Plan of San Diego

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Plan of San Diego
Date January 6, 1915
Location San Diego, Texas
Participants Carrancistas and Huertistas

The Plan of San Diego (Spanish: Plan de San Diego) was drafted in the Texas town of San Diego in 1915 by a group of unknown Mexican rebels, hoping to create social unrest and obtain political and economic gains. Raids resulting from attempts to implement the plan led to the Bandit War with the United States.

The real goal of the plan is debated. The plan stated a supposed "attempt to overthrow the government in Southern United States". However, some theories state that the true goal of the plan was to create the conditions that forced the US into supporting one of the battling factions in the Mexican Revolution (which ultimately occurred).

The plan called for things such as "the killing of all adult Anglos in the Southwestern states"[citation needed] and the "return of land to Mexicans", but was exposed before it could be fully executed. Although there was no uprising, there were raids into Texas that began in July 1915. The raids were countered by Texas Rangers, the U.S. Army and local self-defense groups. In total, 30 raids into Texas destroyed large amounts of property and killed 21 Americans.[1] It is not known who was responsible for drafting the Plan of San Diego, but there are theories that Mexican revolutionary leaders took part in sponsoring the plan.


During the Mexican Revolution, the Porfirio Díaz government fought with rebellious factions in the years after 1910. This fighting caused some rebels to flee from the Díaz government to the U.S., especially to Texas. These Mexican dissidents upset the political order of southern Texas and caused the state government to worry over the Mexican majority in south Texas.[2] The Plan of San Diego grew out of this social unrest.

Drafting the Plan[edit]

Declaring the creation of a Liberating Army of Races and Peoples, the Plan of San Diego called for the recruitment of Mexican nationals, African Americans, indigenous Native Americans and Mexican Americans to rebel against the U.S.[1] The central goal of the plan was to "free Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Colorado from U.S. control" (see Reconquista).[3] These states would become an independent republic that in the future could be reunited with Mexico. To the north, rebels hoped to conquer other U.S. states to produce a buffer zone between the United States and Mexico.

The appointed start date of the Plan of San Diego was February 20, 1915. It called for the execution of all white Anglo-American men over the age of sixteen; only the elderly, women, and children would be spared.[2] Also executed would be Mexican American sympathizers who refused to participate in the plan. A notable provision of the plan required the protection of both African and Native Americans, the latter of whom would be given back their native lands.[2]

The Plan of San Diego was penned in San Diego, Texas, but was actually signed by rebels inside a jail cell in Monterrey, Mexico.[3] Although their identities and motivations remain unknown, there is much speculation as to who was responsible.

On February 20, when the plan was supposed to be enacted, rebel leaders instead revised the plan to focus solely on the liberation of Texas, which would become a base for advancing the revolution throughout the southwestern United States.[1]

Mastermind theories[edit]


One theory is that Victoriano Huerta, a leader of a Mexican faction vying for governmental control in the Mexican Revolution, was the mastermind behind the plan. This theory rests on the capture of Huertista Basilio Ramos in Brownsville, Texas, in January 1915. In his possession was a copy of the Plan of San Diego. Under interrogation he admitted to signing the plan along with eight Huertista cellmates when in jail in Monterrey. A jailer had supposedly smuggled in a copy of the plan to give to the inmates.[3] Ramos credited the creation of the plan to another unnamed Huertista who hoped to reconquer the southwestern United States in order to gain domestic support in Mexico for Huerta.


Venustiano Carranza

Another theory states that the Mexican government under Venustiano Carranza, who became president of Mexico in 1914, supported the drafting of the Plan of San Diego in order to exploit the tension between Tejanos and white Americans inside southern Texas.[2] While the plan explicitly stated that there would be no aid from the Mexican government, this proved false, as the Carranza government was crucial in keeping the plan in action.[3] Some believe that Carranza wanted to exacerbate conflict between Americans and Mexicans in Texas in order to force the United States into recognizing him as the true leader of Mexico (which ultimately happened).

The raids[edit]

The first raids under the Plan of San Diego were conducted in July 1915, five months after the agreed start date of February 20. These first raids targeted Mexican Americans who were prominent in agriculture and local town politics in Texas. On July 11 at the Magnolia dance ground in Brownsville, raiders shot and killed Tejano deputy Pablo Falcon, the first victim of the Plan of San Diego. One of these raiders was Ignacio Cantu, a Mexican who had been arrested by Falcon the week before.[4]

As raids grew in number, the "high tide"[4] of the Plan of San Diego was August and September 1915.[4] The raids during this period were led by Aniceto Pizana and Luis de la Rosa, well-known residents of South Texas. They were conducted in the style of guerrilla warfare, with the overall purpose of razing U.S. public and private property.[3] The most notable raids of Mexican gangs caused the disruption of communication and transportation in southern Texas.

De la Rosa and Pizana created small bands, somewhat like military companies, constructed of 25 to 100 men.[2] The Rio Grande valley was the focus of the raids where trains were fired upon and telegraph wires and poles were cut down. On August 8, nearly 60 raiders struck the Norias Ranch, leaving five men dead when chased by American forces.[4] U.S. authorities learned from this raid and from the wounded left behind that support from the Mexican Carranza government supplied the raiders, half of the men being Mexican citizens.

Mexican support was crucial in keeping the offensive alive when the plan was enacted. Mexico supplied half of the men on guerrilla missions and even used Mexican newspapers as propaganda in the border towns, where they exaggerated the success of Mexicans against white Americans and urged further participation.[2]

American reaction and aftermath[edit]

The combination of raids, propaganda, and general fear of white residents in Texas prompted authorities to send federal troops and Texas Rangers, who struggled to counter the raids. Eventually on October 19, 1915, as urged to by his staff in order to appease Carranza, President Woodrow Wilson officially recognized Carranza as the legitimate leader of Mexico. Once this was done, Carranza used his armies to assist the U.S. in capturing and imprisoning raiders, thus ending the high tide of the Plan of San Diego.[1]

White Americans became increasingly hostile and suspicious of Mexican Americans during and after the Plan of San Diego raids. Small personal conflicts between Mexican Americans and white Americans led to lynching and the execution of Mexicans by Texas Rangers, local officers and law enforcement, as well as by civilians.[3] Local whites founded the vigilante Law and Order League in 1915, fueled by suspicions of Mexican and Tejano insurrection.[4] Federal officials estimated that in late 1915-1916, more than 300 Mexican Americans were slain in Texas.[4]

In March 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico. In response, the U.S. sent the Pancho Villa Expedition deep into Mexico to catch him. It never did, but the Mexican government responded to U.S. forces entering Mexico by resuming raids northward. The crisis escalated to the verge of formal war, but was resolved by diplomacy. President Carranza was the driving force behind the resurgence of raids.[2] Americans thought that German agents may have been involved as well, but no evidence of that has been uncovered.[2] Threats of Mexican reconquest, reminiscent of the Plan of San Diego, reappeared in Germany's Zimmermann Telegram of 1917, which helped push the U.S. into war with Germany.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Coerver, Don M. "The Plan of San Diego". The Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Charles H. Harris III and Louis H. Sadler, The Plan of San Diego, University of Nebraska Press, spring 2003
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hager, William (Winter 1963). "The Plan of San Diego: Unrest on the Texas Border in 1915". Arizona and the West. 5 (4): 327–336. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Johnson, Benjamin (2003). Revolution in Texas. Yale University Press. 
  5. ^ Walter Prescott Webb (1965). The Texas Rangers. University of Texas Press. p. 484. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Gómez-Quiñones, Juan. "Plan de San Diego Reviewed," Aztlan, (1970) 1#1 pp 124–132
  • Johnson, Benjamin H. "Unearthing the Hidden Histories of a Borderlands Rebellion," Journal of South Texas (Spring 2011) 24#1 pp 6–21
  • Katz, Friedrich. The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States and the Mexican Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 1981).
  • Sandos, James, Rebellion in the Borderlands: Anarchism and the Plan of San Diego 1904–1923, University of Oklahoma Press (1992)

Primary sources[edit]