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How Alamo mythology got the upper hand on its history and misled the Raccoon People

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While many Mexican-Americans have warmed to the recent decade of scholarship that has put the Alamo in better bi-cultural context, it's still problematic for those of indigenous identify who trace their heritage to an era of forced religious conversions and labor by the Spanish. Antonio Diaz, of the Texas Indigenous Council, is wary of changes to Alamo Plaza. Not because he is fond of the T-shirt shops facing the front of the old church or respects the patriotic message of the DRT. But because his "pan-Indian" organization represents all the native peoples in Texas, including the descendents of the conversos, the local Indians who built the missions in the 1700s but lost their tribal identities when they converted to Catholicism. Though not recognized by the federal government, many families can trace their history as members of mission parishes in San Antonio. Diaz is concerned that disruptions to Alamo Plaza will disturb the grounds of the Mission San Antonio de Valero cemetery where native inhabitants and Franciscan friars are buried. He also is concerned that if a nonprofit is set up to govern the new civic space, access to Alamo Plaza for political demonstrations will be restricted. Instead, he endorses a proposal fielded by local artist and activist Ronald Rocha sent to both U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon calling for the original grounds of the Alamo, including what is now the plaza, to be turned into a burial ground for all combatants of the Texas Revolution, Texan and Mexican alike.

It is, perhaps, a brilliant suggestion. Since 1836 the Alamo has been a potent symbol of division, an emblem of opposition between two irreconcilable parties. Over the years, the presumed names have changed: Federalist versus Centralist; Texan versus Mexican; Anglo versus Latino; the U.S.A. versus Communists; San Antonians versus the tourists. Dedicating the Alamo grounds as a cemetery is perhaps an unlikely development; surely nearby commercial concerns would frown on such massive solemnity, but the notion does have poetic strength. Like the disparate events of Fiesta, Mexican soldiers would have their place next to Texan rebels, joining indigenous conversos and Franciscan friars in a new archeology of our past. To move forward, we truly need every piece of our intricate, multi-faceted history. •

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