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  • The Plan de San Diego: Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue by Charles H. Harris III, Louis R. Sadler
  • Trinidad Gonzales
The Plan de San Diego: Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue. By Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013. Pp. 358. Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index.)

The Plan de San Diego (PSD) is a 1915 document related to a South Texas insurgency against the United States. Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler published their first findings on this subject in 1978 and continued to work on it for more than thirty years. In their latest effort they feel they have confirmed their original thesis by providing irrefutable proof that Venustiano Carranza, first chief of the Constitutionalist faction in the Mexican Revolution, utilized the revolt to achieve official United States recognition as the leader of the Mexican republic. In particular Harris and Sadler rely on the recently released papers of Agustín S. Garza Solís, author of the PSD. Despite the use of these new documents their work contains flaws and does not substantiate their thesis.

The Plan de San Diego was a liberation movement against the United States that lasted from June to October 1915 in Willacy, Cameron, and Hidalgo Counties. A series of raids in 1916 are also associated with the PSD. The three recognized leaders of the 1915 rebellion were Garza, Luis de la Rosa, and Aniceto Pizaña. Eventually the military buildup on both sides of the river ended the insurgency. In 1916 the United States dispatched General John J. Pershing into Mexico to pursue Pancho Villa following his attack against Columbus, New Mexico. Mexicans raided Laredo and Brownsville in reaction. The U.S. military crossed the Rio Grande and threatened Matamoros after the Brownsville raid. Commanders from both forces came to an agreement, and U.S. troops withdrew. After 1916 no further raids occurred. According to Harris and Sadler, Carranza organized the PSD from the beginning in order to achieve recognition by pointing out to the United States that he could not put down the rebellion until his faction received the increased military support that would result from being recognized. In response to the Pershing Expedition, Carranza reorganized the PSD.

There are three problems with their thesis. First, no Carranza-produced documents are cited that relate to the 1915 insurgency. All sources used to make the connection are individuals claiming Carranza organized the rebellion. Second, there is no extensive examination of Carranza’s diplomatic efforts or of the Woodrow Wilson administration’s deliberations concerning recognition. The lack of such an examination when the primary thesis relates to Carranza’s foreign relations efforts is surprising. [End Page 93]

The third problem is more serious. The primary Garza document Harris and Sadler rely on to make their case is a reproduction of a 1919 letter from Garza to Mario Méndez, general director of telegraphs. In the letter Garza stated that Carranza was grateful for Garza’s silence concerning the first chief’s involvement with the “last movement” (237). It is unclear which movement is referenced, 1915 or 1916. Harris and Sadler mistakenly conflate both movements into one in order to further their thesis, but it appears they were different efforts. More importantly, they fail to mention that the letter is a 1930s reproduction. The authors cite the letter as a 1919 original. Garza stated at the bottom of the document, “es copia fiel sacada de su original” (“it is true copy taken from the original”). The letter was part of a collection of documents Garza submitted to various officials seeking veteran’s benefits, for which he was rejected. Harris’s and Sadler’s misrepresentation creates a shadow over their scholarship. Thus, while they provide new details about day-to-day activities relating to the PSD, the question of Carranza’s direct connection to the 1915 insurgency remains unanswered.

Trinidad Gonzales
South Texas College


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