Phil Collins has been drawn into a race row after a US museum, which will house his memorabilia from the Siege of the Alamo, was accused of “glorifying” white figures while ignoring Latino, Native American and black fighters.
In 2014, the Genesis frontman – who has a longstanding interest in the legendary 1836 battle between less than 200 Texan rebels and approximately 6,000 Mexican soldiers – donated his collection of weapons, clothing, letters and artifacts from the event to the state of Texas. The trove is estimated to be worth £10 million ($13.78 million).
His donation was made on condition that, by 2021, the state would build a museum dedicated to the Battle at the Alamo – a 300-year-old fortified mission in the city of San Antonio that is now a tourist landmark attracting around 1.6 million visitors annually – to display the collection.
Although a £15 million ($20.68 million) exhibition hall is due to open next summer, it has been criticized by Hispanic-Texan activists as an “expensive palace glorifying the Alamo myth” of a heroic struggle between a handful of white defenders against a Mexican horde led by General Santa Anna.
Its critics argue the museum and Collins’ collection will help perpetuate that narrative – bolstered by Hollywood movies – about the 13-day siege and subsequent 90-minute massacre of a small band of fighters led by American folk heroes like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.
According to them, the museum should reflect the contributions to Texas independence by Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) as well as Native Americans and black slaves. In addition, they want greater emphasis on the historical context regarding slavery and colonialism.
“We’ve got to bring other stories and people to the forefront because for too many years they’ve been the afterthought,” Ramon Vasquez, a spokesman for the indigenous Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, told The Times newspaper.
However, local politicians and conservative groups want the museum to remain largely focused on the core participants of the battle. The situation has even seen armed protesters turn up at the Alamo.
Militia groups reportedly helped stop a plan to move a 17-meter-tall marble cenotaph bearing the names of the fallen settlers from outside the church building. Last year, the monument was apparently spray-painted with graffiti saying, “White supremacy, profit over people, the ALAMO.”
“If they want to bring up that it was about slavery, or say the Alamo defenders were racist… They need to take their rear ends over the state border and get the hell out of Texas,” Brandon Burkhart of the militia This is Freedom Texas Force, a conservative group, told the Daily Mail.
Collins – who reportedly believes he is the reincarnation of an Alamo soldier who avoided the battle and eventually became the first mayor of San Antonio – has not commented on the issue. But the Texas General Land Office – which oversees the site and was the recipient of his collection of 430 items – is thought to be in favor of giving greater recognition to Tejanos and other figures.
The office is headed by Commissioner George P. Bush, the 45-year-old son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has a Mexican mother and is reportedly among those who have supported proposals to include the roles played by Mexican soldiers and those who sided with the settlers in the battle.