Cenotaph Relocation Protester: ‘Divorce the Alamo from the City of San Antonio’

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More than 100 protesters on Saturday demonstrated their opposition to moving the Alamo Cenotaph as part of an estimated $450 million plan to redevelop the Alamo Plaza. Speakers and attendees met at 10 a.m. at the monument built to honor the fallen defenders of the Alamo during the famous 1836 battle there, and rallied against planners’ proposed changes.

“We believe the Alamo should be remembered and not imagined,” Kaufman County Tea Party Chair Ray Myers said Saturday, quoting a motion discussed at the Texas Republican Party convention in San Antonio in mid-June.

At the end of the convention, he said, “we had 5,650 delegates vote to … not move this [monument], not one inch.

“We want to stall anything the City of San Antonio does. We want the State Legislature to have this. We want it back in their hands. We want the Texas Parks and Wildlife [Department], the [Texas] Historical Commission involved, not the City of San Antonio.

“We have got to divorce the Alamo from the City of San Antonio.”

The conceptual master plan was developed by consultants hired by the City of San Antonio, Texas General Land Office, and Alamo Endowment.

Some citizens and public officials support the redevelopment plan’s proposal to move the Cenotaph some 500 feet away to a new location in front of the Menger Hotel. Others say the committee should further review its relocation.

Protesters on Saturday included members of groups such as This Is Texas Freedom Force and the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, the latter of which which will continue to protest and rally against such a move in the plaza and at public input meetings, its president Lee Spencer White said.

“Obviously we’re dedicated or we wouldn’t go out in this heat,” White told the Rivard Report Wednesday. Saturday’s temperature peaked at 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

The association organized a similar rally last October.

“[The rally] is a chance to reach out to more Texans who are unaware of the situation at the Alamo,” White said, noting that an online petition she created on Change.org has collected more than 10,000 signatures. She has an additional 1,000 paper petitions, she added.

The conceptual master plan includes restoration and relocation of the aging, nearly 60-foot sculpture commissioned by the State of Texas in the late 1930s for the Texas Centennial. The Cenotaph, planners have said, needs to be removed to restore more closely the original mission footprint and allow for its own space for reverence.

“The entire reimagination of the Alamo project has been undertaken with the utmost care and thoughtfulness,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) who is also a tri-chair of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee. “Each element of the project is being evaluated and carefully considered – including community input.

“All of the decisions made will be respectful of the site and its complete history and will be made for the greater good of the project and our local and statewide communities.”

Dozens of public meetings have been held since the process began in 2014. City Council approved the conceptual master plan in May 2017. The descendants arguably have been the most vocal against moving the Cenotaph. Other groups, including architects and conservationists, are strongly opposed to other elements of the plan including fenced or “managed access” to the plaza, area street closures, and demolition of historic buildings.

“You’re telling me that ground is sacred because the Alamo defenders’ blood is on that ground,” White said, recalling conversations with planners. “And then you want to move this monument honoring them outside where you’re saying the ground is not sacred. … Why would you want to take the memorial, the empty tomb, outside the walls they died defending?”

Alamo officials last month released a professional visitor study by Missouri-based H2R Market Research that showed 60 percent of respondents supported repairing and moving the Cenotaph, 34 percent were neutral, and only 6 percent wanted to keep it where it is.

A recent push poll performed by JB Media – commissioned by White– showed the opposite result. Of the more than 2,500 Texans randomly surveyed via phone call and email, about 60 percent of respondents want to keep the Cenotaph within the footprint of the “fort” defenders protected, she said.

However, the language used in the poll was biased toward that result:

“We are calling people today about the empty tomb of the Alamo Defenders, also known as the Cenotaph, which is currently located within the fort they defended. The Cenotaph is an impressive structure commissioned in 1936 to honor the Alamo Defenders on the ground where they died.

“It has been proposed to move the Cenotaph outside the Alamo Fort to a nearby location.

“Opponents say, the Cenotaph should stay in its current location inside the fortress walls; honoring the heroes where they fought and died for liberty.

“Proponents say, the Cenotaph should be relocated to a nearby site outside the fort, providing an additional 480 square feet of space inside the Alamo Fort.”

People were then asked to indicate if they supported keeping the monument where it is, wanted it moved, or didn’t have enough information to say. Click here to download the results.

White admitted that the language she chose was a little slanted, especially when it comes to summarizing proponents’ argument. “I’ll give you that,” she said.

But that’s what planners have told her, she said, and she hasn’t heard other convincing reasons why the Cenotaph needs to be moved.

Planners have said they need the space for an “open-air” extension of the proposed museum across South Alamo Street and that extending the distance between the Alamo and Cenotaph would give each the space they deserve. Others have said the Cenotaph distracts from the Alamo.

The H2R visitor survey was not a survey of the city’s general public; rather it polled more than 2,000 “household decision-makers” from San Antonio, Texas, and the United States who participate in online surveys and have recently visited attractions and landmarks.

More than 2,000 people, most live in Texas, participated in the survey that included questions about the Alamo Master Plan proposal.

Courtesy / H2R Market Research

More than 2,000 people, most of whom live in Texas, participated in the survey that included questions about the Alamo Master Plan proposal.

The graphic above from the resulting report shortens the verbiage surveyors used to: “Repair and restore the Alamo Cenotaph, etc.” The actual wording, according to the H2R questionnaire, was, “Repair and restore the Alamo Cenotaph, add the names of the missing Defenders and relocate the Cenotaph to a prominent location just outside the historic mission footprint, visible from the Church.”

Click here to download the 78-page report and analysis. Click here to download the questionnaire.

The “managed access” proposed for the plaza would prevent protests, impromptu gatherings, and other public activities that have taken place there for decades since the battle. But some of those activities in the plaza include street preachers, vendors selling souvenirs and toys, and protests about abortion, gun rights, and other causes. Planners suggest moving the venue for such activities with the Cenotaph.

“Inappropriate behaviors for families should not be part of this space,” Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald told the Rivard Report when the H2R survey was released.

Moving the Cenotaph, and with it the civic space associated with the Alamo Plaza, White said, is “insulting.”

Her organization and other groups, she said, would like to see the whole Alamo Plaza redevelopment process slowed down so officials can focus their priorities on repairing the Alamo itself and building the museum.

“I just don’t want us to make a mistake that we’re going to regret,” White said.


Bonnie Arbittier and Hanna Oberhofer contributed to this report. This article was originally published on July 25 and updated on July 28.

34 thoughts on “Cenotaph Relocation Protester: ‘Divorce the Alamo from the City of San Antonio’

    • Dear Rivard Report,

      Again, reporter Iris Dimmick misrepresents the complex issues involved in the Missions, the Alamo, and the Memorial Cenotaph. She fails to include Mayor Ron Nirenburg’s recent quote about the Alamo Plan and Cenotaph.

      The pubic interest in the sacred Cenotaph is underestimated. There are more than 15 social media groups that are involved in the Cenotaph discussion, many with at least 2,000 members. The San Antonio Conservation Society has their own petition, yet the petition was not mentioned. And several law suits are being considered.

      I have a long personal history with the Missions including the San Antonio de Valero Mission and the Alamo. I was taken to San Jose Mission probably before I knew how to walk.

      My maternal Grandmother also took me to the Alamo and especially the Cenotaph. Pompeo Coppini, the sculptor, used models from Alamo descendant families. Grandmom showed me where our family model posed for the Cenotaph. Other families also visit the Cenotaph to see the images made from posing models.
      Coppini kept a list of the models he used to create the Memorial. And the effect of touching the stone where a family member modeled is magical for a child.

      When I was 18, I worked at San Jose Mission with the Youth Conservation Corps, and helped re-mortar the south and east walls of the Mission. The next year, I was excited to be part of the first National Park Service Rangers at the Missions. What a wonderful place to work, and I loved working at the Missions for 4 seasons. The rangers’ first season was one of the hottest seasons on record, and we actually fried eggs on the pavement in burning August.

      My strong connection with the Missions has continued all my life, and I will continue to be a ‘witness’ to the short-term process underway.

    • Perhaps they consider preserving Texas history and honoring war dead to be more important than doing something like collecting stamps. I’m not surprised that some rather frivolous people would have trouble relating to that though.

  1. Everyone I know tells me I’m the person who most goes downtown when compared to everyone else they know and even I only go to Alamo Plaza a couple of times a year (to see the Christmas tree and maybe during Fiesta). Most locals I come in contact continue to stress how much they stay away from Alamo Plaza and the Riverwalk because they feel it is for the tourist. I’m not saying they don’t exist but I have yet to meet anyone in person who says Alamo Plaza is a big part of their life. But many people I know say they would love to no longer hear tourist say “that’s all there is to the Alamo”?

    How many tourists are taking much notice of the cenotaph where it is? If you look at #thealamo on Twitter as proof, not many. So as it stands, its current location is not giving the cenotaph enough exposure to honor the fallen. And recently coming back from a trip to Philadelphia and Boston, tour guides and city officials there readily admit to not only how many memorials and burial markers have been moved but also to how many graves have been moved because those moves helped tell the story of certain historical time periods better.

    • The area that we call Alamo Plaza had been the beating heart of the city of San Antonio for about 230 years. It was the site of the first permemant settlement of this area 300 years ago, it was a site that for a fortnight in 1836 helped to define the state of Texas, and it was the site that the chili queens turned a simple working man’s dish into a global icon.

      Then at some point we decided to turn it into “the sacred icon of Texas Liberty” and eventually into the world’s most famous tourist trap.

      You have hit upon the great flaw of all the redesign proposals. For us Sen Antonians, Alamo Plaza is either some kind of sacred sibboleth to remain revered and untouched from it’s completely not 1836 state or the place we bring out of town visitors to before heading down to the Riverwalk.

      If we really wanted to make Alamo Plaza great, we would focus on making it a place that actual San Antonians visit. It would be a place that we not only revere, but we also live, work, eat, learn, love, and have fun. The top priority would be getting people to live and patronize business down there. A vibrant city square would enhance the space as a tourist destination.

      I don’t know what that would entail, but that is the vision I wish we had tasked the designers with creating.

      • A city square is currently what Alamo Plaza is, just not a very inviting or vibrant one. Many tourists take pictures of the cenotaph from afar due to it being so exposed to the Texas sun and those that do venture close enough to read it do it quickly so that they can get back to the shade.

        I’m neutral about moving the cenotaph only because both sides have made weak arguments towards their views. Their views might be strongly held by them but they do little to sway others.

  2. Just move the damn thing and move on with the changes , since 2014 , this is ridiculous and out of hand. People know money talks and the final outcome ultimately has been decided. Let’s move on , anything will be better than the eyesore it is now. If all these “jump on the band wagon” protestors really cared then where were they all these years? Why didn’t they protest the snow cone ladies, the virtual tours, the via bus route, the list goes on and on. Let’s move on already. OMG this city loves drama. We continue to beat a dead horse and never seriously move forward. I would love to actually see the change in this lifetime. Protest away folks. Remember the Alamo ,oh and get a snow cone on the scared grounds while your at it. Way to go SA.

    • This is a Memorial to The Alamo Defenders!! Donated by The State!
      AND The land was Donated by Catholic Priest for This Sole Purpose!!
      Moving this is Also Breaking the agreement with the Priest. That Donated the area The Cenotaph sits on!!
      There is a land deed with Restrictions To this Donated land!
      It’s Not a Damm thing!!
      Thank God The Alamo Defenders’s Descendents are Fighting to keep this Texas Memorial To Our Alamo Heros that Sacrificed their lifes for the Independent!!
      This is where they died!!
      Leave it Alone!! The City hasn’t shown Dilligence in even properly maintaining the site. Moving this Memorial is like spitting in the face of The Alamo Defenders and Their Descendents!!
      And all True Texans!!

      • Please see Mayor Ron Niremburg’s recent article in this magazine on keeping Alamo Plaza alive. The Mayor asks that the Cenotaph not be moved. He looks at legal precedence also when he mentions the San Antonio Archdiocese provisions that the Plaza stay open and honored.

        Much evidence about the Cenotaph was accidentally ignored in more recent legal battles with the Texas General Land Office, and this evidence is currently being reviewed.

        There are over 15 Groups (each with near 2,000 members) that are working on behalf of the Cenotaph and the Alamo Plan, the reporter just failed to mention them. The San Antonio Conservation Society also has gotten involved.

        Please e-mail or write all of the San Antoni City Council, including the Mayor.

        Thank you for your support!

      • This comment needs more !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



  3. As a resident of SA, I do like to go to the plaza area and the Alamo. It would be nice to have less vehicle traffic noise/fumes. It would be great to have a few small eateries and places to hang out with a bit more shade.
    To me, the Centotaph is a jarring visual where it is placed now. Moving it would not change its purpose.

  4. The results of the Alamo Defender’s Poll does not reflect the majority sentiment of San Antonians. It is invalid because it was designed to produce a certain result. It is a perfect example of what is known as a ‘push poll.’

    The Defender’s would have have been better off hiring a professional polling firm. Unfortunately, they keep pushing an agenda and historical understanding of the Alamo that is much more about myth and folklore than historical reality.

    Yes, it is important to value and remember the lives of men who died at the Alamo. This should also include men who fought on both sides of the battke including the poor conscripts who were forced to fight by Santa Anna. We should also remember the many Native Americans who are buried under Alamo Plaza. When do they get their memorial statue?

    Overall, we should remember that the Alamo, like her sister missions, is about more than a single battle that transformed a sacred and religious site to a military and cultural symbol of dominance.

    • Most of America hasn’t heard of the Missions, but have heard about the Battle of the Alamo. If we should have memorials for the ones who fought to keep Texas saddled with mexico, shouldn’t we have also kept that Confederate Memorial at Travis Park?

  5. More Byzantine Iconoclasm. You people are dolts. Move another monument and spend how much money? Typical group think. Actually, I don’t live in San Antonio. I live up state. Don’t forget that Davey Crockett was a “Native Texan”.

  6. Compromise is the key, folks! The current location of the large Cenotaph conflicts visually with the Alamo church. In order to enhance the plaza, the very modest shift of the Centotaph to the south (clearly still in the general area of the plaza), will open up the vista of the front of the church from the west, and provide a visual enhancement for those approaching the site from the south.

  7. John Kelly and Susan L. I am with you both. But I am especially behind Patrick’s comment. Amen to what you said because I have said before that this is all going to explode in our faces and San Antonio will look foolish……again! We just don’t know what it’s like to be a major city with a “thinking outside the box” design mentality.

  8. Several issues with this article:

    I did a survey of 2,000 people in April 2017, and did not get these results, not even close. Check your sampling methods.

    Seems to be some confusion about the term, “Cenotaph”.
    Cenotaph = a monument honoring a died person whose remains lie elsewhere, funerary term. For example, one of my ancestors died at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. He was buried in a mass grave. Later a Valley Forge Cenotaph was erected in memory of the fallen soldiers including my ancestor. Do you think anyone would think of moving the Valley Forge Cenotaph?

    In one of your articles, you mention a empty Cenotaph. Obviously, the writer did not understand the term, ‘Cenotaph’, or the sense of spirit a Cenotaph represents.

  9. What with all the Cenopath controversy comes the application to build a 14 story addition on top of the old Joske building on Alamo Plaza. The developers can’t wait to see what is decided about The Alamo or is the proposal part of some devious plan? It smells like it. So since they don’t care about The Alamo being protected I sent a picture of the proposal to the Paris office of the UN World Hertitage Site. I am sure they will want to think about removing the World Heritage Site designation for the San Antonio Missions? Our developers and their bought politicians will be to bleme if the designation is withdrawn.

    • Actually, The Alamo (Mission Valero to UNESCO) was always one of the hindrances to the missions becoming a World Heritage Site because of its commercialism and the changes to the complex that came with that commercialism, including cutting off the view that showed how the river played a part in the daily life of the mission. It’s on the merits of the other missions that they earned the designation. The UNESCO World Heritage website verifies this, saying “authenticity is limited in a number of aspects” in regards to Mission Valero and that it’s inclusion is more due to it being the first mission created in the group of 5 missions. UNESCO doesn’t even mention the battle. Even when the city and the National Parks Service were trying to earn the designation, The Alamo was never a selling point nor a focus on improvements needed to earn the designation.

      • Another hinderance to the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park formation was the separation of Church and State. Since active Catholic churches were on the purposed Park site, the issue had to go all the way to the US Supreme Court. The National Park Service cannot help with the active Catholic Churches, but they are the gems of the Missions.

  10. There is no “divorcing The Alamo from the city.” It’s already under control of the state and under an organization run by a friendly Republican and Trump surrogate named George P. Bush.

    If people really want it to be run like the rest of the missions, give it to the National Park Service. That’ll piss them off.

    How many guns were there today? After all, that’s the primary mission of TITFF.

  11. And one lesson I’ve learned in life is that those unwilling to budge an inch towards compromise reduce the chances of having their voices heard. They’ll get left behind.

  12. In my opinion the Cenotaph as defined by a previous posting “Cenotaph = a monument honoring a died person whose remains lie elsewhere, funerary term. ” This cenotaph is like a dead person’s headstone in a cemetery. For example, if someone 200 years in the future don’t like your head stone in the cemetery where you and your headstone reside and want to put it somewhere in a remote corner. I say leave alone where it was originally dedicated about 100 years ago honoring these brave solders died fighting what they believe in- a democracy.

  13. “We want the State Legislature to have this. We want it back in their hands. We want the Texas Parks and Wildlife [Department], the [Texas] Historical Commission involved, not the City of San Antonio.”
    Well there’s the kiss of death if I’ve ever heard it! Give it to the State of Texas and they’ll turn it into crap in 15 minutes. (Been to a State Park recently? I have – last week. They’ve starved, choked, underpaid, commercialized, overrun and ignored ALL State Parks into meaningless, undervalued, desecrated afterthoughts. KISS OF DEATH!)

  14. Why don’t we all stop worrying about the things that did not exist in 1836. We’re not called the Alamo City because of a parade route. We’re not the Alamo City because of the Woolworth Building. And if the Cenotaph is moved 500′, still within eyesight of the Alamo, it will not disrespect any of the defenders. It will not diminish any of the sacrifices that occurred 182 years ago. A cenotaph is an empty tomb. It can be just as revered less than 200 yards away as it is now…where it did not exist when the defenders lost their lives. Let’s keep our eye on the prize…restoring as much of the original footprint, as possible, for the visitors that come to our beautiful city; as well as for all Texans who have never seen the compound without noisy and disruptive traffic. As a 7th generation Texan, I fully support creating an experience for every Texan, and visitor, that helps tell the story of what happened here in 1836 as well as provides a more accurate visual representation of the Mission San Antonio de Valero.

  15. Dear Mr. Rivard and City Council – Do not move the centotaph. It should stay where it is. I do think the outside corners of the original mission walls should be marked with native stone corners matching the present wall. Maybe other side wall sections rebuilt as well as originally designed. Maybe Alamo St can be opened part time either by moving traffic blocks or chains for parades, etc.
    Surveys of tourists mean little to we native San Antonians and Texans – Our votes are the ones that count or should. The Alamo should never have been taken from the Daughters of the Alamo and put under the State politicians. Take it back. But manage and redevelop it with modern common sense and rules. But use natural wall materials not glass or plastic.

  16. So dramatic, look I love our “mature” population but the bottom line is progress. This article is so one sided and draws in the drama of it all. Divorce the City from the Alamo is just stupid writing. LMAO. Let’s please move on. We are the only city that takes months ,years of planning development. The Alamo is a done deal, look at the drawings and memoribilia of the Alamo and duplicate the damn thing. All the mature folks and accestors of the Alamo now want to put their two cents in when they never did anything before or let’s say had limited involvement of what had transpired into what is today called Alamo Plaza. Hmmmmm so all these protestors now care so much but all the while Ripley, via bus route, T Shirts shops, virtual tours, snow cone stands, homeless asking for money, traffic, dead landscaping, broken toilets , and unimpressed tourist, never bothered all these protestors. Let’s move a “statue” and now we have another battle at the Alamo. Get a life old folks and let’s move on. The City needs to show some quevos and let’s move on from this 5 year fiasco. I say drag that thing to Hemisfair Park and wait another 5 years for the City to do anything on progress. Place some mulch around that thing and boom badi Bing another eyesore downtown SA, where progress takes at least 5 years or more. Look enough is enough. Start progress now and let’s enjoy all the eyesore and idiot decisions together.

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