The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Martín Espada’s “The Other Alamo” takes place in 1990 in San Antonio, Texas, the location of the Alamo. The poem’s five sections move through several layers of time: from the present event of a veterans’ gathering to reflections on Texas race relations since the Alamo siege in 1836. Its central event takes place in 1949, when the poet’s father was refused service at a local diner. “The Other Alamo” refers to his father’s protest against overt racism. To appreciate the poem, one must consider the Alamo’s import.

During the siege of the Alamo, 187 Texans held off 4,000 Mexican troops led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The Texans were fighting to gain their independence from Mexico. On March 6, when the Mexicans punched a hole in the adobe wall, they entered and killed all the Texans, including the American frontiersmen Davy Crockett and James Bowie. The names “Crockett” and “Bowie” are mentioned in Espada’s first stanza.

The poem begins at a gathering in the “Crockett Hotel dining room,” where a veteran leads others in prayer. Subsequent lines concern the city’s devotion to religious shrines and to the Alamo historic site. Tourists can purchase a “replica” of the Bowie knife, a hunting knife used extensively by American frontiersmen. Its design—a strong, single-edged blade and a horn handle—was attributed to James Bowie. Espada juxtaposes the military references with the religious, ending...

(The entire section is 505 words.)