prison. De la Pena shared the Texans’ dislike of the cruel andrncrafty Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who had commandedrnthe Mexican forces at the Alamo. De la Pena clearly hoped tornshow Santa Anna at his worst.rnIn fact, the diary disappeared, turning up again only in thern1950’s. When it did so, the Crockett story, as reported in thernmedia, seemed to matter more than the depredations of SantarnAnna—who, let’s face it, could be viewed as a sort of ThirdrnWorld founding father. All the burning, searching questionsrnwere turned upon the Alamo “myth.” The alleged inferiority ofrnthe John Wayne and Disney versions of the Crockett story wasrnwidely implied and sometimes stated forthrightly. (JohnrnWayne’s Hollywood “heroism” has drawn similarly condescendingrnglances from writers analyzing Saving Private Ryan —rna matter to which I shall shortly return.)rnThe diary became a freight car on which could be loadedrnrandom criticisms of white Anglo society and its assortedrnmyths. That de la Peiia’s account cannot be verified objectivelyrn—any more than the received version can be—does not stoprnthe chatter. A deconstruchonist age has endless room for alternativernreadings of What Everyone Knows To Be True. ThernGospels themselves are not so sacred as to prevent, say, the frequentrnassertion that the Resurrechon represented merely whatrnthe Disciples wanted to believe about the continued presencernof their crucified Lord.rnThe 1990’s are likely even better prepared than the 1970’s tornrelish the taste of shredded myth. We have had 20 years longerrnto work up an appetite, and now the increasingly Hispanic castrnof Southwestern life reinforces motives of cultural relativism.rnThe Alamo story implies cultural superiority: Anglos triumphantrnover Mexicans. Well. The Alamo story partakes ofrnfevered mythmaking, don’t you know? That means a largernnumber of things, no doubt. We will be informed in duerncourse.rnThe de la Peiia story resurfaced in November 1998, whenrnthe diary came up for auction in California. It fetchedrn$387,500. The two buyers, business partners from Dallas andrnHouston, one of whom owns two sports teams in Dallas, haverndonated the manuscript to the University of Texas. The teamrnowner is a member of the UT board of regents. Said he, inadvertentlyrnopening a window on his soul; “Whether it’s the footballrnstadium or this or the business school, these are all resourcesrnand treasures.”rnOut again, with the news stories about the auction, came thernwell-worn reproaches; history presented as Anglo myth, heroismrnas popular entertainment, the masses misled, racial understandingrnthwarted. On and on. “The Alamo has been a victoryrnof cultural memory over history,” claims one Hispanicrnanthropologist. One might think we were viewing Rashomonrninstead of The Alamo, so many are the angles of vision. Whatrnonce seemed so simple—a story of heroism and sacrifice—isrnmade to do duty as a venture in cultural reconstruction. Thatrnthere is no “history” apart from culture—in other words, thatrnthe culture endlessly recycles its history, retells its yarns —is thernpoint on which general agreement is likeliest to be reached.rnThe 1960’s, which never go away, have prompted the currentrnreexamination of the Alamo, ah, myth. The questionrnof what the 60’s are whispering in our ears, and sometimesrnmore than whispering, is probably more interesting than thernquestion of whether Davy Crockett fell during or after the battle.rnAfter all, Crockett went out, more or less, swinging. As dernla Pena himself wrote: “Though tortured before they werernkilled, these unfortunates died without complaining and withoutrnhumiliating themselves before their torturers.” More heroismrnthere, one might argue, than in receiving a quick bulletrnthrough the brain. Says another Alamo expert, James Crisp ofrnNorth Carolina State University: “In no way does being capturedrnequate to cowardice. And it shows that men on bothrnsides were capable of grace under pressure.”rnIt could be left at that but for the obvious compulsion in certainrnsegments of the culture ever to be picking away at thernhandiwork of past generations. Oh, the Alamo was a heroic lastrnstand, was it—a modern Thermopylae? What about Crockett?rnSure, sure, he died . .. just not the way they said. Let’s underminerntheir authority—all those dead guys from whom we derivernso many moldering suppositions.rnT “I hat there is no “history”rnapart from culture—rnin other words, that the culturernendlessly recycles its history,rnretells its yarns — is the pointrnon which general agreement isrnlikeliest to be reached.rnIt is like the Scriptures. Paint a new and arresting picture ofrnthe Resurrection—that central snippet from the creeds—andrnyou can go on to redefine the Church. Demythologizationrnpreoccupies us because it opens escape hatches from the present.rnTo escape the bonds of the past is to experience power inrnradical new forms.rnWhy do we have to escape the bonds of the past? Because,rnsilly, the past is full of grievous, almost unpardonable stuff:rnracism, sexism, imperialism, ageism, and so on. The times inrnwhich they lived make the men of the Alamo automaticallyrnsuspect. These were not open times; they were closed to womenrnand blacks, and, in the Texas of 1836, were closing to Hispanics.rnThe myths of such a time should not be taken on faith.rnMyth tells a story that just may not be true. We must examinernthose stories with a critical eye. Truth will yet out. As maybe itrnwill, the narrow viewpoint of the myth-busters notwithstanding.rnThe myth-busters are not above the construction of myths;rnin fact, they revel in the task.rnFor instance, the newly emerging Alamo myth cannot bernhonest about the old myth. You would think, for Pete’s sake,rnthey could get right the stuff they see in the movies, never mindrndiaries. John Wayne’s The Alamo, released in 1960, a good tworndecades before political correctness and Hispanic consciousness,rncampaigns almost fanatically for fairness to the besiegingrnMexicans. I have not seen the movie in some years, but herern18/CHRONICLESrnrnrn