Thursday, July 29, 2021

Chicanonautica: Forgetting the Alamo

by Ernest Hogan

The controversy is already blazing around Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford. A virtual event tour was canceled after Republican leaders complained. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick called for the authors to join a panel discussion "to get to the facts and the truth." Uh--wasn’t that why they wrote the book?

So I got the book and read it. ¡Guao, mi gente! It’s a book I can highly recommend to La Bloga readers. Not Latino lit, but history dealing with an essential part of the Chicano identity: why a lot of Anglos hate us, and how it’s systemic, not personal. We’re talking about the Heroic Anglo Narrative, and how we are cast as the bad guys.

Starting with Texas’ sordid origin story—I don’t think we’ll be seeing a Broadway musical soon—and acknowledging that "We stand on the shoulders of revisionist authors such as Andrew Torget, Andés Tijerina, Jesús de la Teja, Jeff Long, and Paul D. Lack," and that "It would be decades before Mexican-American writers would begin setting the record straight." They take us through the Texas Revolt, explain the conflict between the Tejanos and the Texicans ("Let us pause for a moment to consider the irony of a Mexican government determined to stop the flow of illegal American immigrants") up to the Battle of the Alamo itself. They tell of Juan N. Alamonte and Juan Seguín as well as Sam Houston, Stephen Austin,  Jim Bowie, William Barret "Buck" Travis, and Davy Crockett. It’s not what children’s books and Hollywood have led us to believe . . .

The dirty little "secret" of Texas’ Confederate-style slave economy is brought to light.

Then they go on to follow the development of the myth. Walt Disney and John Wayne both helped to make Davy Crockett, the Wild Frontier’s Baron Munchausen/Don Quixote, who’s myth needs to be deconstructed on its own, into a martyred saint. And the Daughters of the Alamo have, like the United Daughters of the Confederacy with their monuments, made the Alamo into hallowed ground that now is morphing into a theme park.

Will someday in the future all of the U.S.A. consist of nothing but theme parks?

The most disturbing things in the book are several personal, first-hand accounts of Tejano students being singaled out in 7th grade history class as descendants of the killers of Davy Crockett, and how the bullying and harassment by their Anglo classmates started immediately.

The myth, supported by the state, has been central to keeping us "Mexicans" in our place.

It’s not a total downer. The authors don’t take themselves too seriously. Ya gotta have fun, y’know. There’s also some comedy relief provided by British rock stars Ozzy Osbourne, Mick Jagger, and Phil Collins.

Yeah, La Bloga readers will find themselves getting mad reading Forget the Alamo, but anger can be inspiring. Clarity about our history can only help.

I also hope it doesn’t trigger a cancelfest of Americano Wild West pop culture. Instead I humbly suggest  that we use our talent and imagination to wrench the All-Americano western genre away from the Heroic Anglo Narrative and make it our own. We have our own heroes and stories. And I think we’re better storytellers than Davy Crockett.

¡Yee-haw, cabrones!

Ernest Hogan’s father warned him to stay away from Texas, but he’s been there anyway.

1 comment:

ndeneco said...

A welcomed belly laugh at the last YeeHaw! line. Thought provoking review. As a kid, remember those "Alamo" movie blockbusters; our only frame of reference to history being what was written and produce for the masses...with el Americano as the hero. I bought it at the time, thinking myself loyal to the romantic propaganda. Great review, thank you. N. De Necochea