From San Antonio, Around the World, and Home Again

The Texas Story Project.

A professor started his career at Saint Mary’s University in 1965, but then joins the foreign service in 1966 and lives a distinguished career as a foreign service officer up until 1999 when he retired. Ambassador Creagan’s career included serving in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, Peru, Portugal, Italy, and the Holy See. In 2016 he returned to Saint Mary’s University as a visiting professor and continues to teach there to this day.

Early in his career as a foreign service agent, James Creagan was the labor attaché to Mexico. His job was mainly working with the labor unions in Mexico as this was during the Cold War period and the United States wanted to ensure that the labor unions were being influenced by the United States rather than communist movements. One of the programs he was in charge of at this time was a push to get factories created along the Mexican border with the idea that these factories would produce jobs for both Mexico and Texas.

In order to achieve this, he traveled to all of the border cities in both Texas and Mexico such as Laredo, El Paso, Eagle Pass, and Ciudad Juarez and convince them that his program would be beneficial to their cities. Another hope of this plan was that these new jobs would work to discourage people from crossing the border illegally as there would hopefully be available jobs from these factories. This was going fairly well until he had to meet with one of the leaders of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations in Texas, Hank Brown. They met in Austin and Brown was not impressed with the plan. He thought that it would not bring that many benefits to workers in Texas and was not the best use of government funds. Despite this fact, some of the factories were still built and did work to increase on both sides of the border. It is unknown if this helped to decrease illegal immigration from Mexico as it encouraged more people to come to the border who may have not come otherwise.

Ambassador Creagan’s career was not just in Mexico but he was also the Ambassador to Honduras from 1996 to 1999. A large part of his job was spent trying to link Honduran business with American business. One of the key roles in this was getting the Honduran city of Puerto Cortes and the Texan city of Corpus Christi with trading routes and business. This was mainly done by encouraging Texas’ businesses to invest in business deals in Honduras.

Ambassador Creagan also proved he could jump into action when Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras in October 1998. This hurricane killed over 8,000 people and knocked out hundreds of bridges in Honduras. After Hurricane Mitch hit, Ambassador Creagan worked with Joint Task Force Bravo to help repair the damage where they could. He also set up a meeting between Former President George H. W. Bush and Honduran President Flores. Flores told Bush that unless jobs could be maintained in Honduras that there would be a creation of “feet people” who would walk up to the United States and come up to Texas and knock on Former President Bush’s doorstep. President Bush offered to see if his sons, the governors of Texas and Florida, could get their national guards to help out in Honduras with the recovery effort. Ambassador Creagan also helped to set up the Temporary Protected Status which made sure that Hondurans, even those here illegally, would not have to leave the United States.

These are just a few key moments in Ambassador Creagan’s career. He has returned to Texas with his wife. He is currently a visiting professor at Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio where he shares knowledge that he learned throughout his career to students studying International Relations.

Antonio Coffee is a senior Public History major at Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio. Antonio has always had an interest in the foreign service and when he heard about the Texas Story Project he saw it as a great opportunity to show how a Texan has been able to play a significant role in the foreign service.

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