Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on Thursday defended moving the Alamo Cenotaph in an hour-long call with state Republican party members and activists.
During the call, Bush argued that relocating the 1930s monument meant as an empty tomb for Texas revolutionaries is essential to keeping it from crumbling. Bush also said the Cenotaph’s new location 500 south will be more “historically accurate” than its current location north of the Alamo grounds.
“This is the most important restoration project in the country, and, arguably, in the world,” Bush said.
Bush for the past few years has been under fire from conservative activists for his role in the $450 million Alamo redevelopment, whose first phase began late last year. The conflict involved inaccurate rumors that Bush intended to put a statue of 1830s Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna outside the Alamo, a charge Bush called “flat-out racist.” The son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and nephew of President George W. Bush, George P. Bush has Mexican heritage on his mother’s side.
Thursday’s call came as the Texas General Land Office awaits a decision by the Texas Historical Commission on competing cemetery designations for the Alamo and Alamo Plaza. No date has yet been scheduled for that decision.
In March, 97 percent of Republican primary voters approved an Alamo resolution many saw as a vote against moving the Cenotaph.
However, Bush said in the call that the Alamo redevelopment is in no conflict with the ballot language, which states that “Texans should protect and preserve all historical monuments, artifacts, and buildings, such as the Alamo Cenotaph and our beloved Alamo, and should oppose any reimagining of the Alamo site.”
Still, many of the callers pressed Bush on why the Cenotaph needs to be moved from where it has sat since its installation.
Bush told party members that when he took office in 2015, he received reports that the Alamo Church, Long Barrack, and Cenotaph are “falling apart before our very eyes.”
Later that year, the General Land Office and the City of San Antonio, which owns the Cenotaph and Alamo Plaza, began jointly developing the Alamo master plan. Part of that plan calls for the Cenotaph to be taken apart, restored, and rebuilt outside the Menger Hotel.
“I don’t claim to be an engineer or a scientist, I’m just your basic politician,” Bush said Thursday. “But the Cenotaph, the experts tell me, is basically falling apart from within … and that essentially the only way to fix it is to relocate it.”
Bush then claimed that the only ways to repair the monument would be to “ship it off to a warehouse” or to move it “to an area that’s historically more accurate.”
Bush said the Cenotaph’s new location is the one of the sites the Mexican forces that sieged the Alamo in 1836 chose to burn the bodies of Texans killed in the battle.
“So the Cenotaph would actually be relocated and moved to where that funeral pyre is, where the revolutionaries’ bodies were burned,” Bush said. “The Cenotaph would actually be fixed for the first time and reconstructed in a way in terms of its foundations so that it’s around for hundreds of years.”
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Bush also pointed out that the Cenotaph is missing at least 12 names of Texan fighters discovered in the decades following the monument’s installation. Other names are misspelled.
Bush’s explanations are unlikely to end the opposition. J.T. Edwards, a Galveston-based Republican state senate committeeman, told Bush during the call that the Cenotaph issue “is near and dear to our grassroots.”
Maggie Wright, a longtime GOP activist in Burleson, said the Alamo defenders were the “first veterans of Texas, and we need to leave our headstone right where it is.”