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Mr. Speaker, today is April 21, and when I grew up in Texas April 21 was a holiday. We didn't go to school, and the reason I thought we didn't go to school was because April 21 is my mother's birthday and she always led me to believe that school was out because it was her birthday.
Later I learned that wasn't actually correct, that we had celebrated April 21 as a State holiday in Texas because it is one of the most, if not the most important day in Texas history. Because on April 21, 1836, 174 years ago, Texas gained complete independence from Mexico and became a free and independent nation for over 9 years.
A little history is due, I think. It all started when Mexico was a republic, a democracy, similar to the United States. Texas belonged to Mexico. But a person by the name of Santa Ana became President of Mexico. When he became President, he abolished the Mexican constitution and became dictator. And once he became dictator, he eliminated civil rights for everybody that lived in Mexico, including what is now Texas. So Texas sought independence, and on March 2, 1836, Texas declared independence from Mexico and cited the reasons, because of the dictator, the tyrant who had denied civil rights to all those living in Texas.
At the same time a group of 187 volunteers, of all races from all the States in the Union and many foreign countries, assembled at a beat-up old Spanish church in central Texas called the Alamo. That's right, 187 volunteers stood in defiance of Santa Ana's army, who invaded Texas. Several thousand enemy soldiers came in. We all know the history, that after 13 days of fighting those battles, the Alamo fell and all the defenders were killed.
However, that battle allowed for General Sam Houston, who was commander of the Texas army, to build an army to fight back. As William Barrett Travis said at the Alamo, who was the commander, a 26-year-old individual from South Carolina, that victory will cost the enemy more dearly than defeat. And he was right. Because of the massive losses of Santa Ana's forces at the Alamo, he had to regroup. He started then chasing Sam Houston.
Sam Houston was moving east. He was headed toward the Sabine-Neches area, the Sabine-Neches River, which is next to the United States. We call that Louisiana. He had yet to fight a battle. Santa Ana's armies had been very successful in defeating the Texas armies in almost every battle. And Sam Houston had yet to fight, but he found himself, on April 21, 1836, between the Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River in a marshy land called San Jacinto. There he stood to fight.
Most battles are fought in the morning after sunrise, but on April 21 the Texas army was so eager to fight that at 3 o'clock in the afternoon they decided to march on Santa Ana's forces, which outnumbered the Texans over two to one.
The Texas army was an odd-looking bunch. They were volunteers, but they were from, once again, all over the country. They were frontiersmen. They were shopkeepers. They were lawyers and doctors. They were made up of Texans and of Hispanic dissent. We call those Tejanos. They were led by Captain Juan Seguin, and his Tejanos were part of the calvary. So as not to be mistaken for the Mexican army, because the Texans had no uniforms, Juan Seguin's troops wore a playing card in their hat band to make sure that the Texans knew who they were.
So the Texans marched on Santa Ana's forces completely by surprise and defeated them, an overwhelming defeat, one of the biggest upsets in military history. Half of Santa Ana's forces were killed; the other half were captured. The battle lasted 18 minutes, and one-third of the land in the United States, which is now the United States, switched hands.
This is a map of the way Texas looked after April 21, 1836. Texas claimed all of the land, which is part of Texas, part of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas.
Texas became a free and independent nation that day, stayed a republic for 9 years, and then joined the United States. Texas only got into the United States by one vote when a Louisiana Senator finally changed his mind and allowed Texas to come into the United States.
I mention this, April 21, because it's an important day not only for Texas but for all people who believe in freedom. That these freedom fighters, these volunteers in 1836, many of them gave their lives for that word ``liberty.'' A word that we still fight for today. In our history a lot of people fought for that word and died for independence, both for Texas and for the United States.
So we honor those brave Texans on this April 21, the anniversary of San Jacinto Day.
And that's just the way it is.
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