Trump Tags the Alamo to Strengthen His Own Myth
Donald Trump went to Alamo, Texas, on January 12. Not the Alamo in San Antonio, but a small town on the Rio Grande named Alamo.
He went there to inspect a little bit of border wall that his administration built. But, as his niece Mary Trump posits, he hopes people will associate Alamo, Texas, with the Alamo and then cross-associate the mythology and iconography of that battle site with his own “America First” political stance.
In truth, Trump was trying to deflect national attention away from the Trump Capitol insurrection of January 6 and a brewing second impeachment in the House of Representatives.
But he left Washington on a bad note, telling journalists before he boarded Air Force One that his speech to rioters before they stormed the capitol was perfectly legitimate.
The 1836 Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio is the most recognizable of several battles in Texas’ war of independence against Mexico. Mexican troops under General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna besieged an estimated 180–250 defenders for 13 days before annihilating them in an assault on March 6.
Alamo defenders included legal and illegal American immigrants to Texas (they called themselves Texians) and Tejanos. They had turned an old Spanish mission known as the Alamo into a makeshift fort from which to fight Mexicans coming to put down rebellion in Texas.
The military strategies of both Texians and Mexicans was questionable. Texians could have multiplied their small numbers by refusing to fort up, but rather harassing Santa Anna’s columns guerrilla style as it marched to the interior of Texas. Likewise, Santa Anna could have left a small force in San Antonio to pin down the lightly defended Alamo instead of tying up his entire army of 1,800 troops.
Nevertheless, the mythology of the Alamo has over the past 185 years eclipsed its own historical facts. The Alamo soon came to symbolize embattled Americans fighting for liberty, republicanism, and democracy. The defenders also symbolize the that figure that Americans seem to love — the outnumbered underdog.
Trump wants to tap into those images as he continues to craft the “mythology” of his own presidency. It won’t work. Objective historians will be writing about the Trump presidency for decades.
And Trump forgets — the defenders of the Alamo were trying to transplant American institutions into Texas. Trump has spent four years trying to tear down those very institutions.