By John P. Schmal
On April 9, “The Alamo” will start playing in movie theaters around the country. This movie was produced by Ron Howard and Mark Johnson and directed by John Lee Hancock. Interviews with some of the people involved with this movie have indicated that this version of the Alamo will be a “historically accurate portrayal” of the events surrounding the battle that took place 168 years ago. So many of us are looking forward to seeing this movie and making our own judgments about the famous event.
The siege of the Alamo lasted 13 days and ended on the morning of March 6, 1836 when the Mexican forces of General Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna stormed the old mission. While the men at the Alamo manned the front lines in the struggle for independence, a Convention was taking place on the banks of the Brazos River. This convention, lasting from March 1 to 17, 1836 declared Texas to be an independent republic and wrote a constitution.
However, the declaration of independence did not save the men of the Alamo. It is believed that 189 men died at the Alamo, including such famous characters as Jim Bowie, William Travis, James Bonham and David Crockett. Several hundred Mexican soldiers also died in their attempt to take the mission fortress. Although they succeeded in taking the Alamo, the victorious forces paid a high price in casualties.
The 189 men who died at the Alamo hailed from many parts of the globe. They represented a truly multi-racial, multi-ethnic force, all gathered together in a common cause. There is some controversy over what really happened at the Alamo. There is the equally controversial issue over the motives of some of the Anglo rebels, in seeking independence from Mexico. (The Texas Constitution guaranteed the rights of slave owners and Texas joined the United States on December 29, 1845 as a slave state.) However, the controversy and debate does not diminish the fact that 189 men died at the Alamo, fighting for independence from the corrupt and brutal oligarchy of General Santa Anna.
Very few of the 189 men at the Alamo were actually natives of Texas. A great number of them were from Southern states, such as Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas. At least 32, in fact, came from Tennessee. Some northerners from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York also stood their ground in the mission.
But Europeans were also well represented. At least ten of the patriots were natives of England, and another 11 were from Ireland, a country that knew well the struggle for liberty against oppression. Of the thirty-plus Europeans, some also came from Germany, Denmark, Scotland and Wales.
At the time of the battle, as many as eighty of the Alamo defenders were actually documented residents of Texas, but others had traveled to the fort from various states, volunteering their services for the revolution. Of the estimated 189 men who died in the Alamo, only six were actually born in Texas: Juan Abamillo, Juan A. Badillo, Carlos Espalier, Gregorio Esparza, Antonio Fuentes, and Andrés Nava. This work shall pay tribute to the Tejanos who died at the Alamo:
Juan Abamillo was a native Tejano who had volunteered to serve in the Texas Revolution under the command of Juan N. Seguín. He had arrived at the Alamo on February 23, 1836 and he died there on March 6, 1836 as he fought alongside Travis, Crocket and the others.
Juan Antonio Badillo was born in Texas and also served under Captain Juan N. Seguín. Badillo accompanied Seguín to the Alamo in February. But when Seguín was called out to rally reinforcements, Badillo stayed at the Alamo. Like his fellow revolutionary, Juan Abamillo, Juan Antonio Badillo died on March 6, defending the Alamo against Mexican Federal troops.
Carlos Espalier (1819-1836) was born in Texas and was said to be a protégé of Jim Bowie. When he died at the Alamo, he was only seventeen years old.
José María Esparza (1802-1836), also known as Gregorio Esparza, was born in San Antonio de Béxar, as the child of Juan Antonio and Maria Petra (Olivas) Esparza. He married Anna Salazar, by whom he had several children. Esparza had enlisted with Captain Seguín in October 1835. When Gen. Santa Anna and his forces arrived in February 1836, Esparza and his family were advised to take refuge in the Alamo. Although Esparza could have left if he had desired to do so, he decided to stay, and his family remained with him. He tended a cannon during the siege and died when the Alamo fell on March 6, 1836. His brother, Francisco Esparza, recovered his body and arranged for a Christian ceremony and burial. Most of the defenders were not given the same respect.
Antonio Fuentes (1813-1836) was born in San Antonio de Béxar, Texas. He was recruited by Juan N. Seguín and took part in the siege of Bexar. Fuentes had a falling out with the Seguín and Travis, but when the Mexican troops arrived in San Antonio, he stayed and fell with the other defenders.
Damacio Jiménez, a native of Texas, also joined Seguín’s militia. Damacio had served with Colonel Travis at Anahuac and entered the Alamo in late 1835. He died with the other defenders.
José Toribio Losoya (1808-1836) was one of Capt. Juan N. Seguín’s company of Tejanos. He had been born in the Alamo barrio on April 11, 1808, to Ventura Losoya and Concepción de Los Angeles Charlé. He deserted the Mexican army to enlist as a rifleman in Seguín’s company. In February 1836, Losoya rode to the Alamo with Seguín and was there when the fortress fall. His wife and three children sought refuge in the mission chapel and survived the siege.
Andrés Nava (1810-1836) was a native of Texas who had enlisted for six months service under the command of Juan N. Seguín. He took part in the siege of Bexar and later died while defending the Alamo on March 6, 1836.
It is ironic that so few native Texas died in Alamo. One man who played a very significant role in the fight for independence was Juan Nepomuceno Seguín (1806-1890). A native of San Antonio, Seguín is probably the most famous Tejano to be involved in the War of Texas Independence. His story is complex because he joined the Anglo rebels and helped defeat the Mexican forces of Santa Anna. But later on, as Mayor of San Antonio, he and other Tejanos felt the hostile encroachments of the growing Anglo power against them. After receiving a series of death threats, Seguín relocated his family in Mexico, where he was coerced into military service and fought against the US in 1846-1848 Mexican War.
One of the most famous Tejano patriots was José Antonio Navarro (1795-1871), who was one of the three Tejano Mexicano signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (the other two were José Francisco Ruiz and Lorenzo de Zavala). Navarro was elected to serve twice in the Texas Senate, and Navarro County was named in his honor.
It is important for the reader to understand that the several Tejano Mexicanos who died at the Alamo in the battle against Santa Anna were only a small representation of the many Hispanics who fought for freedom. To find out more about the Tejano Mexicano contribution to Texas / Tejas independence, you may want to visit this website: http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/tejanopatriots.htm
This website, created by Wallace L. McKeehan and sponsored by the Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas, is entitled: “Hispanic Texian Patriots in the Struggle for Independence.” Another website, created by Angel and Linda Seguín Carvajal Garcia, is entitled “Tejano Heroes of the Texas Revolution of 1836” and can be accessed at: http://www.seguindescendantshp.com/tejanoheroes.html
Although the events of 1836 led to independence for the people of Texas, the Hispanic population of the state was very quickly disenfranchised to the extent that their political representation in the Texas State Legislature disappeared entirely for several decades. The slow battle to regain their rightful place in Texas politics and society during the Twentieth Century is described in some detail by this author in “The Tejano Struggle for Representation,” located at: http://www.houstonculture.org/hispanic/tejano1.html http://www.houstonculture.org/hispanic/tejanorepprint.html (Print version)
The story of the Alamo and Texas Revolution is an intriguing and complex story. The aftermath of independence is equally interesting as a disenfranchised people struggled to reassert their rights as American citizens, a guaranteed by the Texas and United States constitutions.