The first question of the night came from Charisma Villarreal, a descendant of Alamo defender Gregorio Esparza: Will the public see a rendering of the Alamo interpretive plan that shows the Cenotaph in its current location?
And for the first time, critics of the plan heard what they thought they’d been waiting for.
“We will demonstrate what it looks like to have the Cenotaph in place with this design. We will show that, absolutely,” District 1 City Councilman Roberto C. Treviño said at last night’s Alamo meeting held at Jefferson High School. The second draft of the interpretive plan is scheduled to be released in August.
Immediately after the meeting, Treviño clarified his statement to the Heron, explaining that a rendering will be drawn up that shows the Cenotaph in its current location in front of the Long Barrack — but only to demonstrate why the monument cannot stay where it is.
“It’s not an option,” he said.
Treviño and other city officials and planners have said the Cenotaph must move in order to “reclaim” as much of the original Alamo compound footprint as possible. The current draft shows the Cenotaph moved roughly 500 feet south to in front of the Menger Hotel. At least two groups representing the descendants of the Alamo defenders — This is Texas Freedom Force and Alamo Defenders Descendants Association — have vehemently argued against the move.
After the meeting, Villarreal explained that Esparza, her great-great-great-great grandfather, was killed during the 1836 siege, though his family was spared. Esparza was the only defender to receive a Christian burial, unlike the other fighters, whose bodies were burned in the vicinity, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
“We don’t know where the remains are, so that Cenotaph is our headstone,” she said.
No one would think of moving the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial, she said. She believes the Alamo Cenotaph should be given the same respect.
So when Treviño said the next set of renderings would show the Cenotaph unmoved, she felt a “flicker of hope” that the tomb would stay put.
It’s the first time most attendees, who have been following the development of the Alamo interpretive plan closely, heard about the prospect of new renderings. But not everyone was so optimistic.
Lee Spencer White, president of the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, predicted the architects will “make a design that makes the Cenotaph look unflattering on that site.”
Treviño said the renderings showing the Cenotaph unmoved will have a point. At the next round of public meetings in August, the councilman hopes to show critics why the Cenotaph can’t work in its current location: It’s too big, and it blocks the line of vision of the Alamo from many angles, among other reasons, he said.
He said he doesn’t think it’s contradictory to tell people that their perspectives are being considered when a decision has already been made about moving the Cenotaph. There are many concerns from the public, he said, that need to be balanced and treated thoughtfully.
At the meeting Wednesday night, among the more than 100 people, a vocal group of about two dozen — mostly descendants of the defenders — sat close to the stage and waved signs that read “Not One Inch” (in reference to the Cenotaph) and at times heckled presenters.
For his part, Treviño said he’s been meeting with opponents of the plan. On Wednesday afternoon, for instance, the councilman met with organizers of the Battle of Flowers and Fiesta Flambeau parades about how the city can be respectful toward the historic routes. And he’ll continue to schedule meetings about issues ranging from the traffic study to the proposed Alamo museum.
“The Alamo is a lot more than the Cenotaph,” he said.
— Jolene Almendarez (@jalmendarez57) July 19, 2018
Featured photo: District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño answers questions at an Alamo public meeting Wednesday night at Jefferson High School auditorium. V. FINSTER | SAN ANTONIO HERON