The Columbus Historical Society (CHS) just kicked off the new year with a detailed presentation by Professor Andy Hernandez of Western New Mexico University (WNMU). This event was the first held under the newly elected officers and drew an audience from not just Columbus, but also from Deming, NM. The event’s presenter was arranged by Dr. Kathleen Martin, the Society’s Historian.
The entire: 35-minute PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Hernandez is included below, as are some photos taken at the event. The lecture focused on some aspects of what took place during the raid on Columbus, which entailed the First Aero Squadron’s engagement in the Punitive Expedition, but focused primarily on the overall dynamics of the then-ongoing Mexican Revolution, particularly as to its impact on South Texas, but of course included the Mexican rebel leaders, one of which was Pancho Villa, whose raid on Columbus caused the deployment of the First Aero Squadron in what became known as the Punitive Expedition. That expedition was instigated as the direct result of President Woodrow Wilson’s orders to bring Pancho Villa back – – – either dead or alive.
The Title of Dr. Hernandez’s presentation was:
THE PLAN DE SAN DIEGO: Insurgency and Violence in South Texas During the Mexican Revolution. * See the end of the post for a PDF copy of Dr. Hernandez’s paper on this topic.
Dr. Hernandez explained at the outset that the title had nothing to do with San Diego, CA, but rather a small Texas town of the same name. Many Mexican revolutionaries, including some Tejanos, were in hopes of regaining – or returning – depending upon which side of the Tex-Mex border they lived, much of the then-current U.S. Southwestern territories that were previously part of their homeland.
The Plan de San Diego was actually a bold manifesto that called for an uprising against the United States government on the 20th of February, 1915. The document was, in essence, a call for racial strife and chaos in order to help facilitate the return of the Southwestern U. S. to Mexico.
Some of the most violent characteristics of the plot were the intended killing of North Americans over the age of sixteen to free the Black and Hispanic population from “Yankee tyranny.” Needless to say, as Dr. Hernandez illustrated, while he turned the pages of the era’s history for his audience, this HIstpanic-American call for wanton violence and mayhem created massive distrust among many neighbors in Texas itself – – – and threw the state into all sorts of internal political turmoil.
Fortunately for Texas, a copy of the plot’s plan was uncovered before it could take effect, enabling the Governor of Texas, then Oscar Colquitt to take remedial action to thwart the planned insurrection. His successor in office, Governor James Ferguson, was left to deal with the continued political duress and strife that the Plan de San Diego triggered.
Even the Texas Rangers entered the dynamic, and demonstrated their own brand of corruption and racist behavior, seriously tarnishing their reputation. Some of these Rangers wantonly murdered hundreds of often innocent Mexican-Americans solely based upon their ethnicity.
Another key figure in the tensions and actual violence in the pre-WWI period in the border region was Army General, Frederick Funston, who in 1914 took over the Army occupation forces in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and soon began the serious job of administering the city. This was no small chore because that Mexican port city was known for being an unsanitary and disease-ridden metropolis. As soon as the U. S. withdrew from Vera Cruz, General Funston repositioned his troops on the Texas, New Mexican, and Arizona borders to protect the states from any spillover from the ongoing turmoil of the by-then full-blown Mexican Revolution.
In time, so much Texas economic and social turmoil had resulted from the exposure of the violent Plan de San Diego, and its plot’s instigators and followers, that the Federal government took remedial action to quell the chaos by the assignment of the U.S. Army and some of its National Guard troops to the area to help restore law and order: ie General Funston’s major role. When General “Black Jack” Pershing was later given command of the Punitive Expedition, his direct commander was Gen. Funston.
Although the Plan de San Diego plot did not fulfill its intended purposes, it did leave the area with significant scars in regard to much worsened interracial and Anglo-American vs Tejano relations for many years to come. There was still active segregation in Texas well into the mid-1960s. Your webmaster lived there for several years and remembers this blight all too well.
To see any of the below photos in high resolution or full size, just click on them.
Click on the lower right-hand corner ‘FullScreen’ icon to see the video in its full size
(Scroll down to the 3rd page, which is the first page of Dr. Hernandez’s article.)