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A Flag of the New Orleans Greys Texas State Library & Archives Commission have a display of the flags, not necessarily an exchange of flags, and unfortunately one thing led to another and people assumed, particularly in Mexico, that we wanted to take their flag back and bring it over here.” When the project was publicized, the reaction in Mexico was outrage. In the earliest grades Mexican schoolchildren are taught that their country’s destiny would have been far different if not for the intervention of Americans, starting with U.S. assistance to the treacherous Texans. The idea of returning the flag was, therefore, repugnant south of the Rio Grande. But after Senator Tnian’ s misinterpreted suggestion, stateside support \(including radio call-ins, and mass mailings to the Mexican text Texans trying to promote an exchange, and Mexicans feeling the pressure that George W. Bush was inaugurated as Governor in 1995. Caught up in the pomp and circumstance of his upset victory over a media-friendly incumbent, at first Governor Bush seemed bemused when reporters insisted on asking about the issue. “I think it is important,” the Governor-elect said doubtfully. “[But] it is going to require Texas and Mexican officials to have a cordial relationship before any flag swap or swap of artifacts takes place.” Just after his inauguration the new, Spanish-speaking Governor amplified his goodwill theme. “I believe that the best way to retrieve the Alamo flag is to have a cordial relationship,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “I believe that the best way to accommodate matters is to have a respectful relationship so that when and if the flag is returned … that it is done out of friendship as a gesture of goodwill.” “Whatever we have of Mexico’s I understand that there are paintings or other flags we’d be willing to make a swap,” Bush promised, suggesting an ignorance of the exact details. George Bush’s conciliatory approach was circumvented by direct legislative action. During the new Governor’s first legislative session, state lawmakers granted authority to the state’s chief librarian ate with the Mexicans for the flag’s return. At the same time the U.S. Congress was also passing a resolution asking the Mexicans simply to give back the Greys’ banner. All this legislative activity seemed to irk the Governor, who favored personal diplomacy: “The truth of the matter is, if I could go and convince the right Mexican official to work a loan agreement for the flag, I suspect that would be a more efficient way to do so.” Still, in a private letter to State Librarian Robert S. Martin in October 1995, Governor Bush seemed to acquiesce to the Legislature’s plan. “There would be nothing more pleasing,” he wrote, “than for all of us to affect an exchange of things of history, whether it be on loan or forever.” In public Bush was going farther: “I hope I’m the Governor that is able to hold up the flag.” Both tracks, diplomacy and arm-twisting, were rendered ineffective a few months later when the Mexicans announced that they had “lost” the artifact in question. Sylvia Moreno, a reporter for the Morning News, attempting by telephone to track down the flag’s exact whereabouts, was told at each Mexico City museum she called that no one had the Alamo silk. Mexican archivists indicated that the flag had been mislaid or taken by unknown hands. In Texas, this news was greeted not for what it was, a face-saving excuse, but as fact, and was widely ridiculed: the Mexicans had mislaid or allowed to be stolen, Texans believed, what Mexico had been refusing on principle to return for sixty years. p rogress came the following year, on two fronts. An Austin attorney, attending a “high-level” dinner party in Mexico City, reported back that Mexican officials were no longer claiming to have lost the Alamo flag and, in fact, that the Mexicans suddenly seemed receptive to the idea of a trade. About the same time an isolated Congressional inquiry arrived at the U.S. Embassy asking about progress in the search for the banner. “Such inquiries are normally assigned to the Embassy’s political section for action. I had no professional interest [in] the issue,” wrote Alan Smiley in a recent letter about the controversy. At the time, Smiley was the Embassy’s narcotics control officer, responsible for coordinating U.S. policy regarding drug interdiction efforts in Mexico. But Smiley happened to see the cable and took responsibility for the inquiry nonetheless. Smiley’ s interest was actually quite personal. His great-great-great-great uncle, a Tennessee lawyer named Daniel Cloud, had died defending the southeastern palisade, near the chapel of the Alamo, in 1836. After consultations with Texas officials, including the librarian Robert Martin, and after learning all he could about the Alamo flag itself, Smiley developed a three-part plan to get the flag back by, well, less than direct means. “Phase One was to suggest [to the Mexicans] the formation of a bi-national team of textile restoration experts to restore not only the Alamo flag but [the] three Mexican Army battalion flags as well,” he said later, explaining his efforts on Texas’ behalf. “Phase Two, only to be presented to the GOM [Government of Mexico] after Phase One had been approved and restoration was well underway, was to have been a traveling exhibit of the four newly restored flags first in Mexico, then in Texas. Phase Three was to have been the indefinite extension of the Texas exhibition of the flags, so the Alamo flag, in effect, remained in Texas forever. Both Phase Two and Three were tightly held secrets, not to be discussed with either our GOM counterparts or our Mexican operatives. We didn’t want the GOM to think there was anything more to this than scholarly interest in preserving all four flags before they all turned to dust.” The effort to dupe the Mexicans began with limited success. As an JULY 21, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9