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Remember the Alamo: Preserving Texas history, celebrating 175 years of independence

Email   Print   Share By Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
March 17, 2011 | Leisure
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Visitors enter the Alamo Chapel. The tourist destination is very popular; about 2.5 million visitors come to the site each year. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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A fountain in a peaceful courtyard is one of the many outdoor garden spaces at the Alamo complex. The site is free of charge and offers a soothing oasis in the middle of San Antonio. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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A Spanish cannon sits in the gardens of the Alamo. The popular tourist destination includes museum displays, outdoor areas, a gift shop and portions of the original mission and barracks. It has been 175 years since the battle of the Alamo. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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Visitors look at a timeline of the Alamo’s history. This is the 175th anniversary of the battle of the Alamo. The site in downtown San Antonio is popular with visitors from around the U.S. and the world. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
SAN ANTONIO – This is a big year for the Alamo. It has been 175 years since a small group of volunteers held their ground against a larger, better equipped Mexican Army at the site. The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal battle in the road to Texas independence.

Today, visitors flock to the Alamo site, which is located close to downtown San Antonio. An estimated 2.5 million visitors visit the destination annually. Despite the gray and rainy weather, the site was bustling the day I visited.

The Alamo is not just one building; it’s really more of a complex. As visitors approach the area, the ornate façade of the chapel, which is known as the “Shrine of Texas Liberty,” is immediately recognizable. To the left of the shrine, there is a museum, and stretching out behind the museum and shrine are peaceful gardens.

The chapel and portions of the Long Barracks Museum are the original Alamo structures.

The Alamo originally was a mission, known as Mision San Antonio de Valero. The history of the site stretches back to the early 1700s. Throughout the Alamo’s history, it has housed missionaries and Soldiers including Spanish, Mexican and Texan forces.

In December 1835, a small group of volunteers from states across the U.S., as well as a handful of men from Europe, set up residence at the Alamo, after a fierce battle with Mexican soldiers. The group didn’t have much time to relax. By late February 1836, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna arrived in the area of present-day San Antonio.

The small group at the Alamo fought valiantly, and held the defense of the site for 13 days despite being outnumbered by several hundred Mexican troops.

About halfway through the siege, the group already in place at the Alamo was reinforced by 32 volunteers from Gonzales, but hope was fading fast and supplies were dwindling.

On March 6, 1836, the Alamo was over-run by Mexican troops. Women and children were spared, as was one male slave. But nearly 200 men died in the defense of the Alamo.

The Battle of the Alamo served as inspiration for those dedicated to the idea of Texas independence.

The following month, at the Battle of San Jacinto, the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo” was coined as the Mexican soldiers, led by Santa Anna, were soundly defeated by troops supporting Texas in the final battle of the Texas Revolution.

Of course that’s just a brief history. The displays at the site offer a much more complex and in-depth look at the history of the Alamo and the battle in 1836.

The Alamo complex is free to visitors and offers an educational experience for both young and old. The day I visited, the chapel was bustling as visitors wandered around the old stone building, peeking into rooms that are still under renovation and looking at a map that gives tourists an idea of what the original structure looked like in 1836.

The men who lost their lives at the Alamo are also memorialized at the shrine. The names of the defenders are displayed on bronze tablets and the memorial display serves as the centerpiece at the chapel.

Once visitors leave the chapel building, they can visit the museum, where artifacts from the Alamo are housed and the Battle of the Alamo can be explored in more detail. The day I was there the museum was packed, probably because it was raining outside and most visitors were hoping the bad weather would pass. So I probably skimmed over the displays a little quicker than I would have if there hadn’t been a crush of people inside. Still, the museum is interesting and educational with maps, displays and informative narration. Audio tours can also be purchased and those allow visitors to explore more of the site on their own timeline.

Outside the museum there is a nice display, as well. An informative timeline is set up in the courtyard, which provides information about the Alamo and the city of San Antonio. The timeline puts the events at the site into a context of historical events in America, which is pretty interesting.

The grounds of the Alamo are also a site to behold. There are some beautiful gardens at the site with flowers, a variety of trees, and wide expanses of green grass. It really is a little oasis in the middle of the city.

The Alamo is an interesting destination that has a little something for everyone. History buffs, military buffs and nature lovers will all find something enjoyable at the Alamo.
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