210 San Antonio, TX: Crossing the Line

[The Alamo]

Technically, the Alamo was still a church. A sign ordered, "Quiet, gentlemen remove hats." As I read that, a security guard, a stocky woman with a broken foot, drawled, "Let me know if you have any questions."

She had big blue eyes and a slightly graying ponytail pulled tight on the side of her tan leathery face that bore no make-up. Her Alamo-themed jewelry included a multicolored pastel Alamo brooch, a lapel pin with "Alamo" spelled in rhinestones, and hoop earrings in the middle of which hung metal cutouts in the shape of Texas. On her white shirt hung a nametag that read "Paula."
"When Texas was their own country, er, republic," she began explaining to me, Mexico offered you to buy land real cheap, and these people were having problems in their countries. A lot of people were running away from debt. So they just skipped out from their creditors and came here because they couldn't come get them. [laughter] We had a lot of Irish that came during the revolution. There was nine of them that died here in this battle. They didn't know Texas was in a revolution. But they found out. [laughter] You know, the Irish, they want to fight anyway. A lot of them got over here, though, and they couldn't make it because the Indians marauded so badly. It wasn't until Texas became a state that people really started coming to live here in Texas. Then the United States Army could actually come here. And they started setting up forts and fighting to get those Indians out of Texas.

"There's so much history about these guys. One boy that died here in this battle was born in the Alamo. Look at the names. The real Texans were Mexican. They were born and raised right here on the missions. The rest of the people had come over here, and then they called themselves Texans. A lot of people, they come here, and the only thing they've ever seen is John Wayne's movie. And that's with Mexicans outside the walls, only white people in here. Texas actually is a large conglomeration of a lot of different cultures, kind of like the way the East is. But this revolution really kind of cemented them together under one cause, and it kind of just carried on over into statehood. That's where Texas pride comes from.

"San Antonio," she pontificated, "is actually a multicultural city. Some areas, they do stay to themselves. But there are multicultural offerings, the arts, and theaters, and all the things like that. And then there's our big fiesta. What that is, is a celebration of freedom. We start it on April 21st when Santayana was defeated. One day we celebrate the way the German culture would celebrate freedom. The next another culture. The big finale is everybody just celebrates it their way.
"Yeah," she shook her head, "that Institute of Texas Cultures. [I] Go over there, and I'm there all day. [laughter] It's like, 'Wow, I didn't know that.' You think, 'Oh, it's just all these people from the United States.' It's not just Anglo people, and that's one reason I fell in love with San Antonio. And that's what I like about my job here, too. I meet people from all over the world, different states. I get to know their history of their state, their history of their country and stuff. And so to me this is like a smorgasbord of information for me. You know, I feel like I travel everyday. [laughter] I tease everybody all the time: 'Yeah, we built the Alamo in the right location, right near the mall and the Riverwalk.'

"We have people," she despaired, "who don't realize. They'll try and take a piece of the bar, or they'll just want to write their name on it, and that is a felony. We just had to arrest a young man. He's 20 years old. And he was actually going to college to become a minister. And he just walked up and started working a piece and jerked that piece of wall out. And he was arrested and prosecuted. Like our Rangers told him, too, 'You're becoming a minister. And what is one of the Commandments? "Thou shall not steal."' We are very serious about preserving this site. Anybody comes in here and they make fun or laugh or think it's just nothing but a joke, I ask them if they could, please, leave. I can't make them leave, but I can ask them. I just go up to them and say 'Apparently, you don't understand what's happened where you're standing. A little over a hundred men died right where your feet are,' and it humbles them. It will straighten them out.

"It's been hit hard since September 11th. Real hard. I'm lucky that here none of us are going to be laid off. We still have enough people that have gotten over the fear of coming to a monument that's so well-known that they are coming back now. We're not going to let them terrorists ruin our lives. They want you fearing. The day of the attack, we did not close. We were like, 'No.' The whole city closed down. We were the only thing that was open. We just go, 'No, we will not bow to terrorists.' We're going to show them no matter what you do, we're going to win and be open. And people were very surprised that we were open. Some started to take a little wrong attitude about us. But then they realized this is what we need to do. Like I always tell everybody, 'I cross that line everyday.' [laughter] Everyday when I come to work, I walk across that line and I says, 'I will defend the Alamo to the death.' And that's the way most of us do feel that work here. It does that to you. It really does."

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