- The Plan de San Diego: Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue by Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler
Harris and Sadler, emeriti history professors from New Mexico State University, began researching the Plan de San Diego (PSD) in 1977, five years after my first essay on the subject was published. The PSD was a response to eruptions in 1915 in South Texas along the Rio Grande River, with raids and violence directed by Mexicans and tejanos (Texans of Mexican ancestry) against the white community. Their goal was to create an independent state open to Mexican, Japanese, and Indian people, with a separate state to be created for blacks. In its second published iteration, the anarchist rhetoric of Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón, as expressed in their newspaper Regeneración, permeated the PSD document, but nonetheless the declared race war was to go on. A man named Augustín Garza was designated military commander of the Liberating Army of Races and People. The PSD attracted a diverse following, including German and Japanese interests, anarchists, reformists, and cattle rustlers. Suppressors included the U.S. Bureau of Investigation (BI) agents, U.S. Army soldiers, Texas rangers, gunfighters, and vigilantes. In Mexico, the faction of Venustiano Carranza, struggling to obtain diplomatic recognition from President Woodrow Wilson so as to beat out his chief rival Pancho Villa, played both sides of the fence: it encouraged the PSD to show sympathy with the insurgents against American racism but then sought to suppress it once Carranza’s recognition had been secured.
Over time, Harris and Sadler’s work has been characterized by serious research at the local and national level in both the U.S. and Mexico. Now, new information, including additional BI informant reports from the time of the movement (1915-1919) and the discovery of the Agustin Garza collection have prompted this book, which is a specialized study. New data, however, has not disturbed Harris and Sadler’s long-standing conspiratorial and oversimplified interpretation of the Carranza-PSD association: Carranza “in a brilliant covert operation manipulated the … insurgents as pawns” to gain diplomatic recognition in 1915 and “played Woodrow Wilson like a violin” (pp. x-xi, 262). Harris and Sadler argue that Carranza could turn this complex socio-racial-eco-nomic conflict on and off, as he might turn on and off a water tap. Among the lessons history can teach is that insurgencies are not so easily dismantled, as the American experiences in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan attest.
In my early work, I too saw this movement through the lens of conspiracy but in later studies, I uncovered new evidence to reveal alternative explanations. Commitment to [End Page 364] the Carranza conspiracy theory as the major explanation for the origin, life, and suppression of the PSD prevents Sadler and Harris from recognizing contradictions and asking key questions. How could the reformer Carranza control the anarchist sediciosos, (a term the authors use repeatedly but do not define)? Who gave Garza military field command? And how did he, with only one eye, lead men into combat and manage to shoot a weapon effectively at the same time, since parallax is a vision requisite for marksmanship? Why did local American consular officials believe that German interests were behind the PSD? Why did PSD adherents ask Anglos if they were German and then spares the lives of only those who said they were? Why were Japanese reservists who had gone to the border to participate in PSD raids into Texas, recalled to Mexico City by the Japanese minister there?
Harris and Sadler briefly discuss and dismiss all previous scholars with whom they disagree. In their opinion, writers who view the PSD as primarily a Tejano response to Anglo discrimination “rarely mention” the “fair amount of Hispanic racism towards Anglos” articulated in the PSD. Harris and Sadler continue, “It would be like the Japanese complaining about having atom bombs dropped on them but neglecting to mention Pearl Harbor” (p...