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Room in Texas history to fully tell story

Profile image for Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial
Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial

The inspiring story of the 1836 battle of the Alamo has become the centerpiece of Texas history. The Alamo is the cradle of Texas liberty and must be preserved at all costs along with the soaring cenotaph etched with the names of Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Gregorio Esparza and the other heroes who died during the 13-day battle.

Turns out the battle for the Alamo is still far from over.

The General Land Office of Texas, a state government agency, now controls the Alamo grounds. George P. Bush, the elected land commissioner, wrested control from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas a couple of years ago.

He is now partnering with the city of San Antonio on an ambitious master plan to redevelop and expand the Alamo grounds and erect a museum to house a vast collection of Alamo artifacts donated by British rock icon Phil Collins.

The so-called Alamo Trust -- the land office and the city -- is a private organization. Therefore, it's not subject to the Texas Public Information Act, which requires state and local governments to open their records to the public.

The Legislature, which set aside $75 million to support the Alamo project, should rectify this oversight. The new Alamo master plan should be developed in the clear light of day, and not behind closed doors.

Some people have suggested the Battle of the Alamo should be de-emphasized. This could mean removal of the cenotaph, the granite and marble monument that now sits a few feet away from the Alamo's front door. We believe it should be left alone.

But we support clearing away the tacky souvenir shops across the street from the Alamo and redeveloping those properties into something more educational and informative.

The Texas Tribune, an online news organization, reports the Daughters of the Republic of Texas may have lost its battle to keep control of the Alamo, but the group has won a court fight to keep its extensive collection of 38,000 photographs, artworks, maps and manuscripts prized by Texas historians.

The city of San Antonio will be celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2018. And the Daughters' archive, now housed in a county building, will be a big attraction throughout the festivities. It contains everything from a map of the Austin colony hand-drawn by Stephen F. Austin to Samuel Maverick's copy of the signed Texas Declaration of Independence.

The Daughters' archive includes records that chronicle Anglo and Tejano contributions to Texas history and to the city of San Antonio. It's important to recognize and honor this bi-cultural history as Texas develops the new Alamo master plan.

During the last 50 years, Texans have rightly come to a greater appreciation that both Anglos and Mexican-Americans helped build our state. The Alamo battle pitted Mexicans against white settlers. And that makes some people uncomfortable, leading them to advocate a new master plan that focuses more on bi-cultural society and less on a polarizing battle.

We do not see it as an "either, or" situation. There is room in our history to chronicle all things -- good, bad and ugly -- that make Texas special.