by Russell Guerrero '83
For many students at Trinity, a major is more than just a key to getting a diploma or a starting point for finding a good job. A major is a reflection of a person's passion; it's a subject that continually fascinates and captivates long after graduation. For Gus Martinez '93, who graduated with a degree in history, his passion is reliving the past.
When he isn't working at a San Antonio law firm, Gus might be found wearing the uniform of a 19th century Mexican soldier during the Texas Revolution. He has also portrayed a Spanish soldier during the American Revolution in Louisiana (Spain fought with American forces against the British in the South), a British soldier during a re-enactment of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, and a Spanish militiaman during San Antonio's colonial years in the 18th century.
Re-enacting gives Gus a chance to do more than just play soldier. For the last eight years, his hobby as a re-enactor has given him the opportunity to share his love of history with others, usually on the anniversaries of memorable battles. Using the skills he learned at Trinity, he does an extensive amount of research, which can take a great amount of time since there is a dearth of information on Mexican soldiers during the War for Texas Independence. He feels it is necessary in order to give a balanced and thoughtful portrayal, especially when dealing with the Battle of the Alamo. "People know the legend. There are good guys and bad guys in the story and for the public, the good guys are inside the Alamo and the bad guys are on the outside," he says. Gus feels his mission is to get past the legend and to show others that Mexican soldiers are not the black hearted villains of the Texas revolution. Instead, they were honorable soldiers on a mission to quell a rebellion.
He realizes that his work is cut out for him. Once, as he was preparing for a re-enactment at the Alamo, a tourist asked him what he was doing. He told her that he would be portraying a Mexican soldier. After she took his picture, she asked if he was ashamed for doing so.
Ironically, his hobby as a re-enactor began about the time he was leaving his job at the most historic place in Texas. One of his first jobs after graduating from Trinity was at the Alamo, where he would stand by one of the displays and answer questions about the famous battle. At the time an acquaintance asked him to join a local group of re-enactors. Gus said he enjoyed the experience but it wasn't until a trip to the northeast that he received an epiphany. He was impressed with the attention to detail re-enactors gave to their portrayals and he began to take his hobby more seriously. Since then, he has taken the time to learn many old traditions from loading an antique rifle to writing with a quill pen.
His hard work and devotion do have rewards. His proudest moments come when real soldiers tell him that he and his compatriots are doing things just like real soldiers would.
His fascination with the past may shed light on his future. Because he has developed a flair for imparting history lessons, Gus may consider teaching, a career that would enable him to share his passion with another generation.