Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Alamo Saga -- Revised?

On June 13 San Antonio sculptor Rolando Briseño spearheaded a Fiesta Patronal celebration in his hometown a traditional one- to nine-day event honoring a saint. But, the event in honor of Saint Anthony, San Antonio’s namesake, was not just any party.
The local artist and subject of Norma Cantu’s book Moctezuma’s Table: Rolando Briseño's Mexican and Chicano Tablescapes  (Texas A&M University Press, 2010) believes that “recreating and celebrating the fiesta patronal in front of the Alamo” is a way of “incorporating a more comprehensive history of the Alamo, San Antonio, and Texas ─ one that includes everybody.
A fiesta patronal is usually dedicated to a saint or virgin, who is the patron of the city the fiesta is being held in. Usually, residents flood the town streets with colorful decorations and other cultural adornments. In larger cities, there are fiestas for each neighborhood, usually honoring the patron saint for the local parish.
Depending on the budget, the fiestas patronales may last just one day (the day of the saint being honored) or as long as nine days (referred to as el novenario). Most fiestas patronales feature verbenas, live entertainment by famous international or local singers, amusement parks, and street vendors, among other things, during the celebration. However, these celebrations are not national holidays, because they only reflect the celebration of one city or town and are religious celebrations.
The fiesta patronal led by Briseño took place on the saint's feast day, June 13 in front of the saint's shrine, Mission San Antonio de Valero or the Alamo. The city is named in his honor because the Spanish/Mexicans arrived at the future site of the city on June 13, 1691.
Briseño’s sculpture, San Alamo, was the centerpiece of the procession. Carried by actors dressed as African slaves and period illegal Anglo immigrants, his masterpiece was mounted on a swivel. When it arrived at the Alamo it was placed on the table of negotiation and flipped! Then the fiesta began with an Alamo piñata that spilled hundreds of babies when broken open. The project was based on the tradition of placing Saint Anthony's statue upside down when requesting a favor from the saint. The favor being requested in this case is that Mexican Americans share in the Alamolegacy and take their rightful place as the heirs of the builders and descendants of the original peoples of the city.
Briseño’s hope is that “this metaphorical performance will promote greater cultural and historical awareness and understanding and initiate a dialogue leading to a re-conceptualization of the Alamo as a space for celebrating the confluences of the various cultures--- Native American, Spanish, African, Mexican and Anglo--- rather than as a shrine to Anglo Texan hegemony.”
For more information on his Briseño and his artwork, check out his website at

--Paige Bukowski