Alamo.” For myself, and many others I have talked to while writing this paper, that phrase is all we remember about the Alamo. This famous quote brings forth the question; why do we need to remember the Alamo? I believe that there are specific events tied to locations and monuments that share a commonality of “encouraged remembrance” to instill values and emotions into those who visit the locations. In this paper, I hope to provide meaningful background on the Alamo and the ideals it instilled in multiple generations, explain what exactly encouraged remembrance is, and provide connections that help contextualize what encouraged remembrance looks like today and the consequences it can bring.
As a kid, my family took a trip to see the Alamo every year without fail. As a youngster, the idea of a building where a war was fought was mystifying. Being able to see bullet holes in the walls of the buildings provided a visceral feeling of pride in those who had lost their lives protecting the building that is still standing to this day. As time passed, we visited the Alamo less and less, and it began to lose its meaning to me. Without being present at the location, it felt harder to connect with the battle site on an emotional level. Before I continue, let’s get some background information on the Alamo. The original utility of the Alamo was as a chapel, it was built in 1718 by Spanish settlers hoping to convert Native Americans to Christianity (Ramos). It’s quite ironic that the battleground where a few hundred people died was originally built for praise and worship. Moving forward to 1835, the war for Texas’ independence was just getting underway and a group of Texans seized the fort, effectively providing them with control within San Antonio. On the 23rd of February 1936, a group of Mexican soldiers with numbers estimated to be between 1,600 and 6,000 began an assault on the Alamo (Lamoureux). This created a huge problem for the Texans inside, because they only had around 200 men.
The Texans refused to give up the fort, and after 13 grueling days of combat, the base was breached and the Texans were swiftly executed. Two elements of this battle created the legacy of the Alamo. The first element was the number of casualties on each side, while the Texans lost all 200 soldiers, the opposition suffered losses of at least 600 men, though some witnesses claim the number was closer to 1,600 (History.com). The second element that would create the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo” was the refusal of the Texans to surrender. After being outnumbered by at least 1,400 men, they chose to stay and fight for what they believed in. “Remember the Alamo” became a war cry used by the Texan army for the rest of the war for Texas independence. The cry would also resurface during the Mexican-American war as a way to taunt the Mexican forces in a display of racism (more on this later). Skipping to today, the Alamo is still standing, and serves as a museum to educate people about the battle that occurred over 150 years ago. To preserve the Alamo, the museum has created a 360-degree visualization of what the Alamo looks like today and what it looked like in 1836 (Boddie). Along with being a popular tourist attraction, the Alamo has remained a symbol in Texas that promotes the popular “stand your ground” ideology of protecting yourself and your ideals at whatever the cost.
With a knowledge of the historical background of the Alamo, we can now discuss this mentality of “encouraged remembrance” and what implications it carries with it. I define encouraged remembrance as something from the past that every individual within a certain ecology is expected to be aware of. This can also include holding specific values based on the thing from the past they are expected to be aware of. In this case, the thing from the past is both a building and a battle.
The Alamo is something that everyone in America is expected to remember, but in Texas, the people are held to a much higher standard. My friend and fraternity brother Jacob was born and raised in Texas, and his view of the Alamo is much different from mine. In my standard Kansas primary education, I had at most three lessons about the Alamo. It was something that we briefly touched in American history when learning about the Texas revolution, but aside from that, it was never spoken about in my education again. Comparing that to Jacob’s experience, he remembers spending plenty of time learning about the Alamo in elementary school, middle school, and having an entire unit about it in high school (Levine). The reason for this shift is because of the change in ecologies. Because he is from Texas, the expectation for remembrance is much higher than if he were to be from any other state. To me and many other Americans, the Alamo is a location that housed a famous battle in the war for Texas independence. In Texas, it’s a symbol of the heroism that gained them their independence and inevitably their part in the United States. It’s a site for remembrance and dedication to the soldiers who died protecting the state that they now call home. So, while all of America is encouraged to remember the Alamo, the smaller ecology of Texas holds itself to a higher standard, and holds the Alamo in much higher regard.
Now that we have a base understanding of what exactly encouraged remembrance is, we can compare the encouraged remembrance of the Alamo to a more recent example. We have all heard the phrase “never forget” in fact, without saying the event, I imagine you already know what I’m referring to. The September 11th attacks on the world trade center in New York City shocked the United States into silence, but as time passed the phrase “never forget” was coined (this phrase was also used for the attack on pearl harbor in 1941). Both events were considered important enough that everyone in the United States of America wes expected to remember the event and location. Much like Texans relationship to the Alamo, individuals living in New York most likely have a much stronger connection to the 9/11 attacks. Another comparison that can be made between the two is a negative consequence that resulted from encouraged remembrance; racism.
As mentioned earlier in the essay, “remember the Alamo” was not only a battle cry for the Texas revolution, but was also used to jeer the Mexican forces in the Mexican American War. In Daniel Pena’s essay about the Alamo’s connection to race, he discusses how in the era of Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, both the phrase “remember the Alamo” and the building itself are being used as anti-illegal immigrant propaganda towards Mexicans (Peña). Whether it be “remember the Alamo” being shouted at someone for speaking Spanish, or the fact that a pro-gun rally was held at the Alamo to instill more pride in the protestors, it’s easy to see the negative effect of this encouraged remembrance. Even some Texas citizens still feel the racial hate that the Alamo inspires. Andres Tijerina, now a historian, remembers when he was in junior high and his teacher asked him “You’re a Mexican… How do you explain what they did to Davy Crockett?” (Selcraig). Tijerina is a third-generation citizen, and yet he still faces the consequences of this remembrance because of his heritage and race, he also noted the erasure of the fact that many soldiers fighting on the Texan side were also Mexican in history. This prejudice can be compared to both the spike in islamophobia post 9/11, or the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. It’s odd to me that every instance of encouraged remembrance (that I am aware of) seems to also lead certain individuals to discriminate against a non-white race. Throughout these three examples, we can better understand the similarities and implications of this encouraged remembrance.
Encouraged remembrance is something that we still don’t have a full understanding of. It has both positive and negative outcomes. It can create a sense of pride, but it can also foster hate. Hopefully at the end of this essay, you have not only gained a better understanding of what encouraged remembrance is, specifically in relation to the Alamo, but you also understand the implications of the encouragement, and will think twice before just remembering something because it what you are told to do.
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