During the settlement of the “New World,” American history and mythology evolved simultaneously, to the point where the lines between each became blurred. Among the most prominent of these is the saga of the Battle of the Alamo circa 1836, an old Texas Spanish mission wherein a few intrepid Anglo settlers made a gallant last stand against a numerically superior force of Mexican troops under the command of dictatorial Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna.
Rather than succumb to the dictates of their tyrannical Mexican oppressors, legendary figures Jim Bowie, William B. Travis, and Davy Crockett fought to the death, and paved the way for Texas’ independence and eventual entry in the Union.
Like much of the Americas, the area we know as Texas was caught up in the European tug-of-war called colonialism. By the 1800s, Spain had wrestled the Mexican territories from their primary rivals, the French (who left a legacy of Cajun/Creole language dialects in their wake), solidifying the network of settlements they’d been cultivating for generations. These included a complex of battlements and a Franciscan chapel, comprising a religious mission near present-day San Antonio. It became known for the grove of cottonwood trees (“álamo” in Spanish) nearby.
As time passed, east Texas attracted Anglo settlers from the southeastern United States, eager to exploit the vast acres of fertile land in the Brazos River Valley. This area was especially suited for growing cotton and sugar, crops these newcomers had become proficient in cultivating through the use of slave labor.
Today, the Alamo is perhaps the most revered historical site in the state, as everyone in middle school is expected to remember pertinent details of this event. Generations of children have been indoctrinated with the narrative that heroic Texans made a gallant last stand against the treachery of the Mexican interlopers. Just before the drama of Alamo and his death, Davy Crocket began his own cycle of self-promotion with the publication of an autobiography, leaning towards tall tales and exaggerated truths. The circumstances of his last stand provided a vehicle for opportunists like Stephen Austin and Sam Houston to weave their own version of the triumph of good over evil, and spawned the seeds of Texas mythology.
Included in this tapestry was the message of Anglo superiority and the need for the subjugation of people of color (who they claimedby their nature were incapable of self-government).