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More than 200 people died during the Battle of El Alamo in 1836. Via: Bloomberg / Getty Images.
More than 200 people died during the Battle of El Alamo in 1836. Via: Bloomberg/Getty Images.

The bodies of the Alamo: When the earth doesn't want us to forget history

While critical voices accuse the government of wanting to decorate Texas history, new human remains have appeared on a mission to El Álamo, San Antonio.

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Although founded by Fray Antonio de Olivares and the Papayas Indians in 1718, El Álamo, in San Antonio (Texas), is known for the bloody battle that took place during the Texas Revolution of 1836 and pitted the Mexican army against the Texas independents, among whom were Anglo-Saxon Americans, but also Mexican-American soldiers. 

Nearly two centuries after death struck the region - 200 people died in 13 days of fighting - a group of archaeologists has discovered the bodies of an adult, a teenager, and a baby in the historic mission that has become a tourist attraction today. 

The remains appeared in the Burial Hall of the Monks and the Church of the Nave de El Álamo while workers were examining the building's 300-year-old structures with a view to renovating and installing moisture monitoring equipment, the authorities said in a statement. 

While the excavation has been halted, the announcement comes after members of the Tap Pilam Coalhuiltecan Nation, a tribal community in the region, filed a lawsuit last September to stop the $450 million renovation of the sanctuary, which is expected to be completed by 2024.

This is not the first case of remains found in the El Álamo mission; in 1989 others were found that were identified in 1995. 

According to the native community, they should have a say in the future of El Álamo square and the religious complex, whose urban remodeling works are part of the "Reimaginar El Álamo" plan to provide this area with new businesses and facilities, in addition to educating about history, and which was promoted by the Republican George P. Bush, Texas regional planning commissioner, of Latino origin and grandson of former President George W. Bush.

"This is a cemetery that deserves protection under the laws of the state of Texas," said Ramon Vasquez, a representative of the tribe.

The Tap Pilam also explained in a statement that the state only disclosed information about bodies discovered after submitting a request for open records.

"We had already suspected there were remains two weeks ago," Vasquez said, adding that the tribe received an anonymous tip about the findings. 

They also demand that the construction of El Álamo Plaza be stopped until the protocols for the human remains are properly executed and the dead buried in the Álamo are honored.

This is not the first case of remains found in the El Álamo mission; in 1989 others were found that were identified in 1995. 

Turning to the polemic

In a recent article published in Texas Scorecard, it was pointed out that El Álamo's "re-imagination" project has nothing to do with repairing the complex, but with developing a "movie set" for tourist entertainment that would cover up the true story, honoring "criminals" like Mexican general Santa Anna, who participated in the Battle of El Álamo.

The complaint is part of another controversy over the past and future of the Alamo: rumors that George P. Bush was planning to erect a statue of the Mexican general, which he himself described a couple of days ago as a "pure lie" and "totally racist," claiming that such an accusation was due to his mother's Mexican origin. 

"One must ask, why am I being accused of honoring the murderer dictator Santa Anna," he wrote on Twitter.  "Is it because my mother (now a naturalized citizen) is from Mexico? I was born in Houston, my wife is from San Angelo, and my children were born here in Texas." 

Beyond the controversy, the only thing absolutely certain is that in order to make history you have to dig it up and not build on it. 

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