As the clock struck 5 p.m. on Friday, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) solemnly gathered at Alamo Plaza for an emotional ceremony to mark the end of their 110-year custodianship of the Alamo.
A prayer was read for the fallen Alamo defenders in four languages – English, Spanish, Danish, and German – and bagpipes played while the plaza's Texas state flag was taken down and handed over to DRT President Dr. Betty Edwards. (It was, of course, immediately replaced with another Texas flag.)
In March, the Texas General Land Office ordered the DRT to cease its management of the historic site on July 10. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush had sent a letter to the DRT explaining the order, citing 10 contractual breaches including budgetary, staffing, maintenance, and management failures.
"The Daughters understand politicians come and go, regimes come and go, the daughters will always remain," Dr. Edwards said, rebuking Bush's decision to the applause and praise of the audience of about 75 people, mostly Daughters. "The Daughters transformed the Alamo into a tourist site. You're welcome, City of San Antonio."
Before the ceremony started, I asked Nelma Walkinson how the Daughters felt about having to leave the Alamo. "How do you think we feel?" she replied. We were then interrupted by a woman who told us that only Dr. Edwards would be speaking to media on behalf of the Daughters.
The Land Office and the City of San Antonio are currently working a state-funded master plan for the Alamo and its plaza.
The DRT is not entirely "kicked out" of the Alamo, the organization is expected to continue operating a research center that will conduct some programs at the Alamo. Though tensions between the DRT and the Land Office are still quite high as a lawsuit has been filed by the DRT to keep archives and artifacts on the Alamo grounds.
Between Bush's letter in March and Friday's ceremony, the Alamo and the Spanish Colonial Missions were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The news has been widely welcome and celebrated throughout San Antonio as such international attention is sure to bring economic benefits as well as a wider knowledge and respect for the sites' cultural significance.
Some San Antonians fear that the designation might bring international interference into how the Alamo is managed – that the U.N. might usurp control of the historic site. Little more than 100 people have indicated they'll attend a protest Saturday at "high noon" to protest the designation.
"Our position is simple," states the Facebook event page. "This opens the door for UN influence in the management and preservation of the Alamo. The Alamo is the symbol of Texas Liberty and Independence. There is no problem at the Alamo that requires the UN's assistance."
However, UNESCO representatives would likely note, designation does not mean transference of property rights, "but it is considered in the interest of the international community to protect the site for future generations."
"This merely means that UNESCO may pull the status off a World Heritage site, i.e. if it or its surroundings are altered," commenter Gerry Thielemann wrote in response to the protest. "Upkeep, renovations and additions to original state are o.k. Maybe organizers and participants of this senseless demo should do their homework."