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A professor and her students visiting from Texas want Illinois to send the prosthetic leg belonging to the villain of the Battle of the Alamo back to Mexico.
St. Mary's University professor Teresa Van Hoy said the leg of Mexican general Santa Anna that was captured by soldiers from Illinois during the Mexican-American War should be returned to Mexico, not left on display in the Illinois Military Museum in Springfield. She said the display is akin to a freak-show exhibit.
"It only shows Santa Anna," Van Hoy said. "It is only a caricature, not a representation of the sacrifice made by Illinois soldiers."
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The San Antonio history professor wants the state to hold a referendum on whether the leg should be returned. She and her roughly two dozen students visited Springfield last week to celebrate Abraham Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican-American War and start a conversation on returning the leg. There was also a film crew accompanying her that plans to make a documentary on the subject. She hadn't reached out to any local officials on the subject of a potential referendum, but said the mayor of San Antonio would not cooperate in reaching out to Springfield's mayor on the issue.
Lt. Col. Brad Leighton with the Illinois Department of Military Affairs said each time the issue of returning the leg comes up, the answer always will be the same.
"This particular artifact is very important to the history of the Illinois National Guard and to our legacy," he said. "The leg was placed in the public trust, given to us by our predecessors to keep."
Van Hoy said the prosthetic isn't a representation of Illinois soldiers, but a slight directed at Mexico.
"This has only been used to mock Mexico,” Van Hoy said.”It hasn't been used to glorify Illinois.”
Leighton said that, to his knowledge, the Mexican government has never asked for the leg back. Van Hoy said it has, but did not elaborate.
Santa Anna sparked American anger when he ordered that soldiers taken prisoner at the Battle of the Alamo were to be executed. His leg was captured by Illinois' 4th Infantry in the Battle of Cerro Gordo when they ambushed the Mexican general, forcing him to abandon his personal effects.