Orange County's Original Minutemen

swanner.jpgI get two kinds of reactions whenever I state Orange County is the Mexican-hating capital of America: knowing nods or protestations saying another domain is worse. Never any debate, though, about the Mexican-hating essence of us. I make the case for this dishonor in my book, and I keep digging up more material even when I don't mean to. Didja know, for instance, that SanTana had its own Minuteman Project decades before Jim Gilchrist ever attended a CCIR meeting?

The truth is found in The Story of Company L "Santa Ana's Own," a 1958 book written by attorney Charles D. Swanner (of the Swanner Ranch fame). The book deals with one of the first National Guard units in Orange County, one that began around the Spanish-American War and continues (at least in spirit) with the National Guard base off Warner Avenue. Swanner joined the National Guard as a young man and went off to fight in World War I (although they never saw combat).

For our purposes, however, the true fun begins with Pancho Villa.

Villa had enraged Americans with his massacres in small New Mexico towns, and Army General John Pershing invaded Mexico in the ultimately fruitless search to find the man born Doroteo. In 1916, Pershing ordered National Guard units to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border "from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf Coast," Swanner wrote. SanTana city fathers sent the 74 men of Company L off with a banquet at the Elks Lodge before the unit shipped out of the Santa Fe train depot, cheered on by thousands of citizens who lined the route.

Swanner and his pals ended up near Nogales, Arizona, ready to guard the United States against Mexicans. Company L stayed vigilant for three months by conducting "routine drills, guard duty, and target practice." No word from Swanner if they ever caught any Mexicans.

It must be noted here that there is no evidence Swanner was a racist--in his 1971 book, Those Were the Days: Recollections of Charles D. Swanner (one of three memoirs the man wrote), he wrote fondly of the Mexican pals he had as a child (but doesn't discuss or denounce the segregation of the era). And his heirs stepped in where San Juan Capistrano officials didn't and are taking care of Ignacio Lujano in his golden years. But one can only imagine the orders that Swanner's superiors gave the young men of Company L in the days before political incorrectness made racializing the enemy muy malo, and how eager Company L was to hold the linea.

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