AUSTIN-When 59 Texans signed a declaration of independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836, the Alamo was surrounded by an army whose leader viewed those advocating Texas sovereignty as nothing but pirates. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna intended to put down the rebellion and leave Texas scorched and soaked in blood. The 42-year-old dictator had done the same thing the year before in putting down a revolt in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Four days after the Texas independence declaration was signed at Washington-on-the-Brazos, Santa Anna stormed the Alamo and soon was marching east in pursuit of the remainder of the Texas’ ragtag Army. But on April 21 Sam Houston and his soldiers defeated the Mexican general at San Jacinto and Texas was on its way to a decade as an independent republic before becoming a state of the union. The anniversary of the signing of that cheeky document that got it all started has been a state holiday for years. As late as the 1960s, most schools closed in observance of the day. Eventually, the day was dropped as a school holiday and activities in observance of the holiday began to fade. Three years ago, a group of later-day Texas patriots led by Jay L. Johnson and Roger T. Moore of Austin decided more attention should be paid to March 2 and the reason the date stands out in Texas history. The result was the organization of Celebrate Texas, a non-profit group whose goal is to “encourage and promote the education of the general public regarding Texas Independence Day and the history of Texas and its people.” Since then, the group has organized a Texas Independence Day celebration in Austin that has grown larger each year. This year’s March 2 observance begins at 9:30 a.m. that Friday with a memorial ceremony at the State Cemetery. At 11:30 a.m., a parade will move up Congress Avenue from First Street to the Capitol. So far, 80 units, from bands to reenactment groups, have signed up to be in the parade. That’s 13 more than last year. At noon on the south steps of the Capitol there will be some brief speechifying and Texas music. “My attitude is that we ought to appreciate Texas at least one day a year,” said Moore, an Austin advertising agency owner and cartoonist. “There was a lot of Texas-bashing in the presidential race last year, but we happen to think Texas is a pretty nice place,” he said. Good drivers to get a break Beginning soon, qualifying Texans will be able to renew their driver licenses or identification cards on line or by telephone. There’s a catch, though. Only those eligible to renew by mail will be able to take care of driver license or ID card business without going to a Department of Public Safety driver license office. To qualify, you have to have a clean driving record for the previous three years. The DPS says about 80,000 Texans a month currently renew by mail. That number is expected to increase when the online and telephone renewal program kicks in. Eventually, the DPS says, it expects 40 percent of Texas driver license or ID card holders will be renewing without having to go to a DPS office. This should substantially reduce waiting time for those who still need to visit a DPS driver license office. To access the DPS website, go to www.txdps.state.tx.us or www.texas online.com.