Twenty-five history students travel from the Alamo to Springfield, Illinois to build a Day of the Dead altar honoring Lincoln’s support of Mexico, and ask a museum to return Santa Anna’s prosthetic leg. With humor, humility, and animated history lessons, these students, mostly Mexican American, raise questions of identity, borders, museum ethics, and collective memory.

“A beautiful, stirring, and redemptive story about learning and especially about teaching. A history lesson, and more.”

 

Jill Lepore, author "These Truths: A History of the United States"
Synopsis: 

Twenty-five history students from St. Mary’s University take a 2,000 mile bus trip from the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas to Springfield, Illinois to build a Day of the Dead altar honoring Abraham Lincoln’s support of Mexico, and then to ask the Illinois State Military Museum to return General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s prosthetic leg to Mexico. With humor, humility, and a few animated history lessons, these students, mostly Mexican American, raise questions of identity, national borders, museum ethics, and collective memory. You will even learn a bit about the war Mexicans never forget and Americans hardly remember: the US-Mexican War, known to Americans as the Mexican American War and to Mexicans as the War of the United States against Mexico.

The quest made the front page of the Wall Street Journal the day before the 2016 Presidential Election and was covered on local TV and radio in Texas and Illinois.  At a moment of heightened antagonism against Mexico and Mexican Americans, these students remind us to examine how we tell the story of our shared history across the border.

 

Reviews

"A deft, slyly funny, emotionally powerful journey story about how history gets collected, recollected, claimed, and reclaimed.  These 25 Texans--and their passionate teacher--show that history is alive and meaningful."

 

Benjamin Filene, Chief Curator, North Carolina Museum of History

"25 Texans is a delightful and illuminating excursion into history and how it’s remembered—or, so often, misremembered. This hands-on, questioning approach to the past is an ideal teaching tool for students of all ages and backgrounds."

 

Tony Horwitz, author of "Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide"

“A delightful film that provides an illuminating look at questions of who owns history, relevance of the past, and a lesser-known aspect of Lincoln’s legacy: his support of Mexican independence and republicanism.”
 

 

David McKenzie, Associate Director for Interpretive Resources, Ford’s Theatre

I liked how it balanced the history behind the story with the current actions of the students and their quest for dialogue about Santa Anna's leg. I personally learned quite a bit, especially about Abraham Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican-American War and later support of Mexico.  As good as the history was, I think the most powerful part for my students would be seeing a very diverse group of students researching and discussing history at very high levels.  I think this could inspire some of my students who are interested in history, but might not see that as a realistic potential study/career path, look into it further.
 

Ben Hicks, Social Studies teacher from Waukee, IA
Director's Commentary: 

I hate to admit it, but I’m not really a history person. Yet, so many people I love also love history. And when one of them was making a delicious Mexican meal in my kitchen and began to tell me about the quest for Santa Anna's leg, I had to say, "Wait! Slow down. What happened in 1848? Who started the Mexican American war? And was Santa Anna a good guy or a bad guy?" I have loved spending two years with students eager to answer all these questions, and open to ask a few more. And along the way, I began to fall in love with history, and the feeling of sensing the urgency of the past in an all too uncertain present.