SAN ANTONIO – Remember the Alamo? A new Texas battle is brewing over how best to do so.
State Land Commissioner George P. Bush is overseeing a seven-year revamp of the shrine where 189 Texas independence fighters were killed by Mexican Gen. Santa Anna’s troops in 1836. The site’s size would quadruple after restoration of historical structures, the closing of streets and the building of a 100,000-square-foot museum for artifacts.
The project has raised the ire of some conservatives who worry that the Battle of the Alamo will be sanitized by “political correctness” at a time when Confederate monuments are being removed across the country. Even though the Alamo battle was well before the Civil War, some of the participants were slaveholders.
A flash point has been the fate of the Cenotaph, a 60-foot granite monument near the Alamo completed in 1940 and engraved with the names of those killed during the battle. The city of San Antonio wants to move it to a site somewhat farther away. But critics fear the Cenotaph will suffer the fate of some Confederate monuments and be banished.
Hundreds of protesters showed up at the Alamo last weekend, some wearing colonial costumes and holding signs reading “Leave the Alamo Alone.”
The Republican Party of Texas was so concerned that its executive committee voted 57-1 in September to urge Bush to keep the focus of the overhaul on the battle itself and calling for more transparency in how the effort is funded.
“This isn’t just some memory that’s popular in movies, these were living, breathing people,” said Lee Spencer White, a descendant of Gordon C. Jennings, at 56 the oldest defender killed at the Alamo. “The Alamo’s personal.”
The criticism from fellow Republicans has put the latest political star of the Bush family on the defensive. The son of former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb and Mexican-born mother Columba, Bush has used funds for his re-election bid next year on a website and radio ads defending the restoration.
“My focus isn’t on the politics, it’s on preserving the Alamo,” Bush said. “I’m focused on telling the story of the heroic battle for freedom — proudly, purposefully and better than ever before.”