The Fighting Padre of Zapata, Father Edward Bastien and the Falcon Dam Project

by Maria F. Rollin


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This is Southwestern Studies # 110 by UT El Paso Press. Father Edward Bastien O.M.I. was assigned just after World War II to the Catholic Church in the poor border town of Zapata, Texas, soon to be flooded by the building of the U.S.-Mexico Falcon Dam. His tenacious efforts to help his parishioners fight for equitable land condemnation values earned him the honorary moniker of the Fighting Father of Zapata. After realizing that bureaucratic mix-ups and power struggles would keep his parishioners from fair compensation for long-held family homes and property he unleashed one of the most prolific and determined letter-writing campaigns to affect such a project before or since. With unbending courage and wit he wrote to the likes of then U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and even President Eisenhower both of whom eventually responded to his humble yet persuasive pleas. He kept a steady stream of letters flowing to the Laredo Times under the pen name I POZ, which stood for Irate People of Zapata. Bastien eventually succeeded in his mission but was transferred from the parish and died in 1972 “Worn out by his ceaseless labor and solicitude for the poor” as noted in the Oblate archival files. He entrusted Rollin’s family with his Zapata letters interspersed with his personal musings and anecdotes of the time. Rollin realized that the manuscript was a humorous yet powerful account of bureaucracy gone amok, of poor South Texans forced into a Diaspora, and the story of a talented and courageous priest willing to fight for social justice. This is his story, a great addition to the history of the borderlands. Signed by the author. Prices of this book new or used are much higher on the world market and escalating. Now rare. El Paso, TX 2003 1st Ed., 265 Pgs. PB.

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