As San Antonio gears up to celebrate its 300th anniversary this year, commemorating the city’s founding in 1718 by Spanish explorers, historians in Texas are trying to broaden how the state memorializes its history.
“It’s very difficult to understand how things are today without looking to the past and how we got here and the experience of our ancestors,” says Brett Derbes of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). “No one wants to feel they’re not represented in that history.”
For generations, a romanticized vision of Texas history was of white male settlers taming a wilderness; of James Bowie and Davy Crockett falling at the Alamo; of cowboys herding cattle across the plains; and of gushing oil wells. That vision largely left out Native Americans, women, African-Americans, and other groups.
Texas is far from unique in that sense, as evinced by roiling battles over the removal of Confederate monuments in the South and revisionist accounts of the rebels’ cause. Still, in recent years the state has taken steps to promote more diverse and unvarnished perspectives on its history, even as conservatives have pushed back on school textbooks.