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What Died With the "Angel of the Alamo"?

Kerry is a freelance writer and real estate developer in Southeast Texas. His Aunt Emma is a direct descendant of Lorenzo de Zavala.

Remember The Alamo?

In 1836 the famous rallying cry during the Texas Revolution was “Remember the Alamo!”. Seems, seventy-two years later, the city of San Antonio forgot. They wanted to turn the Alamo into a parking lot. Luck would have it that a gutsy, determined angel appeared who also just happened to be the granddaughter of the Vice President of the Republic of Texas.


     Lorenzo de Zavala, First Vice President of the Republic of Texas

Lorenzo de Zavala, First Vice President of the Republic of Texas

Violent Mexican Politics in the 1820's and 30's

Mexico was in political turmoil in the 1820's and 1830's. Several factions were fighting to gain control. At that time the most prominent Mexican politician promoting the American concept of democracy was native-born Lorenzo de Zavala. In addition to helping formulate the new Mexican Constitution of 1824 Lorenzo had served as the governor of the state of Mexico. Through these years Santa Anna had been President of Mexico on and off several times but in 1833 he solidified his hold on power by declaring himself dictator-for-life under the title of "Most Serene Highness". Zavala and Santa Anna had been political friends and colleagues during these unpredictable times in Mexico. Lorenzo was expected to be next in line after Santa Anna for the presidency.

While serving his country as the chief diplomat to France, Lorenzo learned that Santa Anna was increasingly ignoring the democratic tenets set forth by the Mexican Constitution of 1824. When De Zavala found out about Santa Anna's abandonment of Democracy Lorenzo immediately denounced him publicly. Lorenzo De Zavala and Santa Anna had once been friends but now Lorenzo was the dictator's chief rival and enemy. Fleeing France sailing to the United States Lorenzo recognized that his life had been put in danger and it would never be the same again.


Santa Anna

Santa Anna

Lorenzo de Zavala Becomes the Republic of Texas' First Vice President

After denouncing Santa Anna, Lorenzo de Zavala could not return to Mexico under fear of being assassinated. He was now the chief political enemy of Santa Anna.

Lorenzo left France and traveled to New York City where he met, courted and married the beautiful Emily West. He and Emily moved to Texas where Lorenzo owned a large land grant located at Buffalo Bayou near present day Houston.

Little did de Zavala know that shortly he would become a central character thrown into the fight for Texas independence against his own country of Mexico!


Who was the “The Angel of the Alamo”?

The de Zavala homestead was located on the north bank of Bufalo Bayou directly across from where the San Jacinto Battlefield and monument now stand. Sam Houston and his ragtag Texan army had surprisingly defeated Santa Anna and successfully gained Texas' independence. Unfortunately, Vice President Lorenzo de Zavala only 48 years old died shortly after the fight (He had been in failing health before the battle). This famous quote is attributed to him, “If I knew my death would assure the liberation of Texas, I would not live another hour.” If he had lived, today’s Texas might have been decidedly different. His wife Emily West de Zavala lived another forty-six years. Augustine de Zavala, eldest son of Lorenzo, had a daughter. Her name was Adina de Zavala.

Seventy-two years after the death of her grandfather, Adina would make headlines of her own and become a national folkloric heroine.

Adina de Zavala is “The Angel of the Alamo.”

Adina de Zavala

Adina de Zavala

Denise McVea’s “Making Myth of Emily” Creates a Texas-Sized Stir

Author Denise McVea has written a captivating study entitled “Making Myth of Emily” dealing with the legendary Yellow Rose of Texas. Her conjectural theme in the book is that the Vice President’s wife, Emily West de Zavala, was actually the mythic Yellow Rose. For those of you who do not know, the legend possibly explains how Sam Houston was able to defeat Santa Anna with such a small and untrained, ragtag group of fighters. McVea’s intriguing theory is that the beautiful and possibly mulatto Emily West distracted Santa Anna in his tent the morning of Sam Houston’s attack. A Mexican soldier wrote in a letter to his family that Santa Anna was seen scurrying out of his tent pulling up his pants.

There’s more…Denise McVea contends there was a racial aspect concerning Emily West and the possibility that Adina de Zavala, being the Zavala family’s keeper of documents, altered and/or destroyed some important papers hinting at Emily’s racial makeup. Denise MCVea convincingly pieces together the well-thought-out theory. True or not, the book has caused a Texas-sized sensation.

Denise McVey's "Making Myth of Emily"

Denise McVey's "Making Myth of Emily"

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Adina de Zavala the Preservationist Extraordinaire

Emily West de Zavala told her granddaughter Adina intimate stories of the important part their family played in Texas history. Because of this personal familial connection Adina grew up very possessive about these memories. It is feasible that she might have betrayed the truth to protect her family’s reputation. Adina described herself as "...a jealous lover of Texas history."

Racial prejudice is ugly but it’s necessary we view this issue, justly or not, in the way it was perceived in those days.

Adina will always be remembered for her efforts in preserving Texas missions, placing of plaques, and persuading the powers that be to name schools after historical Texas heroes. The Texas Legislature posthumously honored Adina with a resolution to her life devoted "...to Texas history, folklore,and general civic and patriotic work...immortalizing Texas history for the ages."

Adina de Zavala died on May 1st, 1955.

Her casket was carried in front of the Alamo as a fitting tribute to her work in preserving the landmark.

Adina de Zavala With Texas Flag and Friends

Adina de Zavala With Texas Flag and Friends

The Second Alamo Siege (Adina Barricades herself Inside the Alamo!)

On February 10th through the 13th, 1908 Adina made national headlines in all the newspapers. She became a folkloric American hero by barricading herself in the Alamo. The future of the Alamo was in peril because an important area (the long barracks) of the complex was on the verge of being torn down to make way for a proposed part of a plaza (quite possibly a parking lot). Adina was convinced the long barracks was the area of the Alamo where the main fighting occurred. The distractors at the time believed she was wrong. They thought the long barracks was built after the famous battle. Adina de Zavala was later proven right.

The standoff lasted three days and, for a period of time, she had no food, water or electricity. Forty-six-year-old Adina was quoted as saying she would die for the cause. It’s interesting that her grandfather died at 46 years old having said the words “If I knew my death..." (read above)). On February 13th, 1908 the headlines in the New York Times said, “Alamo Siege Ended”. Soon after, Adina acquired the name “The Angel of The Alamo”. She was so admired for saving the long barracks that a music company published a song called “Remember the Alamo” with her picture right there on the front.

what-died-with-the-angel-of-the-alamo
Bird's Eye View of The Long Barracks

Bird's Eye View of The Long Barracks

Fact or Fiction?

Whether or not Adina de Zavala deliberately altered her famous ancestor's documents is a genuine Texas mystery. Her legacy of preserving the Alamo and other Texas Landmarks is intact no matter the allegations.

Perhaps, we may never know what secrets died with Adina, "The Angel of The Alamo".

Comments

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on July 06, 2014:

The article about Lorenzo de Zavala is on hubpages now.

"Early Texas Heroes: Lorenzo de Zavala, Vice President of the Republic of Texas".

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on July 06, 2014:

You're too good to me! Thanks!

Debra Allen from West Virginia on July 06, 2014:

Now that was really interesting.

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on June 16, 2014:

The two links previously included in this article were eliminated. Suite101 went out of business (As far as I know) and deleted my original articles on Emily West and Lorenzo de Zavala.

I will be re-adding the two links within the month. I have to find my originals and add them to my hubpages account.

Please stop by and check them out for they offer great insights to the "What Died With The Angel of The Alamo" article.

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on March 26, 2013:

Thanks Silvie

Check out the articles about Adina's grandparents, Lorenzo De Zavala and The Yellow Rose of Texas (Emily West) listed above. I think you'll find them interesting too.

Justsilvie on March 17, 2013:

Really interesting Hub! Voted up and shared.

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