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The Plan de San Diego: Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue (The Mexican Experience) Paperback – July 1, 2013
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While their insistence that the Plan was exploited by "First Chief" Carranza for his own diplomatic purposes is essentially sound, that in itself did not explain the appeal of the movement in southeast border Texas. The same also for the use of Constitutional Army troops in cross-border raids. To many Hispanics on both sides the Rio Grande was a de facto border only, not the firmly-drawn international line as seen from Washington. When one applies this view, of north Mexico and south Texas as a single region in its own right, the Sadler and Harris thesis is weakened. Those involved understood the Mexican revolutionary process as equally applicable for all "the oppressed and exploited of La Raza." Thus the relative strength of Tejano vs. "real" Mexicans in the rebel ranks was a secondary concern for those in them.
Sadler and Harris also rely heavily not just on Mexican sources that point fingers at Carranza, but on US Army, Ranger, and Justice Department investigations; these latter based largely on informant sources. Just from the examples used, one sniffs a tendency for said informants to tell their handlers and interrogators what they wanted to hear. Thus these accounts bear as much self-interest as opposing views and require similar caution. When S & H write, for example, that the South Texas Law & Order League merely "helped" law enforcement, they nicely sidestep the well-documented fact that these vigilantes were responsible for more than their share of indiscriminate lynchings.
As for the number of victims, these will never be properly counted. I agree that the estimates have been wildly inflated, though the authors too readily accept official figures placing them too low. Perhaps a thousand Hispanic victims - not all of them innocent - can be attributed to the San Diego insurrection. This seems reasonable based on the local demographics of the period. This was certainly not a theater of war comparable to most of Central America in the 1980s, where the analogies often lead. When S & H write of Tejano civil rights leader J. T. Canales' fear of Texas Rangers, as sounding unreasonable and cowardly, they neglect to mention that Canales was publicly threatened face to face by Frank Hamer on the streets of Austin during the state Ranger hearings.
As good national security historians, S & H mention counter-insurgency in Afghanistan; yet they inexplicably slight northern Nicaragua, the one Central American case that is strongly parallel. As with the contras, the sediciosos saw their struggle in their own terms, not in the policy concerns of Carranza in Mexico City or Reagan in Washington. They gladly accepted money, munitions, uniforms, and officers from external supporters for their own motives. Mexican generals, Nafarrate and Garza, were the Oliver North cutouts for the San Diego Army. Yet like the contras, they therefore could not call the political shots when they grew expendable.
The book is very good on specific dates and names, and many concrete details of the movement, its raids, and operational structure. While it is an indispensable tool in understanding the Plan of San Diego, especially from the Anglo side, it is not the definitive account of a complex and contradictory movement. The San Diego insurrection enjoys its centenary at the time of this writing. Hopefully this book - along with others - will spark new interest in a conflict that is so largely unknown and yet smolders on.