February, 1836 – The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas. Imagine, for a moment, that you are Katniss Everdeen, a kickass heroine who volunteers as tribute for what can only be a losing battle. Most everyone else in this battle is stuck up and tough. The kind of rough-and-tumble people who wouldn’t hesitate before slicing your throat. After all, this is a matter of property. This is a matter of pride. This is a matter of survival. And right now, you know your chances of winning are slim to none, but you go into battle anyways because this is the right thing to do.
The volunteers who fought at the battle of the Alamo were just that – real Katniss Everdeens.
The Real History of The Alamo
I’ll be honest, I didn’t remember the Alamo before visiting. I remembered the name. I didn’t remember the spirit. And yes, this is while hearing the word (or rather seeing the word) “Alamo” twenty times a day. The Alamo is unavoidable in Texas. Go into any tourist shop (even in the middle of the Panhandle) and you find at least one t-shirt sporting a picture of the iconic UNESCO Heritage Site. You’ll find a mug coloured the famous beige hue and a poster parading the glamorized stony statue outside. You’ll hear the name Davy Crockett thrown around by locals answering tourists’ questions. Go down further to San Antonio, the home of the Alamo, and you know this is the pride of Texas.
It’s strange to think about this. The Alamo has a complicated history. Most of the famous defenders were slave owners. The ideologies of some of our so-called heroes are blood-curdling to hear. Yet, I’ll admit, they fought against Mexican oppression and epitomized “strong-will” and “bravery”.
The battle of the Alamo is a multifaceted story, marked my shades of gray, and not a rose-coloured pink. It’s a series of twisted myths that have been blown into a glorified tall-tale. The term “The Alamo” doesn’t clearly refer to a fort or a mission or a battle anymore. The current usage of the word is hazy. But I believe it’s safe to say, that at it’s core, The Alamo is a series of historic moments that, in time, spawned lessons that lasted centuries.
The Area Around The Alamo Is A Tourist Trap
We walk down a steady block of shops each sporting some kind of arcade or game or souvenir. Ripley’s Haunted Adventure! Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks! Tomb Raider 3D! Tourists flutter around. Children hold parents’ hands as their eyes dart around the complex.
The Alamo Is Smaller Than You Expect
From our vantage point, a rectangular, grey cenotaph meets our eyes. The base shows Lieutenant Travis and soldiers who were killed in battle. Underneath the concrete mass lie some of the brave defenders. From the side, we can barely make out the outline of a woman with a garland. She is the spirit of Texas.
In the middle, still on the other side of the road, is a small Spanish-style building. It doesn’t look like much. It has a faded, stone exterior. It’s old and unassuming.
This is the Alamo.
“Wait, are you sure this is the Alamo?” you ask.
I nod my head.
You scratch your head and twirl your fingers. The Alamo looks like a doll-size replica of a graceful structure. It’s small. Tiny, in fact. We could walk through the museum and brush through the surface in a few minutes. But the beauty of the Alamo is not in the intricacy of the structure or it’s size but in the stories it carries. And we’re here to learn. And to listen. We’re hear to see myths debunked and facts drawn to life. That’s what makes this UNESCO World Heritage Site a giant.
Admission is Free
We cross the street slowly and listen to the buzz of words. Seven dollars seems to be a common phrase. Don’t worry, dear, visiting the Alamo is actually free but there is a self-guided audio tour that I’ve heard is amazing for $7.00.
Photography Is Not Permitted
We can’t take pictures inside the Alamo, so this is the one time, I suggest leaving the DSLR camera in the car (in a safe spot, of course). Before we enter, the gentleman at the entrance kindly asks to remove our hats and speak in low, hushed tones.
Visit The Shrine First
Inside, the first thing that grabs our attention are the flags – flags lined against the top of the ceiling, flagpoles lined along the side of the walls. These are the home flags of the volunteers. Many aren’t from Texas. Some aren’t even from the US.
Our feet move slowly over the floor. Fragments of the bodies of some of the unnamed volunteers are buried underneath us. The experience is almost haunting. There is a certain sadness that skirts the once-Spanish mission.
We can tell the battle was bloody. We can tell that it was a cruel defeat. But we know the Texans weren’t dejected. The void in their spirits is filled with revenge.
Don’t Overlook The Courtyard
As we cross the courtyard and wander into the next piece of the story, we are transported to the tale of victory and vengeance. We learn more about the prickly battles that followed. We learn more about the mission origins.
We learn how Texas truly gained its independence.
The Alamo Has The One Gift Shop You Need To See
Our feet pad across the green and eventually, we find ourselves in the gift shop. At first, this seems like memorabilia madness. Stuffed toys. Playing Cards. Baseball caps. But in the center is a giant diorama of the battle, laid out inexplicable detail with tiny figurines. Every piece of the battle is right there, in front of us.
As we turn to leave, we can hear the tune of our Mockingjay. “Remember the Alamo” it sings.
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