DIGA COLONY. The Diga colony was a self-help community established at San Antonio in 1932 by Maury Maverick. It started as a relief effort by the city of San Antonio for destitute World War I veterans, many of whom had returned from the unsuccessful Bonus March on Washington, D.C. As the tax collector of Bexar County, Maverick witnessed firsthand the ravages of the Great Depression. He was especially concerned about veterans because he was a disabled veteran himself. He became involved in "Grocery Balls" and other efforts to provide relief for the destitute.
When the veterans moved into a municipal park in San Antonio, the city began to provide limited help. Maverick was appointed by the mayor as director of the War Veterans Relief Camp. Even though the veterans were moved to the fair grounds at Exposition Park, it soon became apparent that facilities in the city were neither large enough nor appropriate for the growing number of homeless people. Maverick secured land about five miles from the city from the Humble Oil Company (now Exxon Company, U.S.A.) for a dollar a year. He was able to get discarded railroad boxcars from the Missouri Pacific Railroad; these he had moved to the site and remodeled into living quarters for the residents of the new community. The name of the colony-Diga-was Maverick's idea. He said it was an anagram made up from the words "Agricultural and Industrial Democracy."
Within a very short time the new site developed into a community organized along military lines with a commander, daily orders, and regular military-type reports. Residents numbered 171 in January 1933. R. R. Rogers, the camp commander, reported directly to Maverick, who did not live in the community. The Diga colony was organized along communal lines. Property was held in common, and people had to give up their possessions to join-a relatively small sacrifice, since few of them had anything to give up. Members were required to give a portion of their earnings from outside employment to the community treasury.
During the short existence of the community, Maverick did all he could to make it successful and well-known. He even had a medal struck to commemorate the venture. A library was set up, and various liberal and radical publications, some of which Maverick wrote, were made available to the residents. Maverick later bemoaned the fact that the residents were not really susceptible to radicalization. He said they were more concerned about jobs and food in their stomachs than about changing the world.
By late April 1933 Maverick's poor health forced him to give up his association with the community; he left the state for medical help. After President Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 and launched the New Deal, direct federal relief programs replaced some of the aid that people received through the community; Diga had received some government funds from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The exact date of the end of the experiment is not known. After Maverick's association ended, internal squabbling and bickering became more serious. Camp commander Rogers became very unpopular and a center of controversy. Records show that the community was still in existence in October 1933, but nothing beyond that date can be ascertained for certain.
Richard B. Henderson, Maury Maverick: A Political Biography (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970). Maury Maverick, A Maverick American (New York: Covici-Friede, 1937). Donald W. Whisenhunt, "Maury Maverick and the Diga Relief Colony," Texana 9 (1971).