Maplewood History: The Importance of Myth

This year, three-and-a-half to four million tourists will visit a particular ruined church in America. It is a well preserved ruin to be sure for I’m talking about what is left of the Mission of San Antonio de Valero otherwise known as the Alamo, the number one tourist attraction in Texas.

No matter what you think you know about what actually happened at the Alamo, you are probably wrong. The mythmakers have been hard at work. They have done their job well concerning the Alamo and also for the whole State of Texas for that matter.

I have family ties to that area and when I visit San Antonio, I always visit the Alamo. I love the crowd that surrounds it – folks from all over the planet. I wonder what they think of the site, a Texas shrine where visitors are urged to show proper respect and they do. What is their idea of what happened there? Why is it treated as the holiest spot in Texas?

Just a little research easily uncovers that the event/s that led to the veneration of the Alamo contain some of the basest of human motives. But more important than what actually happened there is the myth that has been created since. The Alamo is one of the rarest of sites where myth, legend and history all intersect. You can lay your hands on the stones that witnessed everything and I do.

Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie really were there. Not the Walt Disney or the John Wayne versions, of course. Those guys never existed. We all know that but still they’re part of the myth.

The importance of myth shouldn’t be underestimated. The myth surrounding the Alamo has a tremendous economic effect. The River Walk, a stone’s throw from the Alamo, is the second most visited site in Texas. It is a splendid urban feature that keeps expanding. The Alamo was the River Walk’s starting point.

The City of San Antonio has done a marvelous job of utilizing a historic building and the myth and legend surrounding it to keep their downtown area viable and connected to other interesting urban attractions. Maplewood isn’t San Antonio. We have no mythological touchstone such as the Alamo. Or do we?

We do. Route 66. This already mythological mother road of America that once ran straight through the heart of Maplewood will be the subject of my next post.

The crowd stays late in the Alamo plaza.  The neon sign of the Crockett Hotel is just partly visible.  I wonder what Davy would have thought of that?

The crowd stays late in the Alamo plaza. The neon sign of the Crockett Hotel is just partly visible. I wonder what Davy would have thought of that?

My brother Brian with the Texas alamo Ranger, Steve whose last name I neglected to get.  Steve was so knowledgeable and friendly that we went back the following night to talk with him some more.  He told us of the plans to greatly improve the Alamo site by removing all of the pavement and possibly even the memorial cenotaph in front of the Alamo, performing the necessary archaeology and even reconstructing some of the buildings that once existed on the site including the small building where Jim Bowie is thought to have died.

My brother Brian with the Texas Alamo Ranger, Steve whose last name I neglected to get. Steve was so knowledgeable and friendly that we went back the following night to talk with him some more. He told us of the upcoming plans to greatly improve the Alamo site by removing all of the pavement and possibly even the memorial cenotaph in front of the Alamo.  Upwards of 30 million dollars will be spent performing the necessary archaeology and even reconstructing some of the buildings that once existed on the site including the small building where Jim Bowie is thought to have died.  The plans include converting an existing building on the near north side into a large museum.  If you visit the Alamo, ask for Steve.

As this photo from a display on the Alamo grounds shows, myths can be a bit slow to get going.

As this photo from a display on the Alamo grounds shows, myths can be a bit slow to get going.

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