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When people think of San Antonio, Texas, it is the Alamo that most often springs to mind. Today it is merely an old mission building in the heart of the city, but that belies its previous size and rich history as a center of Texas rebellion against Mexico in the 1830s.

After Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821, the new country wanted to take control of its northern lands, which were mostly unsettled by people of European descent. In order to do this, the government began a program of settlement, and invited American settlers to join in. A steady stream of Americans, led at first by Stephen Austin, after whom Texas's capital city is named, began to arrive in the territory. American saw it as perfect land in which to expand the plantation and slave economy which had taken root throughout much of the American South.

The Mexican government, fearing that Texas was becoming too American, clamped down on immigration, outlawed slavery, and enforced Catholicism against the primarily Protestant immigrants. These actions, as well as a centralization policy by Mexican dictator Santa Anna, caused some Texans to plan a revolt and an independence struggle.

The first shots of that struggle occurred in San Antonio, then better known as Bexar. A small band of rebels took the Alamo, by then a military fort with wide defensible walls that had been constructed due to frequent Native American attacks, from an even smaller Mexican army contingent. Anticipating a counterstrike, defenders came to the Alamo as a first stand in a war for Texan independence. When that battle came, however, they were badly outnumbered; after a two week siege, the Alamo fell to Santa Anna's assault. However, the Texan rebels were able to exploit mistakes by the numerically superior Mexicans later in the war to capture Santa Anna himself and force an admission of Texan independence. The Alamo, along with its over 200 fallen defenders, became a rallying cry for Texan soldiers during the war.

Less than a decade later, Texas was annexed into the United States, a move which sparked the Mexican American War; that war resulted in the loss of much of what is now the American Southwest - New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California - to the United States, which cemented its role as a continental power.

Today, the Alamo is one of the United States' most frequent tourist attractions because of the popularity of its story - a heroic last stand. The real story is of course more complicated and lacking in clear heroes, but the myth remains.

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Additional Photos by Andrew Lipsett (ACL1978) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 884 W: 75 N: 1695] (7511)
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