Before the Alamo was a symbol of liberty it was a church.
By Steve Richards
While in San Antonio on my tour of Texas churches to screen Back to Bucha, I stopped into the Alamo. I had been before but I saw it in a whole new light this time.
This time it was a church. Perhaps it had something to do with it being #17 on my tour of 23 churches beginning two weeks and 2,500+ miles earlier. Back to Bucha – Scouting Tour of the South and Texas (theoeco.org)
The mission, originally named Mission San Antonio de Valero in 1755 would later become the Alamo and was a place of worship until 1793. Alamo Church | The Alamo. Countless prayers were presumably offered over the years as well as services offered even during the time it was a fort. Surely there were many impassioned and faithful prayers offered there as the Mexican troops moved in. And so many offered since by millions of visitors to this sacred place.
Texians (what Anglo-Mexicans in Texas were called) were fighting for the same things Ukrainians fight for today. A fight against tyranny by courageous individuals who want nothing but liberty. These are the same human sentiments that Boston slave and first best-selling African American writer, Phyllis Wheatly, perhaps put it best:
In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance. - Phillis Wheatley - 1774
Ukraine and its people are the greatest example of our time of this universal principal and why so many Americans identify with Ukrainians and support them.
Delving into the history of Texas leading up to the 1836 Battle of the Alamo it became especially clear to me also that Ukrainians are following a path that the Texians would have recognized – as do most Americans. Like America’s 13 original states they were committed to gain independence from a far larger force that had become destructive of their rights. Santa Ana clamped down on uprisings throughout Mexico with Texas having been granted a certain amount of autonomy in the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Santa Anna made himself an autocrat and tried to reassert control. Thomas Jefferson captured the Enlightenment principles of his day in the United States Declaration of Independence:
"…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
This is what Ukraine is doing today. As did the Texians and Americans before. The point being that a government that doesn’t provide liberty does not deserve to govern, and citizens have the right to set up a new one. Add the name Zelensky to the name of brave leaders who, through circumstances and the right stuff, fight for his citizens’ liberty.
The Spirit was and is in all these places.
Texas is also roughly the same size as Ukraine. Another less commonly known factoid: neither have nuclear weapons on their soil. At least since Ukraine peacefully gave up theirs almost thirty years ago.
Plus, the countless movies and stories don’t do either place justice. Leaders like Austin, Bowie, and Crocket – all who died at the Alamo - fire the pangs of patriotism in America – as well as Ukrainians and free loving folks across the world, not just Texans. The martyrs inspire worldwide as evidenced by English musician Phil Collins’ Alamo collection now on display at the museum there.
Another similarity, Texas was a Republic before it joined the USA. Ukraine became a Republic and is still free and independent as it continues its journey to becoming a more fully unified member in Europe. It doesn’t matter that some previous ruler or government laid claim before. So long as their people are willing to die as those at the Alamo did. Same as those at Bunker Hill and throughout Ukraine right now. The fight is always for the same thing. It doesn’t matter that Mexico, the English, or the Russians said the place was theirs. No matter the history – or the legends. All that matters is that the governed had a right to a new government that provided liberty. And in every case the cost was blood and victory.
Similarly, the imperfections of the courageous does not take away from the driving principal. America’s founding fathers did not face the issue of slavery in 1776 and the USA continues to pay heavy prices to this day. Similarly, the Texians view of liberty did not include freeing their slaves. Ukraine has deep issues that aren’t being whitewashed away. We and future generations will just have to keep fighting for even more perfect unions, I suppose.
Lastly, atrocities are also part of the fight for Texas and Ukraine Independence. Russian atrocities in Bucha are still being documented. Santa Anna ordered all survivors killed – and each man was. Except for Joe, a slave, so as to live and tell the story.
But that’s not the end of the church in this story. Intriguingly the tour guides seem not to think of its original purpose. I even asked if there were religious services ever held there. Apparently not. But it would be awesome, especially given its sacredness and the mercy shown there in the face of atrocities.
You see, in addition to Joe many women and children were also spared by the Mexican soldiers. They had taken refuge in the church, the last of the fort complex to be taken. So, in the end, the church was fittingly the site of recorded mercy that day.
‘Remember the Alamo!’ is what the Texians yelled as they defeated Santa Anna just weeks later. Glory to the Heroes! is what they say in Ukraine today.