What is the spirit of Fiesta? It is merrymaking with respect and goodwill towards others. It is color and movement and revelry for all the senses. It is a celebration of springtime. Lent is over and it’s time to use up the winter stores – knowing that seasonal crops are just around the corner.
It is a time to celebrate the victory at the battle of San Jacinto. The deciding battle that established Texas’ independence was fought to remember the Alamo, to remember Goliad. Goliad comes from rearranging the phonetic letters in the name, Hidalgo, the heroic priest of the 1810 Mexican Revolution.
Goliad was the death trap for Colonel Fannin and his 350 troops in 1836. They surrendered in the faith that Santa Anna would spare their lives. He didn’t. Had they known of this tyrant’s other deeds on the way to South Texas, they may have decided to fight. This battle is commonly known as the Goliad Massacre.
About half the states in Mexico were in open revolt in the 1830s. The insurrection at Zacatecas was crushed in a far more deplorable way than any of the skirmishes in the far reaches of Northern Mexico.
After defeating the revolutionaries in Vera Cruz, Santa Anna ordered his troops to rape, pillage, and burn this thriving seaport. More than 2,500 women and children were executed at his command. Then he went to quell the disturbances in Coahuila and Texas.
Santa Anna violated three of the five requirements of a just war in his tour of destruction. His victories were for punishment, not to attain peace. The only tranquility in his wake was the peace of the graveyard. He resolved disagreements with annihilation when diplomacy would have sufficed. And the principle of proportionality was totally disregarded. He took pride in excessive destruction for the sake of minimally desirable ends.
This tyrant fought against justice and liberty under the flag of Spain when the pickings were good and later for Mexico when the gains suited his inflated ego.
So Fiesta is a cause to celebrate the ousting of one of the world’s most evil dictators. Santa Anna was worse than Adolph Hitler in that he did not attain office by the popular vote. Santa Anna’s own people feared him more than Iraqis in this century feared Saddam Hussein.
Like Fidel Castro of Cuba or the Jon Il family of North Korea, Santa Anna continued oppression of his countrymen and riled his neighbors for decades. Santa Anna attempted to retake San Antonio in 1842 in the Battle of Salado. Fortunately for Texas, he was thwarted again.
So it’s no wonder that San Antonio commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto with a Battle of Flowers. This festival, originally meant to impress President Benjamin Harrison in 1890, impressed the populace even more. Bouquets replaced bullets. Cascarones bursting in hair replaced bombs bursting in air. And excessive eating and drinking replaced the meager rations of Tejano troops.
Memories of the reasons why we celebrate may fade but the spirit of Fiesta grows every year. Watch the military march in a parade, revel in the regalia of artificial armies, and dance in the spirit of Fiesta. Let the celebration commence!
See the Fiesta calendar of events at www.fiesta-sa.org.
Don Mathis served as president of the Texoma Poetry Society in 2011 (a Sherman member of the Poetry Society of Texas). And in 2010, ‘Dionysus Don’ was crowned champion of the McKinney Poetry Slam. Don is very involved in the poetry community in Bexar County. He is a founding member of the San Antonio Poetry Fair and participates regularly with Sun Poets and La Taza writers’ group. His poetry has been published in anthologies, periodicals and has appeared on local TV and national radio.