Remember Mexico, Not the Alamo
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer
©2004. Earnest McBride. Published in the April 15-21, 2004 edition of the Jackson Advocate. Posted by permission.
Ho, hum. Disney released The Alamo this past weekend and it fell like a Shiite RPG shell in the American Green Zone in Iraq. A real bomb.
Disney’s now crestfallen formerly all-powerful chief Michael Eisner was hopeful that The Alamo would "recapture the post-September 11 surge in patriotism.”
But if the beleaguered Disney half-chief thought what’s left of his job and respectability would be saved by this newest version of the old story of a handful of pro-slavery, white supremacist goofballs trying to steal a swatch of Mexican land half the size of the original 13 U. S. colonies, then it’s time for Eisner to join the unemployment lines like the 40 million of his fellow Americans who didn’t try to milk the 911 tragedy for a profit.
It seems quite fitting that a resurrected Jesus of Nazareth, unpretentious in its goal of relying a tragic message of sacrifice and brotherhood, would kick some serious box-office butt over such high hopes, but low draws as The Alamo, The Whole Ten Yards, Ella Enchanted, and Johnson Family Vacation. Yet, it was only the highly underrated, black-themed Johnson Family Vacation that performed better than expected among the five new releases over the Easter weekend, pulling in $9.2 million, slightly more than the amount tallied by the much-touted Alamo.
The Christian Science Monitor pegged the
Alamo---starring Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Quaid, ordinarily two capable
actors when given a good production---as a failed vehicle.
“Forget the Alamo, please,” Monitor movie critic David Sterritt says in the April 9 edition of the highly respected publication. "It's dull, derivative and as lifelike as a heap of historical figurines. How many last stands does the Alamo have to make before Hollywood finally gives this historic standby a rest?"
Black people played a role at the Alamo, but they were captives of several of the white men there. In the newest version of the movie, three black slaves are briefly seen discussing their plight in being trapped with their enslavers.
Slavery in Mexico—including Texas-- was abolished by a decree of President Vicente Guerrero in 1829 that stated simply:
Slavery is abolished in the republic.
Consequently, those who have been until now considered slaves are free.
When the circumstances of the treasury may permit, the owners of the slaves
will be indemnified in the mode that the laws may provide. And in order that
every part of this decree may be fully complied with, let it be printed,
published, and circulated. Given at the Federal Palace of Mexico, the 15th of
September, 1829. Vicente Guerrero To José María Bocanegra.
The slavery issue became the bone of contention for the white Americans who had been allowed to settle freely in Texas by the Mexican government. From 1829 on, the heads of the government of Mexico saw fit to enforce the antislavery statue. This includes General Antonio Santa Anna, the reviled commander who killed the poor slave masters at the Alamo.
One group that has taken a special interest in the fortunes of the Alamo is a collection of both amateur and professional historians affiliated with the Black History website Lest We Forget, whose site manager Bennie McRae posts events and issues of interest to a vast legion of visitors to his site.
Black Hispanic historian Don Santina, author of "The History of the Cisco Kid in Film" warns that the current version of the Alamo is a further attempt at fostering white supremacy as an acceptable cultural norm.
"Due to production delays, we
have been watching and previews for over four months,” Santina says.
“According to the hoopla, the defenders of the Alamo fought for ‘liberty’
and ‘freedom’ and--as their noble commander says in a film clip-- to ‘show
the world what patriots are made of.’ A stirring ad run during the Superbowl
intoned that, at The Alamo, ‘Ordinary men will become heroes.’
“The perpetuation of this myth of the Alamo is a dishonest exploitation of our history. The fact is that the defenders of the Alamo fought for white supremacy and slavery. This latest Hollywood edition of the Alamo story is not much different than the last half dozen or so Alamo movies, such as the 1937 Heroes of the Alamo. The most recent Alamo film saga was John Wayne's lumbering effort in 1960, complete with a ponderous musical score and a cast of thousands. All of these films inevitably fall into a category known as White Man Movie Fiction.”
Jim Bowie, Davey Crockett and Colonel William Travis were fighting for something less than honorable reasons in trying to wrench Texas from Mexico. Mexico had abolished slavery from all its territory in 1829. But Bowie and his brother were slave traders. He and his cohorts made it clear that they would bring slavery to Texas, once they stole it from Mexican President General Santa Anna, the most respected Mexican leader of his time, having been elected to the presidency 11 times.
Quite often black researchers are surprised to discover that General Santa Anna was crusading against slavery in his push against the unfriendly Anglo settlers who had earlier been welcomed to Texas by their Mexican hosts. Compare the following observation of the Mexican president with the statements by men like Bowie and Travis and Sam Austin.
“There is a considerable number of slaves in Texas also, who have been introduced by their masters under cover of certain questionable contracts, but who according to our laws should be free,” Santa Anna wrote his Minister of War on February 16, 1836 “Shall we permit those wretches (black slaves) to moan in chains any longer in a country whose kind laws protect the liberty of man without distinction of cast or color?
” Here are some points that it is important to solve beforehand and upon which I wish definite instructions to be dictated in order not to fall again in error as when the Anglo-Americans were permitted to colonize in Texas.”
Historian Santina has found the casus belli in the opposite frame of mind of the Anglo Texans as
proposed in their Constitution of 1836.
to popular mythology and the spurious history of White Man Movie Fiction,” he
says, “the story of the Alamo is not a story of a fight for freedom. It is the
story of a fight for slavery. It is important for us to look honestly at our
cultural and historical mythologies so that we can learn from them. By perpetuating the old myths, we
create a stagnant and dangerous platform which prevents our cultural and
artistic growth as a society.”
Santina adds: “The Alamo defenders fought and died for the
constitution of the Republic of Texas which declared in Sections 6, 9 and 10:
"All free white persons who emigrate to the
republic...shall be entitled to all the privileges of citizenship.'
"All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to
their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the
like state of servitude... Congress (of Texas) shall pass no laws to prohibit
emigrants from the United State of America from bringing their slaves into the
Republic with them...nor shall Congress have the power to emancipate slaves; nor
shall any slaveholder be allowed to emancipate his or her slave or slaves...no
free person of African descent either in whole or in part shall be permitted to
reside permanently in the Republic without the consent of Congress.
"All persons, (African, the descendants of Africans and
Indians excepted,) who were residing in Texas on the day of the Declaration of
Independence shall be considered citizens of the Republic and entitled to all
the privileges of such."
In the movie business, the return on up-front money, or the ratio of cost to income, is a better measure of a movie’s success than box office intake alone. According to Box Office Mojo, a popular movie website, The Passion of the Christ cost $30 million to make and used another $20 million for marketing the film to the moviegoing public. It has earned close to a record-setting $355 million since its debut in March.
The Alamo cost $107 million to make and has earned only a paltry $9.1 million over the first three-days, less than half of its expected earnings. The income tends to flow downhill after the opening weekend. The Whole Ten Yards cost $40 million to make and spent $20 million for marketing. Johnson Family Vacation, by contrast, spent only $12 million on production costs and allocated $8 million for marketing. Thus, the real accomplishment of the JFV lies in its earnings ratio compared to the other top new releases. Based on earnings, it was the top earner of all the new films, and actually had a higher rate of return on its costs than did The Passion of The Christ.
A sort of poetic justice is brought out by the
performance of the black film in comparison to the essentially racist Alamo and
the transcendental Passion of the Christ. As several critics have chimed in with
very similar phrases, forget the Alamo, and go see the Johnsons on vacation.
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