"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
Mexicos 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,
-James W. Hurst