Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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20170323 Texas Independence Day San Benito MOERING DSC 0819Three high school junior students (from left) Jessica Morales, of San Benito; Gabriela Hernandez, of Harlingen, and Shenika Rosas, of San Benito, had a re-enactment roles as the Texans “weeping women” at the Alamo battle and talked with Victor Rosas, of San Benito, who had charge of the vendors.

History buffs on the field and in the bleachers enjoyed the re-enactment of Texas’ fight for independence during the day-long 10th annual celebration in San Benito on Saturday, March 18.

About 300 spectators, the majority of them Winter Texans, watched three different battles—that of Gonzales, the Alamo and San Jacinto—take place on the field at the Cameron County Fairgrounds.

Chuck and Connie Hall, from Ohio, who are staying at Trophy Gardens in Alamo, had to come twice to finally see the re-enactment. The couple, who are in their second year in the Rio Grande Valley, had come a week earlier only to find it had been cancelled due to heavy rain just prior to the event.

“We had a nice ride last week,” Connie said, “but we came back anyway.” They were making a full day of it in addition to hitting the market days of vendors that was a part of the celebration. After the Gonzalez battle of Oct. 2, 1835 over a cannon that Mexico wanted returned, the couple talked with Carlos Trevino, from Brownsville, who is in his fifth year as a Texan re-enactor and was using a Kentucky long rifle.

20170323 Texas Independence Day San Benito MOERING DSC 0838Bruce Kidd, of Harlingen, had a role as a Scottish fighter who helped defend the Alamo back in 1836.

Trevino, who is also a civil war re-enactor and part of a Confederate honor guard for funerals, said the aim of the re-enacting is “to educate people.” He told the Halls that “Tejanos, Mexicans born in Texas, fought with the Texans for independence. Together they became known as Texians.

Bill Willard, who bought a house in Harlingen, wore a T-shirt purchased from a market vendor emblazoned with the “Battle of Gonzales” and on the back a picture of the disputed cannon barrel with the words: “Come and Get It.” His wife, Betty, who was with him, was born in Mercedes to migrant working parents and later worked for Western Electric (Ma Bell).

“There is a lot of history in South Texas,” said Robert Rimaker, playing a Mexican army sergeant and who is a history professor at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville. He came here three years ago from Iowa and found an interest in the battles for Texas independence, the Mexican-American War, the last Civil War engagement and the Texas constitution. He also is an re-enactor on the first Saturday of each month at the Palo Alto Battlefield National Park, which is the site of the first engagement on May 8, 1846 in the Mexican-American War.

Rimaker, who helped organize the Mexican “soldiers,” made his own authentic grenadier wool uniform, patterned after the ones worn by soldiers from Mexico City. Uniforms take some painstaking research, noting that old churches in Mexico and the Mexican consulates usually have old pictures of soldiers.

Another re-enactor and organizer of the event, Ruben Cordova, from Santa Rosa, took a Mexican officer’s role, directing the soldiers from on horseback for the Gonzales battle. He has ancestors who fought with the 33rd Texas Cavalry in the Civil War as Indian scouts.

20170323 Texas Independence Day San Benito MOERING DSC 0848The Mexican army moves out under the command of officer Ruben Cordova, from Santa Rosa, on horseback to try and retrieve their cannon from the Gonzales defenders. With them is Sgt. Robert Rimaker, of Brownsville (second from left).

He and his wife, Anabeth, started re-enacting together 11 years ago. She takes a role as his wife and a laundress. They also do Civil War re-enactments together, he as an officer colonel, which includes appearances at the Palo Alto park.

Cordova, who spent 22 years in the U.S. Navy as a radioman and saw much of the world, mostly in the Orient and South Pacific, also has portrayed Lipan Apache and renegade Apache at times in re-enactments of the 1870s and 1880s Indian wars in Texas. Cordova, who is a mix of Lipan and Chiricahua Apache, points out that most Indians were driven out of Texas about that time, including his own family ancestors, and didn’t start to return until a decade or so later. His wife’s background is also Lipan along with Scandinavian, Spanish, French and Arab, according to DNA, he said.

The Lipan Apache tribe also was represented by Anita Anaya, who is a secretary at the University of Texas-RGV. She was demonstrating the ancient way of using corn, grinding the corn into a small, rather hard cone shape, which could be scraped off as a tribe member went along on a journey. She said her grandmother provided food in this way.

20170323 Texas Independence Day San Benito MOERING DSC 0878Ohioans Chuck and Connie Hall, who stay at Trophy Gardens in Alamo, discuss the armaments in front of the Alamo chapel replica with Carlos Trevino, of Brownsville, holding a Kentucky long rifle.

The re-enactment began with a presentation of the colors and pledge to the American and Texas flags. The invocation was given by Bruce Kidd, of Harlingen, a retired nurse who took on the role of John MacGregor, one of five Scottish adventurers who fought and died at the Alamo. Kidd’s character is named after the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce. He also plays the bagpipes, sometimes dueling with the fiddling Davy Crockett character. For Civil War programs, he plays an adjutant general.

The mayor of San Benito, Celeste Sanchez, read a proclamation pertaining to the establishment of Texas as a Republic from Mexico. Jack Ayoub was narrator for the event and provided Information about the replica Alamo mission structure, which flew a flag of two Mexican states at the time of the Feb. 23 to March 6, 1836 battle. He noted the chapel had no dome atop the front wall, which was added about a decade later. Ayoub noted that the Mexican army used muskets, which were of shorter range than the long rifles used by the Texans.

20170323 Texas Independence Day San Benito MOERING DSC 0897While the spectators watched as General Santa Ana ordered the attack on the Alamo without any quarter given, the fall of it became the rallying cry at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 where Santa Ana was surprised and overwhelmed within 18 minutes by General Sam Houston’s Texans. The result was the unconditional surrender of the Mexican general and a treaty ordering his troops to cross the Rio Grande River and leave the new independent Republic of Texas.

The conclusion to the day was an invitation for those in the audience to “sign” a replica of The Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico.

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