87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateBipartisan Slate of Bills Seeks to Loosen City’s Hold on Alamo, Cenotaph

Two Republicans want to keep the story as it's been told. One Democrat wants respect for a tribe that called the mission home.
March 30, 2021
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Approaching the site from different angles, some state lawmakers have sought to bring more legislative control to the Alamo, where city leaders and state bureaucrats have dominated the slow renovation project.

While not focused solely on the Alamo, state Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) has filed a bill that would effectively keep the Alamo cenotaph safe from any alteration or removal. Slaton specifically wrote the cenotaph into a category of historical monuments that would be legally protected from removal or change if they have been located on state property for more than 40 years. Commissioned for the Texas Centennial in 1936, the cenotaph has stood in the Alamo plaza since 1939.

Another bill by Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) aims more directly, though not quite as strongly, at defending the cenotaph. Biedermann’s bill wouldn’t affect other historical monuments but would wrest the cenotaph from the City of San Antonio and place it wholly under the control of the State of Texas. The General Land Office (GLO) would maintain full responsibility for preserving the monument and any major projects relating to it would have to be approved unanimously by the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the Texas House, and a majority of the members of the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

The two proposals have lately lost importance as the cenotaph’s position has been secured. Alamo project leadership dropped its plan to move the cenotaph after the THC denied the relocation last year, though it took some time for the project’s path to bend around the monument. GLO Commissioner George P. Bush, a whilom supporter of the move, laid fears of relocation to rest earlier this year as San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg shuffled committee leadership to adapt to the new plan.

While the dust has settled around the cenotaph, a few bills by state Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) would address an ongoing fray at the embattled site between a Texas tribe and the site’s bureaucratic stewards.

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Menéndez has shown sympathy to the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecans, a San Antonio-based American Indian tribe whose forefathers lived in the Alamo and other missions, in their ongoing lawsuit against Alamo leadership. The tribe claims that the city, the GLO, and Alamo Trust have excluded them from involvement in the project while including their historic enemies and violated their religious freedoms by refusing to let them carry out a grave ritual that was formerly allowed.

The Tap Pilam lack federal recognition, which their opponents say has justified their exclusion from the Alamo Mission Archaeological Advisory Committee. Menéndez has filed a bill to officially recognize the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecans at the state level.

He has also filed a bill to require consultation with the Tap Pilam tribe and any other tribe that claims a historic link to the Alamo before beginning any major projects on the complex. The Tap Pilam claim that only one tribal representative on the archaeological committee can trace a true historical line back to the mission: the Mescalero Apache, ancestral enemies of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecans and other mission Indians.

The renovation project includes a new museum, which sits on somewhat shaky ground after a number of benefactors dropped out in the wake of THC’s permit denial.

San Antonio City Councilman Roberto Treviño, a former project leader before Nirenberg recently replaced him, suggested that the new museum and exhibits tell the Mexican side of the battle story along with a broad three-century history of the site. In response, Biedermann has filed HB 2866, which would charge the GLO to “ensure the Alamo and Alamo complex, including present and future museums, focus on the 1836 Battle telling the history of why Texians and Tejanos fought in the Battle of the Alamo solely as described in the Texas Declaration of Independence dated March 2, 1836.”

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.