The Plan of San Diego—Then…And Now?
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The Mainstream Media has finally noticed   what has been reporting for years: the constant incursions by Mexican military units into American territory, typically while guarding drug and immigrant smugglers. By one estimate, the Mexican military has violated our largely unfenced border 231 times in the last decade. [Reports Cite Incursions on U.S. Border, By Richard Marosi, Robert J. Lopez and Rich Connell, LA Times, January 26, 2006]

This has reminded Americans with good memories of Pancho Villa's murderous raid on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916 and of the Zimmerman Telegram of 1917, in which Imperial Germany offered to help Mexico retake Texas,  New Mexico,  and Arizona (reserving California for Japan).

Mexican President Venustiano Carranza rejected the Zimmerman proposal – but only after studying the feasibility of a reconquista for several months.

Yet, almost nobody in America other than radical Aztlan separatists has heard of the sinister Plan of San Diego of 1915.

It's not a pretty story, so it's not surprising that few want to remember it.

I'd never known of it until 2004, when the Dallas Morning News tried to put a politically correct slant on it by running a front-page story by David McLemore entitled "89 years ago, Rangers singled out Hispanics, and thousands died." It promoted young SMU history professor Benjamin Heber Johnson's tendentious book Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans.

The article was rattling along on predictable tracks:

"In 1915, as the chaos of the Mexican Revolution raged across the river, the [Lower Rio Grande] Valley [of Texas] underwent its own turmoil. For more than a decade, Anglo land speculators and Midwestern farmers flooded the Valley… The newcomers brought their racial prejudices with them. Foreigners and dark-skinned people were not to be trusted. "American" became a synonym for "white" and any brown-skinned person was a "Mexican" regardless of origin."

When suddenly it veered into new territory:

"In January 1915, authorities arrested a man near the border who carried a copy of a revolutionary manifesto. It called for a Tejano armed uprising to reclaim much of the Southwest for Mexico. It also called for Anglo males over age 16 to be killed.

"What?" I thought. "Mexican-Americans started a genocidal race war in Texas? Why hadn't anyone ever mentioned this?"

I started doing more research and soon found that this article gave a highly distorted account of an extraordinary episode in American history.

The second half of 1915 and first half of 1916 witnessed 30 terrorist invasions of Texas sponsored by the government of Mexico, and, in response, of Texas Ranger counter-terrorist excesses. Hundreds died and half the population of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas temporarily fled the guerrilla fighting.

By far, the fullest and most insightful history of the Plan of San Diego violence available on the Web is a series of articles for the alternative newspaper of Laredo, TX, LareDos: A Journal of the Borderlands, by local historian Robert Mendoza. He is heavily influenced by the 1978 article "The Plan of San Diego and the Mexican-United States War Crisis of 1916: A Re-examination," by historians Charles Harris III and Louis R. Sadler of New Mexico St. (The Texas State Historical Association provides a good short summary of the Plan of San Diego.)

Blame for starting the border war rested not, as the Dallas Morning News implied, with Mexican-Americans, who, indeed, paid much of the price, but with the President of Mexico, who reaped the benefits.

"Los Sediciosos," a Tex-Mex song of 1915, presciently noted:

Now the fuse has been lit

By the Mexican nationalists.

But the price will be paid

By the Texas Mexicans.

From the summer of 1915 through the summer of 1916, there were 30 cross-border terrorist raids by Carranza's soldiers and allied anti-American extremists, who killed six civilians and 17 U.S. soldiers.

In response, the Texas Rangers stained their proud tradition. Needing to expand rapidly, they deputized many untrained civilians who often turned out to be trigger-happy yahoos. In the nasty tradition of anti-guerilla warfare, the Rangers, along with local sheriffs and vigilantes, summarily executed about 300 people of Mexican descent, most of them probably utterly innocent of insurrection. (Johnson's estimate of thousands of killings, though, is inflated by an order of magnitude, according to the definitive 2004 book by Harris and Sadler, The Texas Rangers and The Mexican Revolution: The Bloodiest Decade, 1910-1920.)

Yet, in the beginning, few Texans had been alarmed when a Mexican revolutionary named Basilio Ramos was arrested in McAllen on January 24, 1915 carrying a document, supposedly written in the south Texas town of San Diego, that called for a Latino, black, and Japanese uprising in the border states to reunite them with Mexico. Paragraph seven of the Plan read:

"Every Norteamericano over sixteen years of age shall be put to death; and only the aged men, the women, and the children shall be respected…"

In May 1915, a federal judge laughed that Ramos "ought to be tried for lunacy, not conspiracy against the United States," and reduced his bail from $5,000 to $100. He promptly jumped bail and headed back to Mexico, where he had been working for the self-proclaimed President Carranza.

Squeezed between Emiliano Zapata's army in the south of Mexico and Pancho Villa's in the northwest, Carranza desperately needed President Woodrow Wilson's diplomatic recognition as the legitimate President of Mexico to be eligible to obtain arms from America and Europe. According to Mendoza, Carranza's strategy consisted of four steps:

"1) Carranza's armed and funded "bandits" would raid Texas border communities;

"2) The US State Department would demand Carranza subdue the 'bandits';

"3) Carranza would reply that the 'bandits' were only able to operate because Carranza lacked US recognition and sufficient arms to combat them; and

"4) Carranza, having received recognition and arms, 'arrests' the raiders.

"Carranza's scheme to achieve diplomatic recognition and munitions was disguised as a Texas mexicano irredentist uprising."

Mendoza writes:

"The first sighting of the Plan de San Diego raiders was on July 2, 1915. Forty heavily armed horsemen were reported maneuvering near Sebastian, Texas north of Harlingen. Two days later, at an isolated ranchhouse near Lyford, two Anglo men were murdered. The raiders proceeded north through the brushlands to Raymondville, where they killed an 18-year-old Anglo boy."

More attacks ensued on government property and whites (although, interestingly, Germans were spared). In October 1915, Wilson recognized Carranza as the rightful President of Mexico and the assaults stopped within a week.

Terrorism often works.

President Carranza, however, wasn't purely cynical in his use of anti-American terror. In 1916, Pancho Villa attacked Columbus, NM, so Wilson sent General John Pershing's expeditionary force into Mexico. In almost a year of wandering around Mexico, Pershing failed to find Villa. (But at least he and his troops received some rigorous outdoor training that later paid off fighting the Germans on the Western Front.)

Although Villa was his enemy, Carranza's patriotism was affronted by the American incursion, so he relaunched the Plan of San Diego's violent incursions into Texas. Carranza's anger climaxed with his order for a brigade of 450 of his troops to invade America at Laredo in June 1916. Fortunately, one of his generals called it off at the last moment.

Many lessons can be drawn from the forgotten history of the Plan of San Diego.

But an obvious one is that Mexico was, and remains, a foreign country—with interests very different from ours.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is the founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.] Postscript: In National Review's The Corner [with added links] on January 22, 2005:

(Is it still OK to use "call your office"?) The continuing incursions across the southern border by Mexican soldiers are adding to the tensions in U.S.-Mexico relations and even prompting a second look at Pancho Villa's 1916 raid in New Mexico and Gen. Pershing's punitive expedition. Clearly things aren't that bad yet, but the governability of Mexico is becoming a real question. It's increasingly apparent that the Mexico City government isn't really in control of what happens in much of the country — Nuevo Laredo is essentially a free-fire zone for drug gangs, heavily armed Mexican soldiers are moonlighting as escorts for smugglers, and there is open talk of the "Colombianization" of Mexico. How can anyone think that the Mexican government can be an effective partner in controlling immigration and enforcing the border?
Posted at 02:44 PM


From a reader: "I read your post on The Corner and I thought you should know that not only was General Pershing involved in the expedition but it also launched the career of future general George S. Patton, Jr., who killed 3 of [Pancho] Villa's bandits in a gunfight at the Rubio Ranch and then strapped their bodies to the hood of his Dodge."

Now that's border enforcement!

Posted at 05:48 PM

For the record: Mark is not endorsing the Rubio Ranch approach in that post.
Posted at 05:49 PM

[ query: Is National Review endorsing any approach on the border?]

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

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