Remember the Alamo? Hell NO!

Remember Damián García

by Travis Morales

Revolutionary Worker #1237, April 25, 2004, posted at

The Alamo, a new $107 million movie, was released on April 9. It supposedly tells the story of the 1836 siege of the Alamo, defended by 182 Texans against the 4,000 strong Mexican Army during the Texas War of Independence. In that battle, all these Texans (who were really invading settlers from the U.S.) were killed. Ever since, "Remember the Alamo" has been a call for vengeance against enemies of the U.S.

The trailer for this movie promises that it will portray "The incredible true story of two sides who fought for what they believed, protected what they loved, and gave to the world a legend to remember."


The truth of the Alamo is covered up here. One teacher commented after seeing the movie that, if you didn't already know Texas history, you would get no real idea of why this "war of independence" was even fought. And that is no accident. That history indicts those "defenders" of the Alamo--it shows that their cause was nothing to glorify or honor.

A War for Slavery and Theft

Three hundred years ago, Spain claimed Texas as part of its empire. Spain ruled Texas through its authorities in Mexico City.

In 1718, the Spanish colonists established a fort and a Catholic mission in what became San Antonio. They called it "The Alamo"-- and it was part of a plan to "civilize the Indians and take over the new world."

The resistance of the Native Americans, especially the Comanches, proved too much for the Spanish. Out of 25 garrisons built in Texas in the 18th century, the Spanish could only hold onto three. The Alamo was one of these.

Beginning in the early 19th century, Anglo settlers from the U.S. began illegally crossing into Texas--setting up farms and plantations on Mexican land. The slaveowners in the Southern U.S. constantly needed new land to expand into. Northwest Mexico (what is now the U.S. Southwest) looked very promising to them. The northern capitalists were also eyeing this area for opening trade to the western region of the continent and as a source of minerals.

Sensing a threat from the U.S., the Spanish government tried to control Anglo-American immigration. Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821 and the new government followed a policy of allowing Anglo-Americans to settle. They were given land grants--provided they became Mexican citizens and converted to Catholicism. By 1835, Texas had about 35,000 inhabitants--both Anglo immigrants and Tejanos (Mexican people born in Texas). The Anglo immigrants outnumbered Tejanos 6 to 1.

Then the Mexican government abolished slavery--and the Anglo slaveowners and their allies rose up in a reactionary war to tear Texas away from Mexico. They put out a call for Americans to come to their aid-- promising to give mercenaries free land.

The Texans took over the Alamo in San Antonio.

On March 6, 1836, the Mexican Army, commanded by the president of Mexico, General Antonio López de Santa Anna, retook the Alamo, killing all 182 Texan defenders. All but nine of them were Anglo invaders--many (like the land speculator Davy Crockett) who had just recently arrived in Texas as mercenaries. Jim Bowie (another "hero" of the Alamo) was a despicable slave trader and slave smuggler. The commander of the Anglos was Colonel Travis, another mercenary.

Six weeks after the fall of the Alamo, the Anglo forces surprised the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto. In that battle, the Texans shouted "Remember the Alamo" to justify their bloody revenge and massacre. General Santa Anna was captured. In return for having his life spared, Santa Anna signed a treaty recognizing Texas' independence.

One of the first official acts of the new "Republic of Texas" was to legalize slavery. In 1845 Texas was admitted into the United States as a slave state, and soon joined the Southern slave Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War.

Growing Up in the Shadow of the Alamo

As someone who was born and raised in Texas, and attended elementary school in the late '50s and early '60s, I remember well that back then we were not Chicanos or Mexican Americans or Hispanics or Latinos. We were "Meskins," greasers, wetbacks, spics, beaners and pepper bellies.

I remember having "Remember the Alamo" stuffed down my throat every year, dreading the coming of spring where I would have to dress up like a Mexican soldier and re-enact the Battle of the Alamo or the Battle of San Jacinto. I remember being taught that bloodthirsty and cruel Mexicans "murdered our valiant and heroic defenders of freedom and democracy at the Alamo."

And as someone who has lived through all that--I want to say that these mother fuckers Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Barrett Travis and all the rest got exactly what they deserved--death! They were a bunch of professional Indian killers, slave traders, and mercenaries who invaded Texas, and then stole it from México so it could be a slave state. And the war waged upon them by México was a just war!

Back in 1960, when I was in the third grade, my whole elementary school went to see John Wayne's racist movie, The Alamo . Back then, all the lies about Texas history they taught us in school made us ashamed not to be white. And the movie just made it worse. Back then it was against the law to speak Spanish in public schools and children who did were whipped. Not that much earlier there were signs in public places that said, "No dogs or Mexicans allowed."

My father grew up in Galveston, about 50 miles from Houston on the Gulf Coast. He would tell me that whenever his family would drive to Houston they never stopped for food, gasoline, or to use the bathroom in any of the small towns along the way. My father was the first person in his family to attend college, which he did on a boxing scholarship. After he graduated, while waiting for induction into the Army as an officer, he and my mother moved to Houston. They tried to rent an apartment near Moody Park in what is now a large Latino barrio. Then it was all white. The manager told my father, "We don't rent to Mexicans."

So when they tell us to "Remember the Alamo"--what exactly are we supposed to be honoring?!

At the Alamo is a plaque that designates it as a shrine. Texas law officially makes the Alamo into "a sacred memorial to the heroes who immolated themselves upon that hallowed ground."

But to honor the Alamo is to honor a U.S. war of plunder and conquest, the theft of almost one-half of México, and the ongoing oppression of the Chicano people. What is the battle cry "Remember the Alamo!" except a battle cry to kill Mexicanos and Chicanos?

"Honoring the Alamo" means glorifying the extermination of the Lipan Apaches, Aranamas, Karankawas, Tonkawas, Kohanis, Cocos, Bidais, Nacisis, Koasatis, Eyeishes, Nabedachies, Nacogdoches, Kichais, Hainais, Anadarkos, Yowanes, Tawakonis, Wacos, Caddos, Kickapoos, Kiowas, Kiowa Apaches, Tawehashes, Co- manches, and more. All these peoples were wiped from the face of the earth forever after Texas won its independence. Are we going to glorify this?

It means glorifying a so-called "valiant struggle for freedom"--which was really a war fought so that Black people could be legally bought and sold as pieces of property! It means glorifying the arrest of over 100 enslaved Black people in 1835--when many were murdered for planning a slave uprising--just as these Texan slaveowners were planning their uprising against Mexico. It means glorifying the Jim Crow system, the terror of the Ku Klux Klan, and the lynching of countless Black people in Texas history.

It means glorifying the murder of up to an estimated 5,000 Mexicanos and Chicanos in the Río Grande Valley in pogroms launched around World War I.

It means glorifying and upholding countless crimes and oppressions--right down to modern times. Like the murder of Joe Torres, a young Chicano veteran, in 1977 by six Houston cops--who beat him and drowned him in a Houston bayou shouting: "Let's see if this wetback can swim."

Honoring this history of oppression is what it means to honor the Alamo.

And it means something else too: It means honoring the crimes this system is now preparing to carry out.

A Post-9/11 Alamo Movie

The 1960 version of The Alamo was bad enough. So why are they doing it again?

Check out what Michael Eisner (then head of Disney) said when plans were announced to remake The Alamo . He said the film would "capture the post-Sept. 11 surge in patriotism."

"Remember the Alamo" has always been a battle cry for conquest and plunder. And the U.S. imperialists want to popularize this battle cry and their type of "heroes" now -- because of what they are doing in the world now.

The Alamo is mindlessly portrayed as a freedom struggle--and "Remember the Alamo" is a slogan of bloody vengence. And it is supposed to echo today, when the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are portrayed as "wars for freedom" and when "Remember 9/11" is supposed to justify anything the U.S. government wants to do.

But we see what their so-called freedom and democracy really means for the oppressed.

Reminding Everyone Who Conquered Texas

There is another reason the Alamo gets promoted.

Texas is not just "Yahoo Country," with racist rednecks driving pickups with gun racks while drinking Lone Star beer. Those people are still here. (And those Yahoo-Godfathers George W. Bush and Tom DeLay are from Texas.)

But the Texas of 2004 is very different from the Texas of 1960.

There have been tremendous changes in the population of the Southwest. Houston, a city of 2 million, is now 37% Latino and 25% Black. Besides the huge Mexican, Chicano and Black communities, there are large communities of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Palestinians, Lebanese, other Arabs, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Iranians, Pakistanis, and Indians.

In Texas, the most popular name for newborn boys is José.

The majority of Texas' population is now non-white and mainly very poor and very oppressed. There is the ongoing war at the border against immigrants. More young Black men are in prison or jail than in college.

And in the middle of all that--it is very important for the U.S. rulers to remind everyone that they intend to dominate places like Texas, and control that border they created through war.

These changes throughout the Southwest deeply concern the ruling class. Samuel P. Huntington, a top-level Harvard think-tanker of the U.S. empire, wrote in a recent book, "The persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves--from Los Angeles to Miami--and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream. The United States ignores this challenge at its peril."

In the current situation, a movie about the Alamo is about telling the Mexican and immigrant people of this border region that they must "remember their place" -- and that place is as conquered people, at the bottom.

If you look at history (and I mean the real history, not the Alamo-movie kind!) you can see that these rulers have reason to worry. Texas has a history of rebellion and armed struggle by the oppressed. Throughout the history of settlement, Native people fought for their lands and lives. In the 1850s and 1870s and during World War I, Mexicanos and Chicanos in the Río Grande Valley organized armed military rebellions. They carried out raids--destroying trains, bridges and Anglo-owned farms. Their military actions in south Texas during World War I were inspired by the Plan de San Diego--which declared independence from "Yankee tyranny" and called for an uprising by the "Liberating Army for Races and People" to be composed of Mexicanos, Blacks, Japanese, and Native Americans. This plan proposed the new independent republic in the Southwest--including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California.

In 1917, 100 armed Black troops, tired of harassment, arrests and beatings at the hands of the Houston police, marched on the Houston police station and shot dead five policemen.

And in Houston, after the murder of Joe Torres, there was a rebellion of the people to oppose the police reign of terror.

All of this is not ancient history. And for the oppressed, the conditions they face today are not that much different.


Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has made the point that:

"The imperialists see in such immigrants a source of instability and upheaval, a force weakening the internal cohesion of the home base and potentially undermining the power of the U.S. as an international overlord at the very time that it is facing a challenge without precedent to that power. The imperialists react by asserting more aggressively the white, European, English-speaking identity of the American nation. For the revolutionary proletariat it is just the opposite. We renounce that nation, we denounce any such identity--we are proletarians, not Americans, and our identity is that of the international proletariat. We insist on the equality of nations, including in culture and language. And more, we recognize in such immigrants a source of great strength--a vitally important force for the revolutionary struggle to overthrow U.S. imperialism and to create over its grave a powerful, living expression of proletarian internationalism and a powerful base area for the world proletarian revolution."


In short, there is a reason the movie about the Alamo was made. There is a reason we are supposed to "Remember the Alamo"--and "honor" its message of conquest, vengeance, patriotism and racism.

Well, we are not going to remember the Alamo. We are not going to honor their heroes. We have our own heroes, heroes of the proletariat and oppressed peoples.

Remembering Our Comrade Damián García

On March 20, 1980, Damián García, a member of the RCP, scaled the walls of the Alamo, together with two other revolutionaries.

There they tore down the U.S. flag, and raised the red flag of revolution.

From the top of that reactionary "shrine," Damián announced through a bullhorn: "We've come to set the record straight about the Alamo. This is a symbol of the theft of Mexican land. A symbol about the murder of Mexicans and Indians. And a symbol of oppression of Chicanos and Mexicanos throughout the whole Southwest."

They called on people to come out in struggle, together with people worldwide, on May 1st, International Workers Day.

They were arrested for desecration of a venerated object--that "venerated object" was nothing but the Alamo itself!

Then on April 22, only a few weeks later, Damián García was murdered by police agents while doing revolutionary work among the people in a Los Angeles housing project. Stung by his bold act, furious at the emergence of a revolutionary force opposed to the Alamo and all it represents--the enemy had lashed out, with a vengeance typical of the Alamo myth.

We will not remember the Alamo. We will remember Damián García!

And we remember the day those three revolutionaries were being led away from the Alamo by the police. A Chicana broke through the police lines and asked each of them their names. And as they passed, she held her fist in the air and shouted a salute to each of them. She shouted that day: "Damián García is a hero to the people."

This is the stand we take on the Alamo. This is what we honor and remember.