Alamo Village in Brackettville Texas: Jean Baudrillard’s Theory of the Simulacra Come to Life

One of my favorite philosophers of all time, Jean Baudrillard, gave the world the concept of the simulacrum and hyperreality. Essentially, and I’m boiling Baudrillard down to a ridiculously primal element, his ideas revolve around the fact that modern society, and America in particular, is quick to eschew authentic reality and embrace a simulation to the point where it becomes the new reality. One of the most amazing examples of Baudrillard’s simulacra in actions is the almost bizarre story of tourism in the state of Texas surrounding the Alamo in San Antonio and the movie set reconstruction of the Alamo used in the John Wayne movie of the same name located about 130 miles to the west.

The Alamo is the site of the most famous story in the history of struggle for Texan independence. The fact that Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and the rest actually lost the battle only served to intensify the revolutionary spirit of the battle; nothing is quite as a romantic as gallant soldiers dying in a lost cause. (Never mind that recent investigations have led to the conclusion that Crockett and others may have actually been taken back to Mexico and executed rather than dying in battle.) The Alamo is located in San Antonio, TX and has been a top tourist attraction for the entire state for some time. One thing you will want to know before you make a trek to the Alamo, however: it does not have a basement.

What is fascinating about the Alamo and its effect on tourism in Texas, however, is that about 130 miles away from San Antonio there is another Alamo that, when one takes into consideration the fact that the city in which it is located does not have nearly the other tourist draws as San Antonio, actually receives more visitors specifically looking for it than does the real Alamo. This Alamo is actually a fully realized simulation of the original Alamo built to exact scale. It was designed for the big budget movie directed by and starring John Wayne. In addition to the building, however, the actual grounds surrounding what is now called Alamo Village more closely resemble what the site of the famous battle looked like more than the real Alamo. It is a fantastic case of the simulation taking on the aspect of the hyperreal.

In a famous essay Jean Baudrillard utilizes Disneyland as the perfect simulacrum because it takes such pains to recreate Main Street, USA and other locales within the theme park that when people leave they no longer accept the reality of similar locales as being authentic and instead replace the reality in their minds with a simulation that they want to be the genuine article. Visitors to Brackettville, TX don’t go there to look at more Texas desert; you can find that in other part of this vast expanse of wasteland, especially up there in Crawford which is a desert of intellectual engagement. People who seek out Alamo Village, as well as those who come to learn of its existence merely by chance upon having come to visit the real Alamo, are essentially replacing the actual Alamo, which almost always disappoints because of its surprisingly diminutive stature and the fact it is surrounding by modern San Antonio. (And some are disappointed by that lack of a basement, of course.) By the contrast, Alamo Village offers visitors what they really expected to see. This Alamo is surrounded by period replicas of a bank, a church, a saloon. To walk up to the real Alamo seems paradoxically to be like walking up to a set, whereas the Alamo Village actually appears more real. Baudrillard must certainly have been heaven if ever visited the Alamo Village.