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Pet Sins March 2005

The Alamo

The Alamo attempts to present both Mexican and Anglo characters as equally human by having Davy Crockett gaze pityingly on the corpse of a young Mexican soldier, fallen in battle. But despite its best efforts, the film carries a subtext of glorification of Anglo male/Mexican woman romance and subtle slights against Mexican men. James Bowie, one of the main Anglo characters, had a Tejano wife Ursula de Veramendi. He nostalgically remembers the night when he held out his hand to her, and she came forward and took his hand - touchingly symbolic of a woman's free choice in love.

In contrast, there is only one significant depiction of a Mexican man/Mexican woman relationship, and it is not a positive one. The main Mexican character, Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, sees a beautiful woman while passing through a town, and later orders her to his bed. The subtle or not-so-subtle message is: the Mexican woman couples with the white man out of free choice, but couples with the Mexican man because of coercion. The white men in the movie are depicted as loving husbands and fathers, and kind leaders who care for their men, while the Mexican men are depicted as authoritarian rulers, callous oppressors and indifferent leaders who treat their soldiers like expendable entities.

The actors playing positive Mexican characters are also more European-looking than the bad guys and the side characters. Grey-eyed, pale-skinned Jordi Mollo, who was born in Spain, plays Tejano Juan Seguin, the main Mexican character who fights on the side of the US. On the Mexican side, General Castrillion is depicted as a more moderate, reasonable character. The Argentine-born actor who plays him is also lighter and more European-looking than most of the actors cast as Mexicans.

The movie does give some attention to the concerns of the black characters, but not quite enough. The last we see of Joe, William Travis' slave, is Joe cowering inside the fort,repeating the few lines of Spanish that Sam, Bowie's freedman servant, taught him, hoping to plead for his life from the Mexicans. Most American viewers already know Joe did survive, but film would have better closure if audiences got to see how Joe emerge from the aftermath of the Alamo defeat. Instead, we get an epilogue with Juan Seguin, who wasn't even in the fort when it fell. The fate of the white defenders was the central focus.

The Alamo film website touts the participation of Mexican citizens (Tejanos) in the war against Mexican as stemming from their desire to fight Mexican tyranny. The real story is a little more complicated. Tejanos fought on both sides. At least some who fought on the US side were motivated by the desire to keep slavery legal in Texas. (Slavery was illegal in Mexico) Juan Seguin's father is known to be pro-slavery, as were other wealthy landowning Tejanos.