With a key site being reimagined and a small army dying, the road towards re-enacting the execution of the last major figure in the Texas battle for independence has become downright problematic.
The mess began after an Associated Press article on 2 April of this year suggested that the burial ground for the Alamo in San Antonio had changed into a bike track instead. Locals and media at large were then led to believe that the city council had sold the land – for $1 – and then proceeded to dig a river ditch around the park, after the creek had overflowed. Fortunately, some arguing started and a bizarre shakedown ensued.
It was a perfect storm of panic and downright lunacy. “So here we’re just making a deathbed confession that somehow we’ve really screwed up,” San Antonio City Councilman Chris Schmidt told the Austin American-Statesman, soon after the original article hit the internet.
The problem wasn’t the gawking common, perhaps, but that it was in a city supposedly put on earth to look after the dead. Residents justifiably want to know how the grave of the last of the Alamo defenders, William Barret Travis, was being treated in the new role of ranch land.
“The current road is nearly unused. It costs us a lot of money to run it, and people are like, ‘How could you put another road through there?’” Schmidt explained. “As one of the better engineers I’ve ever met said, well, it was probably never the intention to keep the road through there. It’s just a matter of what we do with it now.”
First, it was determined that the flat, forefingered path was indeed illegal. According to Schmidt, the city obtained and purchased a new developer who has commissioned a thorough investigation of the history of the site. After examining the historic documents and timber held beneath the land, no one can make a surer assumption – even if you deny you are present at the execution of Travis.
Here are some possible options.
Option 1: Require an archaeological excavation to prove that Travis was standing at the Alamo when the deed was written. It was given a 95 percent chance of success, according to Schmidt. “If that doesn’t convince you, or even make you feel better,” he said, “then this might be your gold medal.” This is seemingly the only logical course of action, and if this had gone through it would have meant, theoretically, that the property was sold as public domain for $1 to the city of San Antonio. That hasn’t happened, though, and Schmidt is attempting to rename the place in Travis’ honour. The actual number? Ninety-nine. That’s, er, one cent.
Option 2: Declare the Alamo a city park. This is easily the preferred option, and the one San Antonio locals would most likely vote for as well. While this isn’t technically done by state law, it doesn’t require the approval of any legislature. The Alamo Trust owns the land, but it is administered and marketed by the city of San Antonio in an effort to preserve its history. Part of the reason for this is, per this article from the Austin American-Statesman, that the city found it hard to interpret documents proving that Travis had been executed, a state requirement. City managers have also claimed that some of the objects found by archaeologists are not related to the Alamo’s history.
Option 3: Disclaim St Augustine Park and let the Alamo Trust do what they want to do. The Trust isn’t bound by the powers of municipal code, and owns enough property rights to bulldoze anything they want. St Augustine Park is, according to this TLN article, a privately owned easement that the Friends of the Alamo have been using as an access to the main site. The Trust could destroy it in a public fallback plan, though, and they’re certainly willing to do so if the cost of it doesn’t overwhelm. This option seems like a stark, cruel exit for a democratic system that began as a free-market rights-based struggle for survival. If the city owns the land, it owns the graves of the dead, just as it owns the rights to the land itself.
Option 4: All of the above. Regardless of the options, the obvious moral of the story remains that during a moment of insanity in Texas history, it seems that the wrong path was taken.