UHV to present free ‘Texas Before the Alamo’ movie screening, history panel

An actor playing a Franciscan priest blesses the Guadeloupe River during a scene from the movie “Texas Before the Alamo.” The film will be shown for the first time in Victoria on Oct. 13 as part of the University of Houston-Victoria Provost’s Lecture Series.

The Victoria premiere of the movie “Texas Before the Alamo,” accompanied by a panel discussion by historians who consulted on the film, will highlight the next University of Houston-Victoria Provost’s Lecture Series.

The free event on Oct. 13 will focus on what life was like in the Crossroads area during the Spanish settlement of Texas. The movie was partly filmed at historical sites in Victoria and Goliad counties.

“There has been a lot of interest in this movie locally since some of it was filmed nearby and several Coastal Bend residents are on screen,” said Jeffrey Cass, UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We are thrilled to present the debut of ‘Texas Before the Alamo’ in Victoria. We think this will be a great chance for the community to come out and learn in an entertaining way about what Texas was like during that era.”

All the events will take place at the Victoria Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive. The historical panel discussion will begin at 5 p.m., and the movie will start at 7 p.m. A reception will be held in between at 6:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend the whole event, or come just for part of it. No advanced tickets are required.

“Showing this documentary film will give the Victoria-area community an opportunity to experience firsthand what the rest of the nation will see next year on national public television,” UHV President Phil Castille said. “UHV is delighted to provide this forum for area residents to view the movie and hear it discussed in an historical context. This is an important part of our public service mission to the Crossroads region.”

“Texas Before the Alamo” is directed and produced by Bill Millet of San Antonio. It is about the founding of Texas and the Spanish who established missions, presidios and trails. Those missions included what is now the Mission Espíritu Santo State Historic Site in Goliad, the Alamo and other missions in San Antonio.

“This event will be a nice introduction for a lot of people about the history of this area,” UHV Associate Provost Uppinder Mehan said. “Awareness of Texas’ past typically extends as far back as the Alamo. I think many people may be surprised by the extent of the early Spanish influence in Texas.”

The film tells the stories of Spanish soldiers and Franciscan priests in the struggle to keep France from settling Texas and reaching the source of Spain’s power – the silver mines of northern Mexico. Actors answer historical questions along the way, such as who named the rivers in South Texas, how the El Camino Real de los Tejas trail got its name and why the Spanish permanently settled in Texas during the early 1700s when the region possessed no mineral wealth.

“The rich Mexican American culture in the U.S. descended in part from Spanish Texas and was manifested by the establishment and unveiling of the prominent Tejano Monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capital Building in 2012,” Millet said. “This film is an outreach of that project and the efforts of early Latina historic preservation activists.”

Several Texas historians and Mexican descendants of Spanish soldiers appear in the two-hour movie. The scenes were improvised with the help of historians on site during filming. Millet went to great lengths to make it as historically accurate as possible, Mehan said.

“The filmmakers researched the archives to get a fuller sense of the history,” he said. “It’s by no means a purely creative endeavor. It’s both scholarly and creative.”

Some of the historians who helped with the filmmaking will talk about the experience in the panel discussion. Historians scheduled to appear are:

  • Felix D. Almaraz Jr, history professor emeritus at the University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Robert Shook, retired history professor at Victoria College and co-author of “Victoria: A Pictorial History”
  • David Urbano, social studies teacher at Patti Welder Magnet Middle School
  • Rufus Davis, chief of the Adai Caddo Indian Nation

The film will be broadcast on public television stations in 2014 in conjunction with the release of a companion book by Almaraz and a CD of the music of Spanish Texas produced by Millet and Louis-Marie Fardet.

The final scenes from the movie were filmed in March in the unincorporated Victoria County town of Placedo, where in the late 1600s Robert Cavelier de la Salle established the first French and European settlement near Garcitas Creek in what would become Texas.

Other scenes were filmed in Guerrero, Coahuila, Mexico. Millet helped connect Victoria and Guerrero city leaders. A delegation of Victoria leaders traveled to Guerrero last year to meet with Mexican officials about the union of the two towns and to tour historic mission sites. A Guerrero delegation visited Victoria soon thereafter.

As part of UHV’s 40th anniversary celebration, the Provost’s Lecture Series began in January to bring more opportunities for scholarly discussion to the university and Victoria community. Previous lectures were about civil rights leader Casey Hayden and a discussion of life and politics in South Africa.

“The community involvement in the production of the film, combined with the opportunity to look at a part of history that isn’t as well known, spoke to some of larger concerns about social justice that the Provost’s Lecture Series addresses,” Mehan said.

To watch the movie trailer, visit For more information about UHV’s 40th anniversary and a list of upcoming events, visit

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Jeremy Shapiro