Monthly Archives: January 2015

San Diego showed no interest in Plan that bore its name; went about its day-to-day activities

So what was happening in San Diego while Basilio Ramos was being arrested and jailed in the Rio Grande Valley? Not much that was related to the Plan of San Diego.
At least six county officials were arrested in relation to a property owners’ fight over an audit of county books. Among those arrested in January 1915 were County Judge Tobin; District and County Attorney Palacios; County Treasurer Lopez; Constable Aleman; ex-justice Gonzalez and County Commissioner Luciano Hinojosa. Four other arrests were expected. Sheriff Augustine Pena made the arrests. (The Corpus Christi newspaper provided no first names for those arrested except for Hinojosa.)
Newly elected Senator Archie Parr received a unanimous vote in the Texas Senate to create a new Lanham County out of Duval County. He was proposing that Benavides serve as the county seat for the new county.
In news not related to politics, Hilario Alanis was being held in the shooting death of Linton Shaw, son of Postmaster Joe Shaw. Linton Shaw was hit by two gunshots when a fight broke out at a dance. One shot hit him in the abdomen and another in the head killing him instantly. A third shot struck Marcus Navejar, an innocent bystander, in head resulting in his death as well.
The town seemed unaware and certainly unconcerned with the Plan of San Diego uncovered in McAllen days earlier. That is until U. S. Dep. Marshall John McKinney came to town and arrested Manuel Flores on Feb. 14. He was believed to be the Manuel Flores that signed the Plan de San Diego. Flores was taken to Corpus Christi and jailed on a charge of “conspiracy of sedition against the United States.” Flores was said to be connected with a Spanish language newspaper published in San Diego with a wide circulation among Mexican Americans in South Texas.
The following day, Feb. 15, McKinney arrested Anatolio Gonzalez of San Diego. He too was believed to be one of the signers of the Plan. Authorities now believed they had three of the signatories to the Plan, Ramos, Flores and Gonzalez. The Corpus Christi Caller reported that, “It is expected that other arrests in connection with the ‘Plan of San Diego’ conspiracy will be made shortly.” In fact, no other arrests were ever made and Flores and Gonzalez were released two weeks later after the judge presiding over their case concluded that the “wrong parties had been secured” because of a “Mistake…due to similarity of names.”
In fact, the Plan and San Diego were not connected again until September 15. Six soldiers stationed in Kingsville were sent to San Diego after authorities received a message via telephone that the five troopers stationed in San Diego were probably not sufficient. Law enforcement officials believed that trouble would likely erupt on el diez y seis de septiembre. The Corpus Christi Caller & Daily Herald reported, “Letters had been sent to all parts of section for uprising. San Diego is 95 percent Mexican. No trouble but precautions were in order.” 
Indeed no trouble ever happened in San Diego that could be tied to the Plan. 

McAllen authorities arrest Basilio Ramos, find Plan of San Diego and other documents on him

Approximately Jan. 18, 1915, Basilio Ramos arrived in McAllen and is said to have contacted Dr. Andres Villarreal and presented him with a copy of the Plan of San Diego in the hopes of enlisting his help. The good doctor, instead, turned him in to the law.
Dr. Villarreal called his friend Deodoro Guerra, a merchant and sometimes law enforcement officer, and informed him of Ramos’ activities. Guerra in turn contacted Hidalgo County Sheriff A. Y. Baker (at left). Ramos was supposed to meet the doctor at 11 p.m. that evening at the Rio Grande Hotel. Sheriff Baker and Guerra waited with him but Ramos did not show.
The following day, Jan. 19, Guerra arrested Ramos and called Sheriff Baker who came to pick him up and took him to jail in Edinburg. Guerra had taken 11 documents from Ramos, including the Plan of San Diego, and put them in his safe at his mercantile store. (As a parenthetical note, there have been claims that Deputy Tom Mayfield arrested Ramos, but Mayfield’s name does not appear in any of the court documents I have examined.)
Baker told Federal officials that Ramos had said that General Nefarrate at Matamoros was “friendly to his move.” Ramos disputed this, saying he had said he “believed” that the general “was in accord with the movement not [that]…he was.” 
In any case, Baker held Ramos in the county lockup until Jan. 26 when Deputy U.S. Marshall T. P. Bishop picked him up. Bishop also picked up the 11 documents from Guerra’s safe and took Ramos to Brownsville.  
In Brownsville a tag team of immigrant officers—one who could read and write Spanish but did not speak it so well and the other who claimed to speak and understand  Spanish but could not read or write it so well—served as translators. Immigration inspector J.R. Harold translated the documents and served as stenographer. “I speak it (Spanish) fairly well, but I read and write it much better than I speak it,” Harold said. It is to this “eminent linguist” that we owe the translation of the Plan of San Diego. 
Inspector S. B. Hopkins served as translator for Ramos’ questioning. With “more or less” two years experience, Hopkins said he could read and write Spanish “to an extent…but not as well” as he spoke it.
For his part Ramos was very reticent to offer information. “I have nothing to say, excepting the documents I had in my possession were made and executed in Monterrey, Mexico,” Ramos said. “And, further, I have to say with regard to the complaint against me is what I have previously stated, on the 28th of January, 1915, in a statement to E. P. Reynolds, Inspector in Charge of the Immigration Service at Brownsville, Texas.” Frankly, the language in this last statement sounds a little official, more like the person taking the interrogation. 

Was Plan of San Diego really written in San Diego

Although the Plan of San Diego bares the town’s name, many historians believe that it was not written or adopted in that town. Much of the reason why they believe this to be the case is that Basilio Ramos, who signed the plan and on whose person the plan was first discovered, said that it was given to him and the other signers in a Monterrey jail and they were asked to sign it in order to be released from the jail.
The problem with this assertion is that Ramos then proceeded to make his way to Texas to begin organizing for the Plan. If indeed he signed it only to be released, would he have continued with its implementation?
In 1959, the Houston Chronicle ran a story that in which John Sutherland, an old-timer from San Diego, said that the Plan was indeed hatched in San Diego. Sutherland, an attorney in San Diego, claimed to be the person
who first reported the Plan to the Attorney General’s Office in Washington.
The 84-year-old Sutherland said that the conspirators met at a building at the corner of St. Charles and Mier Streets used in 1957 by the San Diego Lumber Company as a warehouse. He said he would sit on his porch, which was located across the street from the warehouse on Mier Street.
Sutherland said he could identify at least 20 men involved in the deliberations. He said he wrote a full report for authorities in Washington and that investigators were sent to look into the matter.
The problem with Sutherland’s story is that no one has been able to find any report, letter, or other documentation to substantiate his account. He, moreover, said he was called to testify at Ramos’ trial in Brownsville but in fact Ramos was never tried. 
After spending the early months of 1915 in jail, Ramos was indicted and was released when his bond was reduced from $5,000 to $100. He made bond and was never seen by authorities again. Court records indicate that a capias for his arrest was issued on May 15, 1915 but a second court record dated June 10, 1915 indicates that authorities were not able to locate Ramos. The case against Ramos remained on the docket of the U.S. District Court in Brownsville until it was dismissed on May 14, 1923. 
Shortly after Ramos’ arrest, two San Diego men were picked up in San Diego in relation to the Plan, but Manuel Flores and Anatolio Gonzalez were quickly released for mistaken identity. 
Other than the document baring the name of San Diego, there appears no other documentation that can definitively corroborate that it had its origins in San Diego. In the final analysis, there is no proof that it was written anywhere else so we have to take the Plan at face value.

New historical novel tells story of Plan de San Diego

On January 6, 1915 six men added their names to a document they called “El Plan de San Diego (Tejas)”. It was a revolutionary plot aimed at securing land lost by Mexico to the United States during the Mexican War of 1848. Once the land was secured, an independent republic would be established and later it would rejoin Mexico.
Before the year was over, thousands of South Texans had lost their lives. The Plan fizzled and for a long time has remained buried in the crevices of history.
Although most people today have never heard of or know little about the Plan, they should become familiar not only with the Plan, but more importantly with the reasons that gave rise to such an idea. This event in the history of South Texas contributed to the region’s development and to its people’s understanding of the place called South Texas.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Plan, I will publish my first novel entitled, Balo’s War: A Novel About the Plan of San Diego.  The book will debut in San Diego on March 27 at an eventsponsored by the Duval County Historical Commission.
Many years ago I came across the Plan. Being a native of San Diego, I was naturally intrigued by this event. I quickly set out to find out everything I could about the Plan. I read every journal article written about it. I scoured every book I could find that mentioned it. I read contemporary accounts reported by newspapers in South Texas. I spoke and corresponded with historians about the Plan. I made a Freedom of Information request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for information they had about the investigation of the Plan and its proponents. I received much documentation, including the interrogation of Basilio Ramos, in whose person the Plan was originally uncovered. I later interviewed Basilio Ramos’ son and grandchildren who provided me much information about him.
Armed with this information, my first instinct was to write a history of the Plan. But, even though I had information not previously reported, I felt that the real underlying story was buried with the people who knew the story, the people that lived the story. Moreover, I felt the story was much bigger than what any historian could write, limited as they are by scholarly constraints. I wanted to tell the story of what drove the men involved in the Plan to take on such a desperate mission. What was it about their character, their upbringing, their experiences, their history that made them want to sacrifice their lives and the lives of others?
Balo’s War introduces a variety of characters, real and imagined, that tell the story of a people that went from being Spaniard, to Mexican, to Texan, to American, to Confederate, and back to American in a short span of 50 years. They struggled to hold on to their land, their language, their culture, and their history against insurmountable odds. They lived in what can truly be called “Medio México.” They lived in an area that was claimed by distant capitals in México City and Washington DC, but ruled by neither; neither knew or cared much about them. They were caught in between, en medio, of two languages, two cultures, two legal systems, two political systems, and two monetary and economic systems. Despite it all, they survived and flourished. It was not easy by any means; to survive they had to fight and die for what they believed, what they owned, what they knew, what they wanted for their children.
This book uses fictional characters to tell their story. The characters are fictional but they are authentic. They are not based on any one person but rather are a compilation of various real persons and the imagination of the author–formed by historical knowledge and my own experiences. Their conversations and interactions with real persons are imaginary but they are based on what these historical figures were, said, and did. The historian T. R. Fehrenbach once said, “…fiction portrays reality as ‘history,’ if it is based on human fact.”
This manuscript gathered dust in my personal papers for nearly a decade. As we enter the centennial year of the Plan of San Diego, I felt it was time I shared it with the world. It may not be in the company of other great historical novels, but it tells a story that needs to be told and retold so that our children and their children have a sense of where they came from, about the people whose DNA they carry in their genes, and in their hearts and minds.
I invite you to visit my new Web site, mcmbooks.com, and “Like” our new Facebook page. There you will find much more about the Plan and about Balo’s War. This blog will also provide weekly information on both. If you do not wish to continue to receive this blog please email me and I will remove your name from the list.