Francisco "Pancho" Villa - Misc. Characters

Francisco "Pancho" Villa 1878-1923

Pancho Villa was born with the name of Doroteo Arango on June 5, 1878 in San Juan del Rio, Durango. His family worked the land as sharecroppers for wealthy landowners and struggled to survive, leaving no time for a formal education. Pancho became the head of the household at the age of 15, following his fathers death, and dedicated his life to his mother and 4 younger siblings. His outlaw career began shortly thereafter, when at the age of 16 he came home to find the Don of their Hacienda, Agustin Negerete, attempting to lecherously separate his much younger sister from their family against the sobbing pleads of his mother. Pancho shot him and fled to the hills.
After surviving off of the land and evading capture for over a year, he realized that his only chance of survival was to join with the cattle rustlers and bandits, so he changed his name to Francisco Villa and became an outlaw.(He got the “Pancho” nickname later). There followed several years(1895-1910) of various assorted robberies, rustling and murders during which time he was captured no fewer than 3 times; shooting, bludgeoning, and thinking his way out each time.
He soon became famous all over northern Mexico for his skill as a horseman and his body count. As he attracted other desperate men to him, another skill emerged. He was a born leader. The farmers, the poor, and many of the townspeople loved him and protected him from the armies.
It was during this period that he even attempted to go legitimate. Sort of. He would set up low cost butcher shops that sold meat from cattle rustled from the very wealthy ranchers, and at a price people could afford! (Low overhead) However, he was continuously hounded by various police forces and private armies. This is probably why, when in 1910 defeated Presidential candidate Madero called for revolutionaries to overthrow Mexico’s corrupt political system, the idea appealed to Pancho.
The Mexican Revolution was long and bloody. Pancho led armies of peasants in the north, in the states of Chihuahua and Durango. He was of key importance in putting .Madero in power in 1911, but Madero fell through. He then supported Carranza (1913-14), but fell out with him. Villa and Zapata captured Mexico City, but were defeated in 1915 by Gen. Obregon. In 1916 he led a raid into U.S. territory, (shouting “Death to Gringos”) and completely sacked Columbus, New Mexico. The U.S. sent a punitive expedition into Mexico for a year that was led by General Pershing, of WW1 fame. Attending as a lieutenant on the mission was (the future Gen.) Patton. They returned to the U.S. empty handed.
Pancho remained an outlaw until 1920, when he was pardoned by the Mexican govt. They went so far as to make him a General, build statues of him around Mexico, and give him a ranch house for himself and a small bodyguard of 200. He and 5 of his men were gunned down in 1923 by a team of paid assassins. They were hired by Obregon, who feared that Pancho still had too much potential power to influence elections and lead uprisings.

-By R. Wilson


Note: The Punitive Expedition returned from Mexico (February 1917) with twenty-two captured Villistas who had been involved with the raid on Columbus, New Mexico (March 9, 1916).

-James W. Hurst