A Real Alamo

I get it.

As a native Texan, I feel your pain.

I, too, was weaned on comic book versions of the Alamo and the Texian War for Independence, and I understand your anger and frustration. We have been betrayed.

The question, now, is what are we going to do about it?

Should we slap AK47s over our shoulders and strap pistols across our beer bellies and stage our own Alamo about what never really happened at the Alamo at the state capitol? Do we need to stand tall with the Texas chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy and protest these shameless revisions to all the lies we hold dear? Or is it time to face the Mariachi music?

Call me crazy, but I’m a proponent of the latter.

The genie is out of the proverbial Tequila bottle.

It’s time to reckon with an ugly truth. Texas independence was mostly about slavery (and gringo knavery) and not much at all about bravery. In fact, the biggest things in this state chockfull of big things, are the whoppers we’ve told about our history for almost two centuries.

But, hey, on the lighter side . . . you have to admit . . . Ozzy Osbourne is looking smarter all the time. And Phil Collins—maybe he should sue . . . sue . . . Sussudio all those so-called Alamo relic peddlers.

I bet he feels like a real pendejo.

But fret not, fellow Texans. There was actually a real Alamo. Dozens of native Texans—not of the mostly white immigrant variety that fought in the fake Alamo, of course—bravely volunteered and voluntarily fought and died to preserve the freedom of a people and stop Spanish-speaking Fascists. It just didn’t happen here. It happened in Spain one hundred years after Texas independence.

In 1936, conservative nationalist Fascists attempted to topple the left-leaning government of Spain. Liberals, progressives, communists and anarchists came from all over the world to the defense of the Spanish Republic, but the Fascists were backed and supplied by Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Oh, and also a Lone Star oil and gas outfit known as Texaco. Texaco refused to sell oil to the freedom fighters, but allowed the conservative fascists in Spain to put the oil they imported for their insurrection on a tab until war was over.

In hindsight, the Spanish Civil War was a dress rehearsal for World War II. And, while FDR and the United States remained neutral, thousands of Americans came to the aid of the Spanish Republicans, including dozens from Texas.

Needless to say, the good guys lost, and the leader of the Fascist insurrection, Francisco Franco, ruled Spain as a dictator until his death in 1975.

But, get this.

Conroe, Texas native Philip Detro rose to the rank of Commander of the Lincoln-Washington Battalion and hung out with Ernest Hemingway before succumbing to complications resulting from a sniper’s bullet.

Fort Worth, Texas native Theodore Gibbs—a black man who ran away from his home in Cowtown at the age of thirteen after witnessing the rape of his mother by her white employer—joined the freedom fighters in Spain and drove an ambulance until he was killed by an artillery shell.

Laredo, Texas native Virgilio Gonzalez Davila served with the Washington Battalion and then transferred to the 46th Division Campesinos, a “shock force” who fought in every major conflict of the war.

Texarkana, Texas native Conlon Samuel Nancarrow emigrated to Mexico after serving with the Peoples’ Army of the Spanish Republic, and went on to become one of the most original, influential musical composers of the 20th century.

And Oliver Law, a black native of Matagorda, Texas, became the first African American to command an integrated military force in American history. He was killed in action while leading Abraham Lincoln Battalion in the first days of the Battle of Brunete.

Dozens of red-blooded native Texans fought in Spain, serving alongside or hobnobbing with the likes of Langston Hughes, George Orwell, Paul Robeson, Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Andre Malruax, etc., etc.

Sure, they were a bunch of liberals who thought for themselves—and fought for someone besides themselves—but they were still Texans. And they went to fight in a real Alamo, for freedom and human rights—not the preservation and expansion of a disgraceful travesty.

That’s something, right?

E.R. Bills is the author of The 1910 Slocum Massacre: An Act of Genocide in East Texas (History Press, 2014), Black Holocaust: The Paris Horror and a Legacy of Texas Terror (Eakin Press, 2015), and Texas Oblivion: Mysterious Disappearances, Escapes and Cover-Ups (History Press, 2021). He works as a freelance journalist and lives in North Texas with his wife, Stacie. Read other articles by E.R..