Imagining the ALAMO CENOTAPH Right Where It Is!

On Thursday, May 11, 2017 the City of San Antonio approved a $450M Master Plan to ‘reimagine’ the most prestigious and significant mission in Texas, the Alamo. The Alamo Master Plan has some interesting comments about "healing and building a bridge that will connect the many wonderful cultures and people who have contributed greatly to the rich history of the site". The General Land Office, with George P. Bush as Land commissioner announced with a press release on April 13, 2017, Reimagine the Alamo Unveils Proposed Master Plan Design. This master plan came from the Alamo Master Plan Management Committee, which consisted of Texas General Land Office, the City of San Antonio, and the private Alamo Endowment. Dr. George C. Skarmeas of Preservation Design Partnership, LLC, designed and planned the ‘reimagine’ master plan. 

In the original Master Plan one of the key concepts was to relocate the Cenotaph as the GLO press release of April 13, 2017 states: Relocate the Cenotaph to an historically significant and prominent location nearby.  This information is backed by the San Antonio Conservation Society’s newsletter as mentioned later in this article. 

Knowing that the Alamo is the Texas Cradle of Liberty, it boggles the mind as to why the empty tomb memorializing the heroes of the Battle of the Alamo would be moved to an as yet unknown destination. It was the 13-day siege in 1836 that brought about Texas Independence. It is the men who chose to die for Liberty that shaped Texas’ freedom from the dictatorship of Mexico. The Battle for the Alamo is the reason Texas exists! It is the main reason we have so many visitors in San Antonio and Texas. Over 2.5M visitors a year come from all over the world to see where this Battle of Liberty took place. So to even contemplate moving a Texas shrine sits at the edge of betrayal to those that gave their lives. You don’t have to be a descendant just a diehard Texan or a Texan at heart to know that the Alamo Cenotaph must not be moved. And while the members of the committee may all agree....the people of Texas oppose this move. If you look at the The Alamo Master Plan, there is plenty of room for the Alamo Cenotaph to stand. No one can deny that the Defenders of the Alamo died on the battlefield. This is precisely why the empty tomb should stand where it is to honor the Alamo Defenders.

Descendants of the Defenders and many others are quite anxious and concerned and understandably upset about the fate of the Alamo Cenotaph. It could be because San Antonio is a known progressive city and has removed plaques from the courthouse, taken a monument to the Confederacy from Travis Park and robbed Robert E. Lee High School of its name, thus wiping out as much Civil War history from the city’s visibility. Why wouldn’t we be nervous? How does that old cliché go, "Out of Sight out of Mind"? It could also be that the elected General Land commissioner, George P. Bush, is sitting in his office surrounded by ‘pistoleros’ ready to shoot down any and all those who oppose his "reimagine Alamo master plan".

Most Texans just want direct answers especially regarding the Alamo Cenotaph. Answers from the GLO have been consistently inconsistent and because of this, lack credibility. I have continued to do some research, which hopefully will shed light on some of the mysteries that GP Bush seems to delight in not sharing, even to his staffers. It is established that the Alamo is the responsibility of the state, while the Alamo Plaza, where the Alamo Cenotaph sits, belongs to the city of San Antonio.

My question has always been who has VETO power on the master plan, on the cenotaph? The answers vary. I did manage to speak to Ash Wright from the GLO office, and here are his answers:

WRIGHT: Mayor Ron Nirenberg and GLO have equal VETO power over master plan that is chosen.  Master plan will determine the cenotaph’s future.

SONJA:  How many master plans are there?

WRIGHT:  Four master plans are being considered ONE OPTION does not remove Cenotaph.

My favorite answer of all:

SONJA:  What does GPB say about moving the cenotaph?

WRIGHT:  No decision yet, GP Bush does not want to make hard rash decisions.

After a round of getting absolutely nowhere, Wright was clever enough to say that he would have Becky Dinnin, Executive Director for ‘Remember the Alamo Foundation’ answer my questions.

So here I was with Becky, though she does seem to be more knowledgeable about the Alamo than the GLO staffers who should have some inkling.

SONJA:  How many master plans are there?

DINNIN:  There is one current active one, and it does not include the cenotaph.

SONJA:  Is there a destination for the cenotaph?

DINNIN:  The city wants to SEE where it will be moved (these are the 3 main locations)
South of the battlefield in front of the Menger Hotel
Further South where the Red Torch of Friendship metal sculpture is
Park area on the RiverWalk Marriott northside (ground level)

SONJA: Who will make final decision on the cenotaph relocation? 

DINNIN:  City wants to take lead on wants to move it.

And yet Dinnin says the Master Plan is a ‘partnership’ with the state and city and so does the GLO. The state will make final authority on church long barracks and gardens and buildings. 

This statement is very disturbing since doing research on the San Antonio Conservation Society website; I found this report in their newsletter Volume 49, NO 1 Fall 2012 Article by Roberto G. Hinkson, ‘Alamo Plaza’ the president that year was Nancy Avellar.

The Society also opposes the removal of the Cenotaph as we believe the removal is unnecessary and financially prohibitive.

The latest SACS newsletter Volume 53, No 4 Summer 2017 lists the Master Plan’s ‘key concepts’ which includes the removal of the Cenotaph.

The cenotaph will be removed from the center of the historic plaza, conserved, and re-constructed at a location in context with its historical importance.

The website for The Alamo Master Plan has this to offer its readers:

What are the plans for the cenotaph?

The city of San Antonio owns the cenotaph and plans to repair and restore the monument, as well as add the names of additional defenders who were unknown when the cenotaph was erected in 1939.  Discussion is ongoing about where the cenotaph will be located once restoration work is complete.  One idea is to relocate the cenotaph to the location of one of the funeral pyres, which would serve to restore the 1836 battlefield footprint and to properly honor the location where the defenders’ bodies were burned. Evidence indicates that two of the funeral pyres were located near St. Joseph Church on Commerce Street and the third was some distance east of the Alamo’s church. While the City of San Antonio has made no final decision on the cenotaph’s future location, what is certain is the monument will be repaired, and it will always stand to honor the Alamo Defenders.

Mr. Wright had told me that GLO was waiting for the San Antonio City Council to make decisions on the master plan.  But wait didn’t the SACS and Express News publish that the master plan had been approved by the SA city council?  More reasons to question the Alamo Master Plan.

On July 6, 2015 the five San Antonio missions were designated as the 23rd World Heritage site.  Questions have been raised as to the World Heritage, (UNESCO) United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization assignment.  According to the SACS and the GLO, the UN will not interfere with the daily routine.  Taken from the World Heritage Designation website:  Secretary Jewell noted that the Department of the Interior undertook the nomination of the San Antonio Missions with the full  cooperation and written support of all the property owners within the boundaries of the nominated area, including the National Park Service,  the state of Texas, the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio, Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio River Authority, the Espada Ditch Company, the San Juan Ditch Water Supply Corporation, and the Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.  All though four of the five missions include active churches, they are all open to the public for visitation.

Yes this designation can be removed according to Dinnin.  There is still one question, is there a signed contract between the City of San Antonio and UNESCO that will call for any restrictions?

The history of the ownership of the Alamo has been a tempestuous one, right up until the state of Texas took control of the day to day activities September 1, 2011 after Texas lawmakers approved a bill making the Alamo state responsibility. This was accomplished after the state of Texas filed a 38-page lawsuit by then Attorney General Greg Abbott accusing the Daughters of the Republic of Texas of misusing state funds and other management irregularities. The DRT have been the caretakers of the Alamo since 1905 but lost that responsibility to the state. The DRT have not participated in the discussions to ‘reimagine’ the Alamo and that has been a sore issue with some of the DRT members.

It’s been a long journey for the Alamo from the 13-day siege where the defenders gave their lives to give us liberty and independence to the present where their memory could be wiped away by removing the cenotaph to an obscure location. The GLO’s mantra is “it will always stand to honor the Alamo Defenders.”  Our question is WHY should the cenotaph be moved when it can stand where it is to REMEMBER THE ALAMO?

Fight, NEVER GIVE UP!     

COMMITTEE:  Finance 
TIME & DATE: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, December 05, 2017 

PLACE:  E1.036 (Finance Room)
CHAIR:  Senator Jane Nelson

The Senate Finance Committee will meet Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 10:00am to hear invited and public testimony on the following interim charges:

Alamo Historical Site Renovation: Monitor the expenditures of state funds appropriated to the General Land Office for the preservation, maintenance, and operation of the Alamo historical site. Ensure the funds are spent to emphasize the architectural design and the historical impact the battle had on the development of Texas as a nation and as a state.

November, 2012
Office of the Attorney General

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