Q: My adult daughter moved to Austin from the East Coast in 2019. Much to my dismay, she recently told me that she has yet to make a pilgrimage to San Antonio. Being the concerned father that I am, I advised her that the Alamo is like the Vatican for Texans, and that her failure to visit this hallowed place may prevent her from ever becoming a true Texan. Or is it already too late, since it’s been over a year?
Name Withheld, Woodbine, Maryland
A: Thanks for the letter, Mr. Withheld. Would you be so kind as to unwithhold your daughter’s name and provide it to the Texanist? And could you also forward to him her last known whereabouts, current place of employment, the names of her known associates, and any other pertinent information? It’s imperative that the Texanist get in touch with her.
You see, not only might your daughter’s failure to visit the Alamo in a timely manner prevent her from becoming a “true Texan,” it could very well get her rounded up and booted right out of the state. Very few people know this, but the text-laden pile of forms a transplant signs upon their arrival to Texas contains a fair number of general rules (“Be friendly”), disclaimers (“The State of Texas cannot be held responsible for any adverse reactions caused by extreme and unrelenting heat”), and disqualifiers (“The New Texan shall visit the Alamo at least once within the first twelve months of his or her five-year probationary period or face possible expulsion”). Thus, your concern is not unwarranted.
Because it is important that all Texans give a hoot about their state’s rich and colorful history, young Texans are indoctrinated via intensive Texas history instruction, which begins formally in the fourth grade but can informally commence well before then, via the tales of resident old-timers. It’s different for late arrivers, of course, who are obliged to take the self-instruction route in these matters. And though it may sound a little harsh, the Texanist does mean obliged.
If the boot were on the other foot—if the Texanist, for instance, found himself residing on the East Coast—he’d look forward to planning a few stops at such notable places as Boston’s Faneuil Hall (a.k.a. the “Cradle of Liberty”), Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, New York City’s Statue of Liberty, or the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Heck, while he’s visiting Manhattan doing his civic duty the Texanist might even catch a production of Guys and Dolls and grab a late dinner at Sardi’s. Who’s to say?
The Texanist, if recollection serves, has actually engaged in almost all of those activities, even though, strictly speaking, he was not technically obliged to do so, given that he has never resided in any of those locales.
The Alamo, a.k.a. the “Cradle of Texas Liberty,” is, like those sites, historic, but it is also considered by many Texans to be something more, something sacred. It’s said to be the most-visited historic site in the state for a reason. And though there are certainly many Texans who have complicated, even hostile feelings about the Alamo, one really needs to at least visit the place in order to be able to fully engage in dialogue about it, which is, as you might imagine, a popular pastime here in Texas. But if your daughter has managed to spend a year living less than ninety minutes away from the Alamo and couldn’t be bothered to even make the short drive to pay a visit to the “Shrine of Texas Liberty,” as the Alamo is also known, well, then maybe, just maybe, she’s got her priorities a little bit mixed up.
The Texanist is now wondering what else this gal has not bothered to do here in her new home. Has she mentioned Fort Anahuac? Washington-on-the-Brazos? San Jacinto? Louie Mueller Barbecue, in Taylor? For cryin’ out loud, has she said anything about the Texas Chili Parlor or Mad Dog margaritas? Surely, she’s been to the Texas Chili Parlor. Please tell the Texanist that she’s been to the Chili Parlor. Oh, for the love of Sam Houston … !
Phew! The Texanist really worked up a lather there all of the sudden, didn’t he? Sorry, but the old wheels just started turning and, well, things were about to get ugly. Luckily, just before the Texanist went full Mr. Hyde on you, it occurred to him that your daughter moved here not long before the coronavirus pandemic upended everyday life. The Alamo itself was even shut down there for a bit. But though it has since partially reopened, the Texanist can understand that she might not want to brave the most-visited historic site in Texas during these plaguey times. So, with this in mind, perhaps it would be appropriate to cut her some slack.
And, in fact, that is exactly what the Texanist will do right now, by hereby recommending to the committee that oversees such matters that your daughter receive a special dispensation that allows her to hold off on her maiden visit to the Alamo until, let us say, three months after the state of Texas has achieved herd immunity. This, the Texanist believes, is a satisfactory solution that is not only safe and fair but also abides by two of Texas’s most imperative imperatives: “Friendship,” which happens to be our state motto, and “Remember the Alamo!” which too many folks seem to think is our state motto. And though it is not, it wouldn’t kill her to pay the place a visit.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.