Despite Treviño's firm stance, Cenotaph activists are not done with their fight

by Jolene AlmendarezJuly 20, 2018

Activists who oppose a plan to move the Cenotaph from its original location in front of the Alamo are pressing forward, despite a clear message from District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño on Wednesday that keeping the tomb in place is “not an option.”

“It goes to show that the city of San Antonio, including (Mayor) Ron Nirenberg and Treviño, don’t care what the majority of Texans are saying when it comes to the Alamo,” said Brandon Burkhart, president of This is Texas Freedom Force, which is gathering at the Cenotaph every morning next week to raise awareness about the proposed move. “We’ll continue to fight this until they either put a jackhammer in the ground or start moving it.”

Although Treviño alone is not making the decision, he has served as the face of the Alamo interpretive plan during five public meetings so far. The councilman is one of two mayoral-appointed chairs of the Alamo Citizen Advisory Committee, a 28-person group that was tasked in 2014 with updating plans to redevelop Alamo Plaza and the surrounding area.

In an interview, Treviño said compromises on other aspects of the plan, such as rerouting the historic Fiesta parade routes and how to build an Alamo museum, are still on the table.

Ultimately, the City Council will vote on the plan.

District 9 Councilman John Courage has supported keeping the Cenotaph in place, a position he still supports, a staff member said Thursday.

District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse said he could support a compromise regarding the Cenotaph. He’s equally concerned about how officials have treated public criticism.

“How we take feedback, how we listen to the will of the community is something we all need to get better at,” he said. “These aren’t fringe groups, these aren't crazies or whackos coming down and voicing their opinions.”

How Brockhouse votes on the plan, he said, will depend on how well he feels the public’s concerns have been heard.

Moving the Cenotaph about 500 feet south to a location in front of the Menger Hotel has drawn the loudest opposition since the plan was released to the public in June.

Treviño and other city officials have said that the Alamo interpretive plan is not finished and that the public’s concerns would be taken into consideration by planners.

However, at an Alamo public meeting Wednesday night, Treviño said new renderings will show the Cenotaph in its location in front of the Long Barrack.

Some attendees thought this meant Treviño and other city officials were considering leaving the Cenotaph in place as a possibility. After the meeting, the councilman clarified his statement: The renderings are intended to show that the interpretive plan cannot be executed with the Cenotaph in its current location.

The monument blocks the views of the Alamo from many angles and doesn’t fit with the planners’ goal to recreate the original compound footprint with an open feel.

Charisma Villarreal, a descendant of Alamo defender Gregorio Esparza, said Thursday she was not surprised by what many people feel was sleight of hand in the way Trevño answered the question.

“I would be lying if I didn't say I was 1 percent hopeful, but I knew as soon as he said it that it was not true,” Villarreal said.

Thursday morning, Treviño contends he never said keeping the Cenotaph in place was an possibility, only that renderings would be made available in August. Attendees heard what they wanted to hear, he said.

On Thursday, Brockhouse criticized Nirenberg and Treviño for public comments they’ve made about how a decision to move the Cenotaph has already been made, despite outcries coming from the public.

“That’s not leadership. That’s basically you’re not paying attention to what the citizens want and what they're calling for,” Brockhouse said.

District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca J. Viagran, who is a descendant of Alamo defender José Toribio Losoya, said through Communications Coordinator Susy Romero she supports moving the Cenotaph because the spot in front of the Menger Hotel is also prominent.

District 2 Councilman William "Cruz" Shaw’s Director of Communications, Celeste Brown, said he and his staff are still learning where District 2 residents stand on the issue. District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry declined to comment, and other members of City Council did not return a request for comment.

Moving forward, the activists, many of whom are descendants of Alamo defenders, want more public discussion about the Cenotaph, a point that Burkhart is helping to spearhead.

Members of This is Texas Freedom Force (TTFF) will be at Alamo Plaza from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, spreading the word about plans to move the Cenotaph. He wants to get people talking and involved in the issue.

“Everybody that hears it (for the first time) is just appalled that the city is trying to pull this,” he said.

Also, Burkhart and the TTFF are teaming up with the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association for a rally at 10 a.m. July 28 on Alamo Plaza.

Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

Setting It Straight: Celeste Brown is communications director for District 2 City Councilman William "Cruz" Shaw. An earlier version of this article misspelled her name.

» Previously published: Treviño: Keeping the Alamo Cenotaph in place is 'not an option'

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

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