19- year-old S grew up in Texas, where there is an abundance of lore surrounding the struggle for Texas’s independence from Mexico, a process that culminates in the story of the Alamo. This legend is spread by word of mouth but also taught in schools as part of the state’s history. S first encountered the legend of the Alamo when her family visited San Antonio when she was very young.
S believes that the legend of the Alamo is told as a reminder of Texas pride and independence. In Texas’s schools, all history studies in fourth grade are devoted to Texas’s history and specifically the War for Independence. A great part of what S was taught drew upon legends, especially the story of the Alamo.
At the end of fourth grade, S put on a musical performance of Texas’s history. She was absolutely ecstatic to be cast in the role of Susanna Dickinson and sing, “The Alamo, each one’s a hero, each one’s a hero, that the world will know.”
Interviewer: “Could you tell me what you remember about the Alamo from your experience in the Texas education system?”
S: “Legend goes that they were in the mission for 100+ days with less and less food. Davy Crockett was there, too… and the commander of the troops, William Travis, got up before the soldiers in the courtyard of the mission and drew a line in the sand. He said that everyone willing to stay and fight to their death for Texas could cross the line, and those who wanted to surrender and leave could stay on the other side of the line. Apparently everyone crossed the line.“
S: “…Then ensued this epic battle when the Mexican forces finally attacked the Alamo. The Texan soldiers were outnumbered and inevitably the Alamo fell to Mexican forces. Another legendary sort of figure involved is Susanna Dickinson, a woman who was in the Alamo when it fell and was one of the few survivors. She suffered a gun shot wound to the leg but was spared as a prisoner of war and she’s mostly remembered for her bravery of choosing to stay in the Alamo.”
Interviewer: “What’s your opinion now on the way the Texas education system taught the Alamo?”
S: “Well, since there were so few survivors…I don’t really think there is any actual evidence whether William Travis drew that line in the sand. Knowing how embellished the story is, I question if Davy Crockett was even involved at all and it makes me laugh thinking someone may have just thrown him into the story to make it sound more legendary I guess. I definitely believed the elaborate story at the time mostly since it was taught in school…There is so much fierce Texan pride in the state.”
The story of the Alamo is a legend because of the legendaric elements involved in the narrative. Although a historical event, the truth value of certain aspects remain in question. The history is framed as an epic narrative to help highlight values of freedom, strength, and integrity that are central to the state’s cultural framework.
As S notes, elements of the Alamo are often exaggerated and over-embellished, creating a much more legendary genesis for the state of Texas. Romanticization of a country’s or state’s origins is commonly utilized to create a common identity and promote patriotism among inhabitants. Texans, through the legend of the Alamo, garner an intense patriotic perception of their state and their identity as Texans. The intense, fervid flames of this patriotism are stoked by the education system, which shares these legendary stories as irrefutable facts to the youth very early on.