The history of the Alamo is one of the pivotal points of American history, especially in Texas. We all know the story. In early 1836 Mexican troops launched a siege on the Alamo mission in what is now modern day San Antonio. All Texas troops were killed during the assault, but the defeat rallied the rest of the region into ultimately defeating the Mexican troops just over a month later. What remains of the site today is one of the most visited sites in all of Texas, with the ruins of the Alamo being quite preserved in the last 177 years. Of course, when I found out I was going to San Antonio for a conference, I knew that visiting this sight would be at the top of my list. But after visiting, I realized that going to the Alamo was almost a waste of my time.
Remember the Alamo
One of the reasons that the battle at the Alamo has endured for so long is because it is a story of complete dedication. Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the outpost and, in their deaths, rallied an army to win the war. One of the great legacies from this battle was a letter written by a soldier, William Travis, stationed at the Alamo where he wrote about the horrible odds that the soldiers were facing and vowed to achieve victory or death in the process.
Since the letter was sent it had never been returned to the Alamo until February 2013 for a two week display at the location where it was written. Conveniently enough, I also visited the Alamo during this time and got a chance to read a piece of history for myself. With much excitement I headed to the historic site after my day job's conference had ended and quickly realized that most all of Texas had the same idea themselves. Madness ensued.
Hundreds of People, One Tiny Monument
I should have known about the trouble I was getting myself into upon walking up to the famous landmark. Across the street was not only a Ripley's Believe it or Not, a Guinness World Records Museum, a knock off Wax Museum; but also a Haunted House and a Hall of Mirrors. Most historic site in Texas, meet Americana. Americana, meet the site that preserved your freedom to be so cheesy.
Next up was the sea of 12 year old middle schoolers on a field trip. Of course, the students were there to learn about the amazing history of the Alamo, but were not actually going inside the shrine where the Travis letter was being held. The line, naturally, was too long for the time they were allotted, and only a few risked actually waiting to get inside.
I should have known better at this point. The tiny complex, albeit beautiful, already had a number of strikes against it. Every few minutes another middle schooler would run into me while not paying attention and generally ruined the ambiance of such a sad monument. But in my moment of weakness I decided to get in line to see the famous Travis letter and see what the Alamo was really all about. The 65 minute wait began.
Inside the Alamo, Nothing
A few minutes into waiting I knew I made a bad choice. The line moved slower than a broken roller coaster at Disney World and felt like I was not getting anywhere. Even worse was that there were only about 50 people in front of me, something that should go through a whole lot faster. It wasn't until I entered the Alamo that I realized why everything was so slow moving. Every single person was being forced to go through airline style security, complete with handheld wand x-ray and pat downs, just to get inside the building. Of course, you don't know this until you've already waited in line, which I suspect would deter a lot of visitors from even bothering.
Although the site does not allow photos from the inside of the building, it is exactly what you would expect it to be. A barren stone building with open rooms and tall ceilings that is completely devoid of decoration. With the Travis letter being present a makeshift museum was setup with a few artifacts and and armed security guard at every 10-20 feet. While it was incredibly interesting to learn about the life of William Travis, it almost seemed like the rest of the history of the Alamo was lost in the shuffle. Sure you could go to the nearby museum, that didn't have a wait, to learn, but there was nothing else inside the Alamo except the lead up to the famous letter.
65 minutes waiting in line, 10 minutes going through security, and about 5 minutes spent inside the actual shrine. Upon exiting you're back in the beautiful compound, gazing up at the stunning and iconic facade of the Alamo, wondering why you even bothered. Truly, this monument is best appreciated from the outside.
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