Thanks to the Texas Leg, April 21st is a state holiday for its employees, albeit one in which “skeletons” are required at offices to provide bare bone coverage of functions. Instead of some Okie from Muskogie wondering why no one answers the phone down in Texas, skeleton crew folks are able to help him renew his hunting license or whatever his needs might be with the Lone Star State.
Of course, every Texan knows that April 21st is San Jacinto Day. (NOT!!!) Truth is most fellow-Texans have no idea why I’m out shopping on a perfectly laborable Wednesday afternoon. If it were the 4th of July, of course, everyone would know that I’m fulfilling my patriotic duty to fuel the economy, preferring a cool mall to a roasting Texas sun and roasted weinies.
So, as part of my duty as a Texas patriot, maybe I’ll educate you a bit about San Jacinto Day. April 21st commemorates the day in 1836 when the Battle of San Jacinto took place where La Porte is located today, not far from the Houston Ship Channel. Although it never warranted a big-budget film with John Wayne like the Alamo, it is remembered because it ended the Texas revolution against Mexico and opened the door for the United States to complete its occupation of the whole central part of the continent. “Few military engagements in history have been more decisive or of more far-reaching ultimate influence than the battle of San Jacinto,” says Wallace L. McKeehan here: http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/batsanjacinto.htm
At that website, you can read about the battle, the events leading up to it, and the capture of Santa Anna afterwards, but for me, the most amazing thing about the Battle of San Jacinto is that it lasted 18 minutes. I don’t know much about the relative length of battles, thenadays or now, but if I were going to attend one, 18 minutes sounds about right. It seems like the fight would be over before you had to dodge too many shots coming your direction, particularly if they were shot from the old muzzle-loading weapons. In stark contrast, the battle of the Alamo was one day shy of a two-weeker. Maybe that’s why the Battle of San Jacinto didn’t inspire screenwriters….not much to write about.
But the Battle of San Jacinto was a ferocious battle, largely inspired by what had just occurred, less than two months before, at the Alamo. The Battle of the Alamo began on February 23, and ended on March 6, 1836, and everyone knows what happened there. What is less well known is that on March 27, Texians were executed at Goliad after surrendering to Mexican forces on Santa Anna’s orders. Both of these massacres served to fuel the ferocity that General Sam Houston’s forces let loose on the battle field at San Jacinto. The Texians vocalized their anger as they charged the Mexicans with cries of “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad!!!”
The Mexicans knew — or soon figured out — what had caused the wrath of these avenging Texians. So as the battle was winding down, those who survived tried to negotiate with the Texians for a prison cell instead of a coffin, explaining that they were not to blame for what happened at the Alamo or Goliad. In broken English, they cried out “Me no Alamo!!” and “Me no Goliad!!” Suffice it to say that it didn’t matter what they said or where they were — these disclaimers did not save them.
What was saved, however, was that plaintive cry — “Me no Alamo” — when we want to establish our blamelessness, e.g., “Don’t blame me for that big mess! I was 300 miles away!” Not only does it serve to establish your Texas credentials, but it’s also a handy phrase when you get blamed for eating the last piece of cheesecake or causing that dent in the back bumper of your parent’s car. Simply put, “It wasn’t me…me no Alamo!”
My favorite “Me no Alamo” story is one that a friend – in sharing our most embarrassing moments, told me years ago. As a young administrative law judge, she was presiding at a hearing in which an older and distinguished member of the Bar was in the midst of a cross-examination. The lawyer asked the witness, “So, what you are saying, basically, is “me no Alamo,” am I correct?” At that point, the young judge politely interrupted, “Counselor, if you are going to use Latin, please spell the words for the court reporter.” Without blinking an eye, the attorney said, “Yes, mam,” and continued the examination. She did not realize her error until reading the transcript two or three months later. “I had just never heard it in that context!” Although many years have transpired, she still cringes with the shame only a born and bred Texan could fathom.
Maybe we just need to use it more often.