Book Blog Tour: Before the Alamo

A Tejana’s Story
Florence Byham Weinberg

Genre: Historical Fiction / Texas History 
Publisher: Maywood House
Date of Publication: September 17, 2021 ** 296 pages 

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Emilia Altamirano, half Otomí Indian, half pure Spanish, is born in 1814, the year after the Battle of the Medina River, where her father fought as an officer in the Mexican Royalist Army. She grows up in Bexar de San Antonio unacknowledged by her father, raised by her Otomí Indian mother, and “adopted” as an unofficial ward by José Antonio Navarro, hero of the Texas fight for independence from Mexico. She learns to read, write, and acts as a page for the Ayuntamiento (City Council). She learns nursing during a cholera epidemic and later tends the wounded on both sides during and after the Battle of the Alamo. She survives, but as a Tejana, Spanish-speaking, and a loyal citizen of Mexico, she faces an uncertain future. 


“Yesterday, I finished Before the Alamo, figuratively gasping for breath…Thank you for a joyful experience, so helpful in this time of disillusion and anxiety.” – reader Marti Nodine



Reading this most interesting book it was hard to decide whether the history was set against the backdrop of the story of Emilia’s life; or was Texas history the screen upon which the drama of how these lives were affected by the events of that time was projected.

Either way, there’s a lot to learn, and a lot to enjoy, while reading this story. For most of us Anglos, we learned the story of the Alamo strictly from the viewpoint of history written by white men, which sadly is the way that too much of history has been written. Back when I was in school, there was little exposure to the rest of the story, especially from the point of view of oppressed people of color.

For example, all I remember learning about The Alamo and the fateful battle there, was which famous white men died, especially Davey Crockett and James Bowie. Before reading this well-researched book by Weinberg, I had no idea how badly some Spanish and Mexican people were treated in the early to mid 1800s, and how attitudes formed then have evolved through the years to the prejudice we can see today.

In the signing of the Texas Constitution, after Santa Anna’s troops were finally defeated and Texas gained its independence in 1834, there was a clause that was going to be inserted into the Constitution at that time, denying the Hispanic people the right to vote. That clause was a huge insult to a proud and noble people. People who were often poor, and of little means, but still had pride in themselves, family and country. Thanks to the legal acumen of a Spanish lawyer, the clause was struck down.

Emilia is a very engaging character, and I appreciated how her strength grew and played out as the story progressed from her happy childhood with her mother Maria, to the discovery of who her father was, then to the gripping drama of politics as Spain and Mexico and Texas fought for sovereignty of the land that eventually became the state of Texas.

There is plenty of drama and intrigue in this story, as well as romance when Emilia falls in love with Damaso. Like many strong relationships, theirs starts with friendship and evolves into a deep, abiding love. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy a history lesson laced with a great story and strong characters.


Florence Byham Weinberg, born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, lived on a ranch as well as a farm and travelled with her military family during World War Two. After earning a Ph.D., she taught for 36 years in three universities. She published four scholarly books. Since retiring, she has written four books in the Pfefferkorn historical mystery series, three additional historical novels and one philosophical fantasy/thriller. She lives in San Antonio, loves cats, dogs, horses, and conversations with great-souled friends.




Grand Prize:
Signed copies of Before the Alamo and Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross
2nd & 3rd: signed copy of Before the Alamo.
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/20/21)





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2 thoughts on “Book Blog Tour: Before the Alamo”

  1. It amazes me that as I get older (and wiser?!), I realize just how narrow my history education was not only in who the lessons came from but also in the view presented. This sounds like a great mind expander of a book that entertains and educates. Thanks for sharing your review.

    1. Sadly, a lot of us had a narrow history education, which is why I enjoyed getting a much broader view by reading this book. In recent years I’ve come to appreciate writers and others who speak out to correct the mis-information about people and some historic events. And the lessons do go down much easier in an entertaining story.

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