Public must be heard in Alamo debate


Published 4:45 pm, Thursday, December 7, 2017

As Texans, we remember the Alamo. As Daughters of the Republic of Texas, we carry the Alamo with us in our hearts.

While no longer the stewards of the Shrine, the Daughters remain very much involved in telling its story, and in ensuring that the Alamo — and the sacrifices of the brave souls who died there — remain an integral part of Texas culture and history.

Just recently, in fact, thanks to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Texas A&M-San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas officially reopened its historic DRT Library Collection at the Presidio Gallery on East Nueva Street. The collection, formerly located on the Alamo grounds, includes more than 38,000 artifacts, relics and other records on the history of Texas.


As an organization with such deep and lasting ties to the Alamo’s sacrosanct grounds, the ongoing battle of words about its future concerns us, and should indeed give all Texans pause.

It’s natural that passions become inflamed when discussing the future of something that exists at the emotional heart of our great state. But here and now, it’s important that the rhetoric be dialed back, and focus be kept on the Alamo itself.

Overheated debate does nothing more than force people to choose sides, when there really is only one side: that of the Alamo.

It’s important that we consistently ask ourselves four fundamental questions:

What is best for the Alamo?

How do we best honor the service of those who died on that pitch-black morning of March 6, 1836?

How can we best tell the story of this iconic battleground and the history of our great state?

Are the residents of Texas being heard?

As an example, one of the most contentious issues now is the matter of the Alamo Cenotaph, the Spirit of Sacrifice, an empty tomb erected almost 80 years ago on the spot where many people believe the Alamo’s defenders were piled, lifeless, before their corpses were burned. For descendants of these Texas heroes, it’s a sacred spot. Will it be moved from its prominent location, as called for in the plans? There is a fear that removal may damage the historic memorial and lessen the impact of the memorial and the story it tells at the site. Despite several public hearings, there is no clarity, only confusion about the plans.

It is now known that a “glass wall” is not part of the Alamo’s future, and we hope that this is official. There are rumors that the rock wall will be removed, but no information on how the security of the site will be maintained if this is the plan. Other discussions of lowering the plaza ground level and removing the trees are troublesome. On Nov. 15, General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush announced several significant changes to the Master Plan, which may include ditching the glass wall, refocusing the story to the siege and Battle of the Alamo, and keeping the Cenotaph on Alamo grounds.

These are positive steps, and we hope that these changes are made, and that this responsiveness continues.

Having nurtured the Alamo for 110 years and with our membership linked to the origins of Texas, DRT has a unique perspective on some of the issues being debated. We would welcome the opportunity to contribute.

While there have been multiple meetings and discussions, in public and behind closed doors, the format for public comment to this point simply hasn’t sufficed. Texans come away feeling that their comments are not heard. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas recommend a more open and responsive approach in the development of the Master Plan. We also would encourage the GLO and Alamo Endowment to demonstrate a greater openness in considering the views of Texans in this monumental undertaking.

Let’s move forward together, as Texans, with one goal in mind: preservation of the historic “Symbol of Texas Independence” and the important story of those who fought and died at the sacred site.

Barbara Stevens is president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

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