The Alamo

The Alamo and the history behind it easily belong among the most iconic historical pieces of Texas and San Antonio history.  The Battle of the Alamo in 1836 proved a decisive battle in the Texas Revolution. Though the Battle itself ended in a Mexican victory, word of Mexican general Santa Anna’s cruelness reached Texan settlers and encouraged them to take arms against the army. Following the 13-day battle, the Mexican Army was defeated at San Jacinto a month later on April 21, 1836.

Fire Near San Jacinto Battlefield Causes Indefinite Closure

The San Jacinto battleground, along with the Battleship Texas museum, has been closed for an indefinite period of time following an ITC chemical fire that occurred in March of 2019. While fighting the fire, some of the fire suppressant foam along with toxic chemicals leaking from the tank flowed down into the Houston Ship Channel which lies between the battleground and the ITC chemical plant. Because of this, celebrations for the annual celebration of the Battle of San Jacinto were canceled. This is only the second time in thirty five years that the festivities have had to be canceled. This was a rather big letdown for many people as this remembrance celebration takes many months to plan. The Battle of San Jacinto was the last big battle of the Texas War for Independence which famously saw the Texan forces route the Mexican soldiers under the command of Santa Anna. Texan troops also ended up “capturing” Santa Anna’s prosthetic leg after the battle was over. At the end of the battle Santa Anna surrendered to Texan forces however this was not officially recognized by the American government. Battleship Texas is a famed battleship that sailed in both World Wars and was converted into a museum after being decommissioned.

Comfort Women

Statue of a young girl sitting

The term “comfort women” is a euphemism to describe sexual slaves under the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The most widely accepted estimate is nearly 200,000 women held captive; however, the most conservative estimates are around 20,000 women. Most of these women were from Korea, the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Japan, and the Netherlands. In 1991 the first woman, Kim Hak-Sun, broke the silence about being a comfort woman, over 40 years after the events. Kim Hak-sun brought the issue to the public eye which has become a large issue in Asia. Since the 90s there have been many other women who came forward.  However, many of the women who came forward as former comfort women were shunned by their family members. In 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced an apology a compensation agreement of 1 billion yen (about $8.3 million) was reached. However, the funds have since been since been frozen. There are many efforts in Asia to educate people about the horrors comfort women faced. In the Philippines, for instance, the group Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers) is an activist group which campaigns for justice for former Filipino comfort women. On the U.S. side, a house resolution was passed in 2007 which urged the Japanese government to formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept responsibility for their actions from the 1930s to WWII. In 2017, the first comfort women memorial in the United States was built in San Francisco. This statue caused controversy with Japan and caused them to end their relationship with Osaka, Japan in 2018. Even after the 2015 agreement some activists are fighting for justice. Currently, the number of living former comfort women are dwindling whose stories may not have been explored.

Koh, Jinyang, “Comfort Women: Human Rights of Women from Then to Present” (2007). LLM Theses and Essays. 79. https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/stu_llm/79​

U.S. Congress. House. H Res.121. 110th Cong., 1st sess. Introduced in House January 31, 2007. https://www.congress.gov/bill/110th-congress/house-resolution/121​

Morgan, Jason. “Stories about Comfort Women Not Accurate: Historian | Article.” Asia Times. April 09, 2019. https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/04/article/stories-about-comfort-women-not-accurate-historian/.

The History of Notre Dame

Cathedral, Paris, France, Norte Dame, French, Gothic
Notre Dame de Paris, Paris France | Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France is one of the most distinguished monuments in France. The 850-year-old cathedral was built to be the official seat of the Archbishop of Paris. Construction of the cathedral began in 1163 and was completed almost 200 years complete. Currently, it is owned by the French State, however, the Catholic Church has control to use the Cathedral whenever they want.

The Cathedral itself has a long-standing history. Some of the more major events include; the coronation of King Henry IV of England being crowned as the King of France in 1431; Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned as Emperor in 1804, Victor Hugo published The Hunchback of Norte Dame in 1831 which sparked a renewed interest in the Cathedral, which also led to new renovations, glass stained windows were removed during WWII, and  in 2012 was the celebration of the cathedrals the 850th anniversary.

The most recent event to hit the cathedral was the fire that broke out on April 15, 2019. The fire itself didn’t do much damage to the interior and infrastructure of the cathedral, however, part of the roof and the spire burned down completely. The recent event is currently under investigation, however, it is suspected that current renovations were the cause of the fire. Luckily no casualties occurred, however, one fireman and two police officers did sustain some injuries but luckily all are going to be okay.

 

Public History in the Wild – Manuel Musquiz Ranch Home

The author standing outside the ruins of the house, across the highway stands the plaque dedicated to the home.

These are the ruins of a ranch home built by Manuel Musquiz who was a pioneer who settled down in between Fort Davis and Alpine, TX in 1854. Due to the frequency of Native American raids during that period Mr. Musquiz eventually abandoned his home and moved elsewhere. From 1880 to 1882, the Texas Rangers used it as a Ranger station while they were clearing out Native Americans and marauding bandits in the surrounding area. After the Rangers abandoned it, the home eventually fell into disarray until it became as it is today.

Public History in the Wild – Jeff Davis County Jail

The author outside the entrance to the jail

The Jeff Davis County Jail, located in Fort Davis, TX, was constructed at the start of the 1910’s to replace an older jail that was deemed inefficient due to its adobe construction. The jail took on a castle like appearance because it was what was popular for most jails in the 19th century. The jail remained open until 1978 where new inmates were transported to Marfa, TX. The jail was funny to observe as it is seated next to the intricate Jeff Davis County Courthouse and the remainder of the small town is mostly brick and mortar buildings.

Public History in the Wild – Terlingua Cemetery

This is a plaque inside the Terlingua Cemetery which is located by the US-Mexican border in Terlingua, TX. Terlingua was once a mining town at the end of the 19th century into the early parts of the 20th century but is now a ghost town with a small population that consists of local artists. The cemetery mostly holds the remains of older residents of the town but there are also graves from as recently as 2018. It was amazing to see how some of these plots had withstood the test of time and continue showing the local traditions.The Author by a plaque inside Terlingua Cemetery

Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Oblate Grotto

The Oblate Grotto is a massive and Catholic place of worship that can be found in San Antonio, Texas.  Regulars and passerbys can both on the dense spiritual presence felt at this place of worship. Unlike orthodox churches, the Oblate Grotto is a church that holds all of its events and services outside rather than behind closed doors. Attendees notice that this change can bring a huge wave of comfort and spiritual attachment to the site which only furthers the religious experience that the Grotto was meant to give.

The Grotto encompasses an area of five acres and in this space, there are two reconstructions of paramount religious events. The first is a recreation of Tepeyac Hill in Mexico and where Our Lady appeared before Saint Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe. During this meeting, Our Lady asked that a shrine be built in her name and there, Juan Diego received the beautiful image of Guadalupe to convince the bishop to construct the site.

The other religious location is the resemblance to Lourdes in France where San Bernadette had her Marian Spirits apparitions. Having this spiritual connection to a woman who saw in person the religious spirits only adds to the experience and allows for a deeper understanding of the faith.

The Oblate Grotto is a famous worship site where thousands visit yearly to receive an experience that cannot be felt on a daily basis. Many people have had their lives and point of view changed as a direct result of the events held here and there will be many, many more in the years to come.

Works Cited

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=1757

San Antonio, Texas: The Oblate Grotto and Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

Saving Syria: Syrian Refugee Project in Germany

Since 2013, Germany has taken in over 700,000 Syrian refugees due to the Syrian Civil War. These refugees are dispersed among Germany’s population of over 82 million people. Although this is still less than 1 percent of Germany’s population, Germany prioritized preserving Syrian culture, while facilitating a smooth assimilation process.

Syria has a rich culture and history that has been endangered due to the Syrian Civil War. Germany wants to make sure that Syrian artifacts and collections are preserved, as many sites have already been destroyed due to ISIS treatment of this particular places. ISIS views Syria’s historical sites as a threat to the Islamic religion – and it sells ancient artifacts to produce revenue. Recently, the city of Aleppo was leveled by ISIS forces and the ancient Roman theatre has become the chosen site for ISIS beheadings.

In order to keep record of Syria’s historical sites, especially those that are at risk, the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin and the German Archeological Institute reached an agreement with the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs to begin a program that would preserve Syria’s threatened artifacts.

The project aims to weave together present day viewpoints with digital records of Syria, including an online data base which already stores 200,000 photos and documents. Another goal is to build 3D models of the UNESCO sites that were destroyed, so that one day Syria can rebuild these ancient treasures.

Ancient City of Aleppo
Digital interface of the Syrian Archive Project. The collection currently houses over 200,000 items.

As public historians, the Syrian Archive Project raises several questions:

When accepting refugees from war-torn countries how can we preserve their history?

If we are holding these artifacts, who is the true owner? When should the artifacts be repatriated?

How, as public historians, do we handle this situation? What is our role?

Work Cited

“Ancient City of Aleppo”UNESCO. Retrieved 17 August 2011.

The Museum für IslamischeKunst (Museum of Islamic Art) belongs to Staatliche MuseenzuBerlin–Stiftung PreußischerKulturbesitz(State Museums of Berlin–Prussian Cultural Heritage Foudation), http://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/museum-fuer-islamische-kunst/home.html.

THE PUBLIC HISTORIAN, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 107–128 (November 2018). ISSN: 0272-3433, electronic ISSN 1533-8576. © 2018 by The Regents of the University of California and the National Council on Public History. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page, http://www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p1⁄4reprints. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2018.40.4.107.

The Curious Case Jim Thorpe’s Remains

 

The brown granite tomb of Jim Thorpe, flanked to the right by a statue of him, on a bright and sunny fall day.
The tomb of Jim Thorpe, flanked by a statue depicting him.

When American Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe passed away in 1953, his remains were sent across the country in an odd series of events directly out of a movie.

When he died in California, Thorpe’s body was sent to Oklahoma for funeral services. It was to be then returned to California with his wife and son for burial. The problem was, Jim was essentially broke at the time of his death, and his wife had no way to transport the body again. The citizens of Shawnee tried to raise the funds for the transport, but couldn’t get them together. Fearing that Jim would be buried in a porter’s grave, she spirited away the remains to, of all places, a town in Pennsylvania he had never been to.

The towns of East and West Mauch Chunk were financially strapped in the 1950s, and looking for a way to diversify the economy of the former mining town. Precilla Thorpe, Jim’s wife, heard about this and made them a deal: Jim’s body and rights to his likeness for an undisclosed amount. The town agreed, and that same year merged and renamed into what is now Jim Thopre, Pennsylvania.

Some sixty years later, Jack Thorpe, Jim’s son, wanted to see his father buried in his homeland in Oklahoma, as did the majority of the Thorpe family. In 2010, he sued the city of Jim Thorpe for his father’s remains, citing the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act as grounds. Ultimately, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals would rule in favor of the city, citing the town receives no direct state of federal aid that would designate the whole town as a museum, and that Priscilla sold the remains in good faith to the city as Jim’s direct beneficiary and proxy.

As painful as it is not honor a loved one’s wishes, the positive thing to come out of all of this is the fact Jim’s legacy is forever enshrined in a little town in Pennsylvania, and the fight for his remains provided publicity about the greatest athlete you never knew.

You can read more about the legal battle in Supreme Court Ends Fight Over Jim Thorpes Resting Place and Fight for Jim Thorpe’s Remains Continues 62 Years Later, or about the man himself with Encyclopædia Britannica’s Biography