News / USA

Texas Celebrates Battle that Led to Independence from Mexico

Actors re-enact the Battle of San Jacinto just east of current-day Houston, Texas
Actors re-enact the Battle of San Jacinto just east of current-day Houston, Texas

Multimedia

Greg Flakus

One of the most consequential battles in North American history occurred 175 years ago on a field just east of current-day Houston, Texas.  In the battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, a ragtag Texas rebel army of about 900 men defeated some 1,500 Mexican soldiers and won independence.  This led to the Mexican-American War in which the United States acquired California and other southwestern states - leading to disputes over the expansion of slavery and ultimately to the U.S. Civil War.  The shots fired in 1836 reverberate across the southwestern United States today.

Telling the story through re-enactment takes longer than the battle itself.  In one of the biggest upsets in American history, the small Texas rebel force led by General Sam Houston swept over the Mexican camp in about 18 minutes.

The Mexicans had easily won every battle before this one and perhaps were undermined by their own self confidence.

After being captured, Mexican leader General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna ordered his troops to leave Texas.  He signed a document giving the territory its independence, something officials in Mexico said he had no right to do.

At this re-enactment, staged on the ground where it happened, near the San Jacinto monument, Hilario de la Pena, a Mexican-American from San Antonio, Texas, played the role of Santa Anna, who was sent to Texas to restore order.

De La Pena says he sympathizes with Mexico, but that he favors the side that won.

"Am I ambivalent?  No.  I am glad that Texas ultimately won.  I was born and raised in San Antonio and so I am glad the way things turned out," said De La Pena.

Many Mexicans still resent what they view as a land grab by the United States.  But some of the rebels, like the famed Juan Seguin, were Mexicans.  And De La Pena says their culture endures.

"You see the Spanish culture still ever, ever present in the entire southwest," noted De La Pena.  "And now Hispanic culture is throughout the country of the United States."

Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States and are likely to become the dominant culture here in Texas and in other southwestern states in the decades ahead.

Elizabeth Elizalde came to the re-enactment with her son Edgar.

"I am a true Texan at heart; I was born here, so we came to cheer for the Texan side," Elizalde said.  "But my parents, who are from Mexico, kind of tell history a little differently than what we learn here."

But she says Texas was separated from Mexico City by more than 1,000 kilometers of mountains and deserts.  So even if Santa Anna had won this battle, he would not have been able to maintain control of Texas.

"Maybe there would have been a different battle and they would have lost because Mexico was so far away from this land that they were not able to control it well," Elizalde added.

On the other side of the monument, in the area where most of the heavy fighting happened 175 years ago, High School teacher Scott Griffin shows a group of students around.

He grew up in this area and has studied the history all of his life.  He says he understands that some people gained and others lost here.

"From the Mexican standpoint today, if I put myself in their shoes, it would be hard to argue that it was not lost territory, something that was once theirs that was lost," said Griffin.

But Griffin notes that Mexico had very few settlers in what is now the U.S. southwest - including Texas - where warriors of the Apache, Comanche and other American Indian tribes held sway.

"Mexico could not get anyone to leave Mexico and come and live in this part of Texas during that time," Griffin explained.  "And that is why Santa Anna opened up immigration to [what is now] the United States."

Still some Hispanics in Texas trace their lineage back to that time and want to see all perspectives represented at the reenactment.

Jessica Torres, 16, wore a Mexico tee shirt for the event.

"It is pretty cool to see the Texas point of view and it would also be cool to see the Mexicans' point of view.  But I wore the shirt because it matches my pants," Torres said.

So, in the years ahead, the story of this battle will be told over and over again, with a new generation of Texans, made up of many races and cultures reexamining history.

Whatever perspectives might emerge, the fact is that because of this battle and the Mexican-American War that followed, the United States doubled in size, became a bi-coastal nation and an important power on the world stage.  And it all started here.

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More