The Alamo

I’m fascinated by the colonial experience. My particular interest is the lives (and mind set) of colonists. From Roanoke, to the First Fleet, to the Welsh in Patagonia, to Rhodesia, to the American West, I am astounded that men and women moved their families across continents to re-build their lives in hostile environments. What the hell were they thinking?!? The fact that a great many of those (uninvited) colonists took it upon themselves to dominate the political landscapes of their adoptive homes simply amazes me. Anyway, the reason I recount this is that my history-geek self sat myself down in front of The Alamo the other night, not because the event marks an integral part of America’s somewhat distorted and spin-happy vision of itself, but because of the quirky colonial Texican backstory.

Basically – as the movie painstakingly sets out – American colonists in Texas (then a part of Mexico) didn’t like the central government and revolted. A small group of folks – including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie – were trapped at a fortified mission station and anihilated by the Mexican Army for their insurrection. It was only in the aftermath of the bloodbath that American forces from the north defeated the Mexicans and Texas joined the Union.

Criticism of the movie when it came out was scattershot – people loved it or hated it. It completely tanked at the box office. I thought the pacing was off, but otherwise it was solid enough. Billy Bob Thornton as Crocket is particularly nuanced, and Jordi Molla’s melancholic presence reiterates the fact that this wasn’t ever really an American struggle. Perhaps that’s why it tanked.

From a locations point of view, the producers actually constructed an accurate replica of the Alamo Mission – and the entire city of San Antonio de Behar – on Milton Reimers Ranch on the Pedernales River, just outside Austin. The good news for film tourism buffs is that the site was purchased with voter-approved bond funds in 2006, and is now part of the Travis Park system.