Antifaz: Forget The Alamo. Yellow Rose.
As San Antonio gears up for Fiesta, an 11-day celebration originally created to honor the “heroes” of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is presenting an exhibition offering critical views of Alamo mythology. Guest curated by Ruben Cordova, “The Other Side of the Alamo: Art Against the Myth” gathers 26 local Chicano and Chicana artists and includes more than 40 works of art aimed at dispelling popular misconceptions about the Alamo and its defenders.
As the most pervasive retelling of the Battle of the Alamo goes, a narrative embellished throughout the 20th century in books, songs and films, the defenders of the Alamo were all killed within its walls when they were outnumbered by an invading Mexican army. The Texians were redeemed, however, when Sam Houston and his army defeated Mexican President Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto and won Texas Independence.
Decades later, the Alamo was restored as a “shrine” for “Texas liberty,” and the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo” etched into public consciousness. Today, as we move into the 21st century and Latinos become the largest minority group in the U.S., this sanitized version of history, one that privileges Anglos over Mexican Americans and African Americans, no longer holds up to public scrutiny.
After Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845, it became part of an American cotton industry built on slave labor. In many parts of the state, Anglos began seizing land owned by Tejanos on charges of “horse thievery” or aiding slave insurrections. African-American freedmen who lived here before Texas independence were forced to leave the state. Much like Southerners who developed a “lost cause” mythology to compensate for their defeat, white Texans developed an Alamo mythology that portrayed the fighters at the Alamo, (Travis, Crockett and Bowie), not as defenders of slavery but defenders of “Texas liberty.”
The artists in “The Other Side of the Alamo” explore the often controversial topics left out of popular Alamo mythology, among them the role slavery played in the Texian revolt and the role Manifest Destiny played in the dismemberment of Mexico.
Among the highlights in this exhibition is Kristel A. Orta-Puente’s digital print series, Heroes of Texas Slavery, depicting defenders of the Alamo in a style akin to trading cards. In each piece, “heroes” such as James Bowie and Stephen F. Austin are juxtaposed against text reading “Illegal Slave Smuggler” or “Empresario of Slavery.” By highlighting an often overlooked aspect of Texas history, Orta-Puente suggests many of its “heroes” are far from heroic.
In Antifaz: Forget The Alamo. Yellow Rose, Ángel Rodríguez-Díaz depicts himself as his alter-ego: a Mexican wrestler known as Antifaz. Here, Antifaz is depicted twisting his body away from a figure handing him a Christmas ornament shaped as the Alamo. Seemingly repulsed, or perhaps frightened by the image of the Alamo, Antifaz negates the popular rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo.” As the lone Puerto Rican artist in this exhibition, Rodríguez-Díaz understands the annexation of Texas as an example of U.S. imperialism. Included in last year’s career-spanning Rodríguez-Díaz retrospective at Centro de Artes (also curated by Cordova), this painting stands out as one of the most stunning images in “The Other Side of the Alamo.”
In the mixed-media work Music of Fiesta, Raul Servin depicts an upside-down Alamo amid a raucous downtown setting filled with folklórico dancers, mariachis, and party-goers. This work not only brings to mind the upside-down feeling of the city caused by crowds and traffic during Fiesta, but also seems to suggest the backwardness of using Mexican customs to celebrate Mexico’s defeat. While few party-goers at Fiesta may actually stop to contemplate the complex histories behind the Battle of the Alamo, “The Other Side of the Alamo” offers an alternative to the triumphalist tales surrounding the 18th-century Spanish mission.
The Other Side of the Alamo: Art Against the Myth
Free 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 11am-5pm Sat through July 20, Galería Guadalupe, 723 S. Brazos St., (210) 271-3151, guadalupeculturalarts.org
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