Feliz Cumpleaños to the city of San Antonio. On June 13, 1691, the feast day of San Antonio, Domingo Terán de los Rios arrived at the Yanaguana River, as the local American Indians called it, later renaming it the San Antonio River in honor of the saint.
This is the day when I have performed my art piece Spinning San Antonio Fiesta for the past four years with the aspiration that the project would become a catalyst to bring back the Fiesta Patronal of the City.
The Fiesta Patronal is a celebration of the city's namesake that takes place on the saint's feast day and is celebrated in front of the saint's shrine — la Misión de San Antonio de Valero, known today as the Alamo. This is where my performance art piece takes place.
I am simultaneously bringing to light the “spinning” of the narrative of the Alamo. What has resulted is that instead of a preservationist/historical vision for the mission, it has been transformed into a shrine that legitimates the place of Anglo Americans in the history and class structure of Texas.
The best way to understand this phenomenon is to read two books by University of Texas cultural anthropologists: Inherit the Alamo, Myth and Ritual at an American Shrine by Holly Beachley Brear and Remembering The Alamo, Memory, Modernity & the Master Symbol by Richard R. Flores (a San Antonio native).
According to Flores, the present-day Alamo narrative projects Mexicans as inferior and socially disfigured and has transformed it as a public icon that represents Texans, and concomitantly, Anglo Americans as morally, politically and socially superior.
Tejanos, the first European/mestizo settlers of Texas and builders of the Alamo, and Latinos in general do not feel welcome at the Alamo today because the narrative has been spun into one of Anglo hegemony.
Beachley Brear tells us that the all-white, all-male members of the Texas Cavaliers have a private meeting in the Alamo shrine at the beginning of Fiesta and it winds up with King Antonio coming out and declaring, Now San Antonio can fiesta! These events have been spun into something more akin to a Hollywood movie and have little to do with history.
Little by little, over time, the Tejano role has been written out of the history books. Now that the Daughters of the Republic of Texas are no longer in control of the narrative at the Alamo, I'm among many who hope the Tejano contributions will be given just representation.
No special treatment is needed, just the truth. I am not performing Spinning San Antonio Fiesta this year because Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, the new caretaker, has stated that he would like to change the Alamo's narrative to be more inclusive.
This could make the Alamo a place where all people can go to leave behind discord and contemplate the convergence of cultures, and this, in turn, will make for a more harmonious future. That's an ideal worth making a shrine for.