by Charles M. Yates
Last March 7th, Beth and I were fortunate enough to be invited to attend the memorial service for the Alamo defenders which is held each year by the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association. The memorial service is closed to the public and is held at night in the Alamo chapel for the families of those who died defending the Alamo and invited guests.
Prior to the service, I found myself in a conversation about what makes the Alamo so special that it captures the imagination of people around the world. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other battle sites around the world where more men died or equal bravery was shown or greater butchery took place. What makes the Alamo stand out as the preeminent monument?
During part of the ceremony the names of the defenders are read aloud and family members rise when their ancestor's name is called. As each name was called and those family members present rose, I realized the large number of Hispanic families present. Fully half the people there were of Hispanic extraction. Names like Esparza, Losoya and Jiménez echoed through the chapel, mixed with Travis, Crockett and Jameson and others.
One of the great tragedies of the Alamo story is that, until recently, the contributions of the Hispanics who fought for Texas Independence were forgotten or purposely omitted. Forgotten or omitted by all except those families whose family members paid the ultimate price for their beliefs on that cold March morning when Santa Anna's men came over the walls. The memory of those Tejano defenders has been kept alive and nurtured through the ensuing years by their families who remember with just pride and reverence what they did there that day.
Perhaps that is what makes the Alamo so special. This was not a battle fought, as some would have us believe, over racial issues. After all, there were Hispanics fighting for Texas and Anglos fighting for Santa Anna. It was a battle fought over what men believed to be right. Those beliefs of what is right and wrong transcend race to the point where men of different races and cultures will together lay aside their differences to fight and die for a higher cause; to plant the seed of a tree they will never sit under; to hold up a light to show the way for future generations.
There is something about sitting quietly in the semi-darkness in a building where hundreds of men fought and died that will heighten a person's senses. To be amid many of the descendants of those same men, gathered to honor their memory, takes the experience and the senses to an altogether new height. As I sat there I realized that they were all there, again. They had come back and the family circle had been completed once more.
It really doesn't matter how historians or politicians try to interpret what took place there. It really doesn't matter how it is used to further hidden agendas, ambitions or racial bitterness. The families of the men who died there know what took place there; they feel the sacrifices made there every day. They are inexorably bound to families of different cultures, different races and different nationalities through the commonality of an ancestor's belief in what was the right thing to do. Through that bond they have become a family of their own. Maybe that's why the Alamo is so special. It holds the dream of a family we would all like to be part of.
Sic Semper Texanus