The Austin Chronicle

From 'Voices of Valor,' a Play by James E. Garcia

March 17, 2006, Arts

Hector Santa Anna, Miami, Ariz., pilot, U.S. Army Corps

My great, great uncle was (in Spanish) General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. (a quick beat, a wry smile) I'm not kidding. The one from the Alamo. (offhanded) And he also was president of Mexico three or four times, I lose track. So our family's "been in the history business" a long time.

Me? I was raised right here in Arizona. My father, Jose Maria Santa Anna, worked in the mines in the days of the great strikes. He was bilingual, so, of course, it was a natural thing for him to be a leader in the union. He could talk to the workers. He could talk to the gabachos

I was in high school when the war began. I was 17. My father didn't want me to go. At first, I listened. I decided to go to California to work the mines. One day, a friend of mine asked me to visit the local air base with him. That's when I knew, "This is what I'd like to do." That day, I joined the Army Air Corps, and right away the first thing they did was send me to Brooks Air Base in San Antonio, Texas. (quick beat) San Antonio – not the best place to be if you're a Santa Anna, I tell you right now. They must have thought I was returning to the scene of the crime. But there I am in the shadow of the Alamo, learning to fly B-17 bombers. I'm thinking to myself, maybe "if General Santa Anna had B-17s, history might have turned out differently."

After the war, I even worked for NASA. (chuckles) Can you imagine a Mexican on the moon? A Santa Anna on the moon. Let me tell you something, (in confidence, and smiling) if I had gone up there and walked around with those other guys, I'd like to think I would have figured out a way to sneak off, and with a big magic marker… I would have written on a moon rock, "Remember The Alamo."

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