The book Silencing The Past is about how people “silence” the past through selective memories to benefit us in the present. We pick out certain events and either dramatize them or play them down to the point of no importance. This paper is about both our played up dramas and our forgotten realities.
In the first chapter of the book the author Michel-Roth Trouillot he brings up the story of the Alamo. He shows the reader how the same story can be viewed in completely different ways. He starts by telling the story in very matter of fact fashion from the Mexican point of view. He talks about how Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna took over a Franciscan Mission with a total number of 189 defenders. (Little did he know that mythic heros Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were inside) The siege went on for twelve days before the Mexicans finally charged the fort and killed everyone inside. A few weeks later at the battle of San Jacinto Santa Anna was defeated by the Secessionist leader Sam Houston. The Texans went on to secede and Santa Anna went on to be the leader of a much smaller Mexico.
During the battle of San Jacinto the Texans shouted the phrase “Remember the Alamo!” Santa Anna saw the battle at the Alamo as a sound victory over some rebellious individuals. The Texans that came after the Alamo saw the Battle as turning point in their lives as subjects to rule. The Texans under Houston took that defeat and saw it as an opportunity to rise up against their oppressor.
This story shows how there are at least two sides to every side of any historical event. There is the first side which is the very factual way at looking at history; Names, places, and dates etc. Then there is the side from the winners perspective. Santa Anna factually won the battle of the Alamo but in the socio-historical context he lost the battle to the Texans. During the battle of San Jacinto the Texans shouted the phrase “Remember the Alamo!” Santa Anna saw the battle at the Alamo as a sound victory over some rebellious individuals. The Texans that came after the Alamo saw the Battle as turning point in their lives as subjects to rule. The Texans under Houston took the defeat at the Alamo defeat and saw it as an opportunity to rise up against their oppressor.
To understand the real battle, one must appreciate its strategic context in the Texas Revolution. qv In December 1835 a Federalist army of Texan (or Texan, qv as they were called) immigrants, American volunteers, and their Tejano qv allies had captured the town from a Centralist force during the siege of Bexar. qv With that victory, a majority of the Texan volunteers of the 'Army of the People' ...
The next part of the book is talking about the Haitian rebellion. The Haitian rebellion can be looked at in many ways. The Haitian people look at the Haitian rebellion as the most successful slave revolt in all of history. It was a flipping of society similar to the French revolution, and marks the seconds oldest democracy in the western hemisphere of the world.
If the story of the Haitian revolution is told in a completely factual way, the story would be about how the Slaves revolted and started a nation on their own. To the neighboring Americans this was not a good thing. At the time in America there was a large population of slaves, in fact the American agricultural industry relied totally on slave labor. So the Haitian rebellion was talked down so to not give the slaves in America any ideas.
The Haitians even silenced part of their own rebellion after their rebellion in silencing Sans Soucis. Sans Soucis was an African born man who fought in the Haitian revolution. He rose to the rank of Colonel for his expertise in guerrilla tactics. He fought alongside Henry Christophe and Toussaint Louverture. Sans and Henry did not get along so Henry had him executed. To erase Sans Soucis King Henry named his palace at Milot Sans Soucis so that everyone would remember the name Sans Soucis because of the palace not the person.
All stories are examples of how people have retrospectively changed events to aid them in the present and future. The winners have written history in their favor, leaving the loser to be silenced in history.