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.

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