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Soto’s impressionistic folk art and homespun stories a must for any Tejano’s library

Manuel Andrés “Andy” Soto has had a lifelong fascination with art. He has also had a deep appreciation for his Tejano roots in South Texas.

SotoBackCoverHe chose his love for art to express to his son his love for his cultural roots as a Tejano son of the soil. Soto was raised in Edroy, Texas and went on to earn a PhD in Coastal Sciences from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi and is now an Associate Professor of Biological and Health Sciences at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

This book is about his art, his family, and his culture. Soto uses mainly acrylic paints and pine or cedar planks to create his impressionistic folk art. His subject matter focuses on various aspects of Tejano culture. His inspiration is his childhood growing up in Edroy, which was no more than a colonia. Many colonias are located on the border with Mexico, although they can and are found in many other counties throughout South Texas.

While Soto’s neighborhood may have been lacking in amenities, his home provided a solid foundation. Like most of their neighbors, they did not have financial riches, but their immediate and extended family and neighbors more than made up for the lack of money. They had a roof over their heads, warm clothing, plenty to eat, and most of all a never ending source of love. Soto has returned to his rural roots, although in many ways he had never left them.

SandiaBarataFINALWith the publication of this book, the rest of the world can indeed enjoy Soto’s extraordinary gift. Those who grew up in South Texas in the 1940s through 1960s, whether in a colonia or in a small town or out in the country will quickly relate to his art and the short vignettes that accompany each piece. Who can forget their outhouse? Or going to the pizcas atop of the neighbor’s large troca. Or eating sandia on the porch and spitting out the seeds. Or taking your asadon to go to the desahije. Or getting some queso del condado. So many memories, so much joy.

Fortunately, everyone can now partake of this joy. With the publication of his first book, Soto has generously provided us with reproductions of his paintings that will bring back a rush of memories to his readers. You will have something you can sit down in your recliner to show you grandchildren and tell them about their ancestors and how they lived, or take outside to your patio and enjoy it with your own sons and daughters while you have something en las brasas, or take it to the ranch to share with your aging parents.

And if one or more of the paintings strikes your fancy, you can order a print from the artist at Truly, Andy Soto has captured not only history but personal memories shared by a wide range of people with Tejano roots. It is yet another important addition to your Tejano book library to preserve our South Texas history and culture.

La Voz de Amor is now available at an online bookstore near you

La Voz de Amor, released in September 2016, is a book of Spanish poetry written by Servando Cárdenas. The poet looks at love from a romantic, familial, patriotic, cultural and spiritual perspective and provides great insights into Tejano culture.

The book is also a labor of love for co-editor Alfredo E. Cárdenas, son of the poet. His co-editor, Javier Villarreal, PhD is a recently retired professor of Spanish from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Continue reading La Voz de Amor is now available at an online bookstore near you

1915 “bandit” investigation led to surprise finding

In October 1915, 18-year-old Jesus Martinez was arrested by an Army guard at the Brownsville train station on—well there was no reason to arrest him other than he was suspected of being a bandit, perhaps involved in recent attacks against innocent “Americans”. He was a Mexican, afterall. Martinez carried with him a letter that raised suspicions even more. The investigation into the contents of the letter led authorities to a surprising conclusion. Continue reading 1915 “bandit” investigation led to surprise finding

Plan of San Diego raids prompted suspension of civil liberties

Late in the evening of Oct, 19, 1915, men believed to be rebels fighting under the flag of the Plan of San Diego attacked the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico passenger train at Olmitos, Texas six miles south of San Benito. When the smoke cleared, three people—three “Americans” as the newspapers pointed out—were dead. Continue reading Plan of San Diego raids prompted suspension of civil liberties

La Voz de Amor nearing release, Summer 2016

MCM Books will soon release its second book. La Voz de Amor is scheduled for release later this summer, perhaps as soon as the end of July. The book is a collection of Spanish poetry written by Servando Cardenas, mostly in the 1930s although several date to the 1940s and at least one to the 1970s.

Continue reading La Voz de Amor nearing release, Summer 2016

Cárdenas emerges as a master story teller

Scholars have found the Plan de San Diego (PSD) of great interest and for decades have produced a large body of works on the incident, in doing so expanding on fields such as Tejano history, Borderlands history, or Mexican history. Most recently, historians Charles H. Harris and Louis R. Sadler published the episode’s most comprehensive scholarly study under the title of The Plan de San Diego: Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013). What lacks at this point, however, is a source that fills the needs of the reading public and instructs it on the dimensions of this struggle that burst forth in South Texas in the year 1915. Alfredo E. Cárdenas’s Balo’s War: A Novel About the Plan of San Diego (Corpus Christi: MCM Books, 2015) addresses that call.

Continue reading Cárdenas emerges as a master story teller

Zapata County did not escape Plan of San Diego

ZapataPSDA map appearing in the Aug. 12, 1915 issue of the San Antonio Express reported that “murders and raids have terrorized the people of he Lower Rio Grande Valley from Zapata County to the gulf and to the north beyond Norias.” These“murders and raids” were prompted by the Plan of San Diego that had been uncovered in January 1915 with the arrest of Basilio Ramos in McAllen.

Continue reading Zapata County did not escape Plan of San Diego

Falfurrias Heritage Museum will host book signing on March 26

The Houston Post reported on Aug. 21, 1915 that U.S. Army officers in automobiles, infantrymen on foot and cavalry were chasing a group of Carrancista soldiers that had crossed the Rio Grande River with intentions of joining up with supporters of the Plan of San Diego near Falfurrias in Brooks County, Texas. The Corpus Christi Caller & Daily Herald headlined

“Bandits Gathering Near Falfurrias.”

Continue reading Falfurrias Heritage Museum will host book signing on March 26

Kelsey-Bass Museum and Event Center hosts book signing for Balo’s War

Attorneys attending sessions at the 79th District Court in Rio Grande City in 1915 reported that they carried books in one hand and pistols in the other. Such were the times in the Rio Grande Valley as a result of the guerrilla war underway in connection with the Plan of San Diego.

In June 1915, the Houston Post reported that U.S. infantry stationed at Mission rushed to Fort Ringgold in Rio Grande City upon hearing that Mexican “bandits” were threatening the town. “Mexican and American farmers in that section are moving into Rio Grande City for protection,” the Post reported.

Kelsey-Bass Museum and Event Center.

A vivid description of the Plan of San Diego will be discussed at the Kelsey-Bass Museum and Event Center on March 10 by Alfredo E. Cardenas author of the recently published historical novel “Balo’s War, A Novel About the Plan of San Diego”. Cardenas will discuss his book at 6 p.m. as part of an event sponsored by the Starr County Historical Foundation. The book will be available for purchase for $15, including sales tax.

Most of the fighting related to the Plan of San Diego took place in the Rio Grande Valley. While Starr County was in the periphery of most of the more violent action, citizens still lived under fear, Cardenas said. On Aug. 15, 1915, the Laredo Weekly Times reported that “bandits are near Rio Grande City.” In its June 7, 1915 edition, the El Paso Herald ran a story that “a body of Mexicans [intended]…raiding the country somewhere west of Rio Grande City.”

The Plan of San Diego called for inciting a revolution in the American southwest. It is not an event found in history books, but has been extensively studied by scholars. Balo’s War takes a fresh look at the event to bring to life the conditions that existed in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley that gave rise to the Plan of San Diego.

“I chose to tell the story in the historical fiction genre, because it afforded me more latitude to delve into the motives of those who were involved with the plan and those who contributed to conditions that gave rise to such an idea,” Cardenas said.

Balo's War cover030115
Get Balo’s War here.

Balo’s War uses a variety of characters, real and imagined, to tell the story of a people who went from being Spaniard to Mexican to American in a short span of 30 years. They struggled to hold on to their land, their language, their culture and their history—against insurmountable odds. At times this struggle resorted to violence.

In the Summer and Fall of 1915, guerrilla-like attacks were launched against trains, public works projects and United States Army troops throughout the Rio Grande Valley. In retaliation, Texas Rangers, local law enforcement and citizen militias summarily executed hundreds of innocent Mexican Americans accused of being bandits without the benefit of jury trial. Hundreds of people lost their lives and the economic development of the Valley was shattered.

Historian Ben Johnson, one of the scholars who has written a nonfiction book about the Plan of San Diego entitled Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans Into Americans, said of Balo’s War, “The main characters and plot work well to tell the story of the uprising and where it fits into the larger history of South Texas and the border.” John Knaggs, author of The Bugles are Silent, A Novel of the Texas Revolution said Cardenas’ book is “A fascinating story about events that influenced the development of South Texas.”

Kleberg Library hosts author of Balo’s War

Kleberg County Sheriff James Scarborough
Kleberg County Sheriff James Scarborough

On Aug. 11, 1915, Kleberg County Sheriff James Scarborough arrested Santos Rodriguez west of Kingsville, who the sheriff said was one of the leaders of the Norias raid. Five days later, on Aug. 16, Scarborough and Texas Rangers Joe Brooks and Charley Price arrested Juan Sanchez in a shack on the King Ranch, 18 miles south of Kingsville. Sanchez too was believed to be one of leaders of Norias Ranch raid.

Continue reading Kleberg Library hosts author of Balo’s War