Who Built the Alamo in San Antonio?
The Alamo looms large in American history, even though it was ultimately a loss. The Alamo was an important symbol, both for Texans and for Americans as a whole. What was the Alamo?
The Story of the Alamo
The proper name for the Alamo is San Antonio de Valero Mission, sometimes referred to as San Antonio de Padua. The Alamo is the folksy name that everyone knows now, but the building itself was authorized for construction and use by the Viceroy of Mexico back in 1716.
Friar Antonio de Olivares is generally given credit for actually building the Alamo mission. de Olivares brought Indians who had converted to Catholicism and the records from the San Francisco Solano Mission that
he’d built near San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande.
de Olivares founded the mission at the site of San Antonio in 1718, a full two years after the building was authorized. The name of the mission is a combination of Saint Anthony de Padua and the Duke of Valero, the Spanish viceroy who authorized the building. This blending of names was a common practice among the Spanish who often held their own rulers in as high a regard as religious figures. The present site of the mission, the location you see now, was actually selected in 1724, and the cornerstone of the chapel was laid on May 8, 1744.
What Was the Alamo For?
The mission behind the Alamo was to Christianize and educate the local Native American population. Of course, after just a few years the mission effectively became a military fortress, thanks to upheaval in the area and occupation by the Spanish forces.
The Alamo was the scene of many bloody skirmishes well before the famous siege of 1836. In fact, any actual missionary activity at the Alamo ended by 1765. The Alamo was completely abandoned by all forces in 1793, and the church records were moved to the nearby San Fernando Church.
The Alamo and the Fight for Texan Independence
So how did an abandoned Spanish mission become the site for a major battle in Texas’ war for independence from Mexico?
In 1803 a company of soldiers from Coahuila, Mexico occupied the old mission, finding its design a perfect fit for military barracks and training procedures. The Alamo was continuously occupied by these and other Mexican forces continuously from 1803 to December 1835, just before the Alamo siege.
Remember that by the early 1800s, the state we now know as Texas belonged entirely to Mexico. The Alamo became the scene of the famous siege during the fight for the independence of Texas from Mexico because, once again, the Alamo was occupied by a warring army. Spanish troops occupied the twice-abandoned building, now used as a fortress and barracks for their troops. It was during this occupation that the old mission came to be known as “Alamo.”
In 1836, Col. William B. Travis, James Bowie, Davy Crockett, and 200 other Texan volunteers fought for and occupied the Alamo. Thirteen days of hellish siege later, thousands of Mexican soldiers finally overtook the Alamo. The forces of General Antonio López de Santa Anna were worn down by the handful of Texans, who all died fighting for their lives on March 6, 1836. Their death became a rallying cry for other Texans and for Americans in general: “Remember the Alamo.”
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