My history-loving son recently moved to Austin, Texas, which gives me a new travel destination! As we discussed things to do during my recent visit, he suggested going to San Antonio to see The Alamo.
He told me of his first visit there, and how much it moved him. He described the battle and the loss of lives, and spoke of the bullet holes still visible in the chapel.
He remembered standing next to his buddy, a veteran who became so filled with emotion that he had to leave the building.
My son wanted me to see this important monument to Texan history. So we made the drive down to San Antonio to visit the Alamo.
Honoring the Heroes
We happened to visit on the last Friday of April, which coincidentally is when the annual Fiesta San Antonio takes place.
Although Viva Fiesta is now a time of parades, brightly colored attire and plenty of beer, it was originally intended to commemorate the heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto.
And that’s the focus of this story.
But First, A Little History
Originally called San Antonio de Valero, this Franciscan mission was a large rectangular complex which included houses, storerooms, offices, workshops and, of course, the chapel.
For a period of time it was also a place of sanctuary for the local indigenous peoples as well as the missionaries who had come to convert them to Catholicism and the Spanish way of life.
When the mission was abandoned by the Franciscans and secularized in 1793, it was taken over by the Spanish military. One of the incoming units was La Compañia Valente de San Carlos de Alamo de Parras, and the mission became known as “The Village of the Alamo Company” – which has been shortened to “The Alamo.”
Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1821, and over the next dozen years emigrants from the United States came south to settle in Texas, which had a goal of becoming populous enough to become a State.
In the meantime, in 1833 former military governor Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna became president – and absolute ruler – of Mexico. In 1834 he abolished the Mexican Constitution, igniting revolt in Texas.
(A more detailed chronology of the above can be found on The Alamo’s official website.)
Texas Revolution Timeline
A free 17-minute film reenacts these important details leading up to the Battle of the Alamo.
- October: The Mexican Army fortifies the old Spanish mission known as the Alamo
- December: Texan rebels capture the Alamo by defeating the Mexican Army at the Battle of Béxar.
- January: Sam Houston sends Colonel James “Jim” Bowie to San Antonio to evaluate the Alamo.
- February: Colonel William B. Travis and David Crockett arrive in San Antonio with reinforcements.
- February 23: The siege of the Alamo by Santa Anna and the Mexican Army begins
- March 2: Texan and American newspapers publish Colonel Travis’ call for help
- March 6: The Alamo falls to Mexican forces after a fierce 90-minute battle
- April 21: Texan troops shouting “Remember the Alamo” defeat Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto
The conflict between Mexico and Texas continued. It took another decade before the United States annexed Texas and made it the 28th state in the Union.
But the battle at the Alamo played a key part in the state’s history, and continues to symbolize the fighting spirit and independence of the people of Texas.
Accessibility and Other Details
As noted on the website, all the public areas are accessible and ADA-compliant. However the historic structures may present challenges for wheelchair users and people with unsteady mobility.
The Alamo is open year-round (except Christmas Day) from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (During peak season – May 25 through September 3 – the grounds are open until 7:00 p.m.)
Entrance to the chapel and grounds is free.
For a more detailed experience a one-hour guided audio tour is available in English, Spanish, German, Japanese and French. The cost is $15 per person ($10 for military personnel) and reservations should be made at least 24 hours in advance.