by Dale Schlundt
As we hear discussions about transferring stewardship of San Antonio’s mission, the Alamo, and potential restoration projects, it is important to remember the message we are sending to the future stewards of our historical landmarks. Individuals who at this time have no say in the matter will one day be the decision makers for the preservation of these historical treasures. What do we want future generations to conclude when debating the worth of preserving such landmarks and the history within them?
Unfortunately, economics always become a factor, as there is always a cost when allocating tax payer funds to these projects — not to mention turning potential businesses away from the area in question. As a resident of San Antonio, any time I ask my students about their visits to the Alamo site, their typical response inevitably includes a reference to the Ripley’s stores facing the front of the church. It’s a telling reply from individuals for whom the majority grew up not only in a city entrenched in the culture that particular landmark represents, but also are products of such.
For many of the youth, a visit to the Alamo does not mean taking a look at the local history that has played such a substantial role in the formation of contemporary Texas society. For instance, the assimilation of two distinct cultures that we now refer to as Texans — history that includes not only notables that represent these differing cultures such as Crockett, Travis, but also Juan Seguin, one of the individuals that carried the initial messages coming out of the Alamo at the beginning of the defense. Just as significant is Sequin having served as mayor prior to Texas Independence as well as after, and becoming a leading figure in the formation of the new state.
The Alamo is a physical classroom and symbol of the culture as well as a city that is distinct in many aspects. It exemplifies the sacrifices made by those in the Alamo and participants in the larger context of the conflict. These are aspects that in terms of the heritage of San Antonio are very close to us, yet are easily overshadowed by economics, modern commerce, and entertainment.
Few individuals realize how expansive the Alamo was in regards to its original size, only discovering this from Hollywood movies or maps, if at all. Yet, more important than the present knowledge youth possess of the mission is what we are teaching the future stewards about the significance, or perhaps insignificance, of what these landmarks can teach the children they will have. Many of today’s generation will never know the full story of the fight for Texas Independence by both Mexicans as well as Americans. Nevertheless, the question is: What will be there to allow future generations the opportunity to acquire that story?
Dale Schlundt holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Education with a concentration in American History from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is currently an Adjunct Professor for Palo Alto College, Our Lady of the Lake University, and Northwest Vista College. Dale has written two books, Tracking Life’s Lessons: Through Experiences, History, and a Little Interpretation and Education Decoded (A Collection of My Writings).