The Group American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonal Missions has filed a lawsuit that will at the very least disrupt, if not scuttle, the $400 million project to renovate Alamo Plaza.
The organization's president, Ramon Vasquez, says the reason for the lawsuit is that planners of the renovation do not have a legal framework in place to properly identify and rebury the more than one thousand Native Americans who are buried on the Alamo grounds.
"We want the digging to be stopped at the Alamo, and the project to slow down to incorporate regulatory processes, which will protect the future of the project," he said.
Vasquez says the Alamo, which as a Catholic church throughout most of the 18th Century before the Spanish colonial missions were secularized, is the last resting place of Native Americans who converted to Christianity, and who were buried within the shadow of the church, which was common at that time. He says there is no plan in place to identify those remains, as well as the remains of Spanish soldiers and some of the first civilian settlers of San Antonio, who are also believed to be buried on Alamo Plaza.
"This may not add to the Battle of 1836, but if it is done correctly, we can build a foundation for why that is an important site as well."
The group says the Alamo Plaza is an 'abandoned cemetery' under Texas law, but neither the General Land Office nor the Alamo Endowment, which is raising private funds to pay for the renovation, are recognizing the restrictions and duties inherent in that designation.
"Both the UDC codes and the antiquity codes provide the regulations on how to protect a cemetery," he said. "Nobody did it."
Ironically, this is the very same issue that scuttled the last major effort to renovate Alamo Plaza, back in the 1990s. When what were believed to be Native American remains were discovered under the floor of the Alamo church, there was no plan in place on how to properly and legally rebury them. Vasquez says he is amazed that, a quarter century later, there is still no blueprint on how to deal with this issue.
The plan is to lower the level of Alamo Plaza, expand its footprint and encircle it with railings, so visitors can get a better indication of the area where the 1836 battle was fought. The plan also includes closing Alamo Street west of the Plaza and Houston Street north of the plaza, and, potentially, converting the three buildings across Alamo Street into a 'world class museum' to house Alamo artifacts.
Vasquez says the lawsuit demands that archaeological digging now underway on the Plaza and in the Long Barrack be halted, because remains will certainly be found in those locations.