Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986

Alamo Images: Changing Perceptions of a Texas Experience

Alamo Images: Changing Perceptions of a
Texas Experience; An Exhibition at the DeGolyer
Library, Southern Methodist University,
Dallas, Texas, November 16, 1985March
14, 1986. By Susan Prendergast
Schoelwer with Tom W. Glaser, foreword
by Clifton H. Jones, introduction by Paul
Andrew Hutton (Dallas: DeGolyer Library
and Southern Methodist University
Press, 1985) 223 pages, illustrated.
In 1979 Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt
commented, "The Alamo is a symbol
of the problem in our relationship with
Mexico . . . a sacred symbol to Texans
and an extension of the American ideal.
But to Mexico, it's a symbol of territory
lost, a nation plundered by overbearing
gringo neighbors." Babbitt's statement
drew strong criticism from editors and
politicians who sensed the remark as devaluing
the sacrifice of the heroes of the
Texas Revolution.
The Alamo has attracted public attention
and sentiment that outweigh its strategical
role in the revolution, according
to Jones; the Battle of San Jacinto was of
greater importance but has never had the
symbolic prominence of the Alamo. The
Alamo has become more than a conflict

in the war against Mexico-it has become,
according to Hutton, "A powerful
mythic saga . . . embraced by a people
and characterizing them, expressing
shared beliefs and cultural symbols. As
a creation myth for Texans, the Alamo
helps define them as a people."
Alamo Images attempts to explore that
myth, and in reflecting on how the myth
developed, suggest something about
Texan culture. The four chapters of the
book cover the history of the building
from its origin as a mission to the present,
including the seige in 1836, the combatants
at the Alamo, and the role the Alamo
has played in American culture. The
subject is complex. There were no survivors
in the nineteenth-century understanding
of the word, for no AngloAmerican
males lived; the Tejanos and
blacks were not considered credible witnesses,
and Susanna Dickinson did not
see the proceedings from her shelter. The
absence of primary accounts has left
"others free to reconstruct a history based
more frequently on conjecture and imagination
than upon verifiable evidence."

The relationship between AngloAmerican
and the Tejanos in the Alamo
myth is an important aspect of the book.
Schoelwer and GlIser balance their book
between the traditional interpretation of
the Alamo as symbol of freedom fighters
overthrowing the tyrannical dictatorship
of Santa Anna and the alternative view
of the Alamo heroes as greedy, landgrabbing
revolutionaries who sought to
spread the slavocracy of the South.
Schoelwer notes, "The Alamo as it exists
today is but one vision of its past-an enshrinement
of one brief moment out of a
long and complex history."
A great deal of that vision is a result of
Anglo-American influence. The familiar
and, iconographically, the most prominant
part of the buildng-the arched gable
of the church-was added some fifteen
years after the battle in a style "more
reminiscent of urban Dutch architecture
than of Spanish Baroque ecclesiastical
buildings." Some eighty years after the
revolution, the "Second Battle of the Alamo"
was waged to see who would control
the site.

A PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT

CONTEMPORARY TEXAS
A PHOTOGRAPHIC
PORTRAIT
Texas Historical Foundation
Essay by Stephen Harrigan
$35.00 cloth
150 photographs, 40 in color

HISTORIC TEXAS
A PHOTOGRAPHIC
PORTRAIT
Texas Historical Foundation
Essay by William A. Owens
Picture research and captions
by Richard Pearce-Moses
$29.95 cloth
350 photographs

These two magnificent volumes are a result
of a special sesquicentennial project sponsored
by the Texas Historical Foundation and
supported by a generous grant from Du Pont
and Conoco, its energy subsidiary. The Texas
Historical Foundation will donate part of the
proceeds from the sales of these books to the
restoration of the Texas Capitol.
Historic Texas and Contemporary Texas are
also available together in a beautiful cloth
slipcase edition for $65.00.

Available from
* TexasMonthlyPress *

Texas Monthly Press
HR03 Please add $2.00 shipping

P.O. Box 1569

Austin, Texas 78767

Texas residents add 5.125% tax

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38

Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45440/. Accessed July 28, 2014.