"Hated By Thousands And Loved By Millions.”
Pancho Villa was a Mexican revolutionary leader who advocated for the poor and wanted agrarian reform. Though he may have been a killer, a bandit, and a revolutionary leader, many remember him as a folk hero.
In Memory Of All Who Fight Oppression
José Doroteo Arango Arámbula
Pancho Villa was born José Doroteo Arango Arámbula on June 5, 1878 – 20 July 1923), better known as Pancho Villa, was one of the first Mexican Revolution Generals. As commander of the Division of the North, he was the veritable authoritative military leader of the Northern Mexican state of Chihuahua which, given its size, mineral wealth, and proximity to the United States of America, gave him great popularity. To give you an idea of the importance, Chihuahua is larger than the United Kingdom. Villa was also provisional Governor of Chihuahua in 1913 and 1914. It was some 20 years after his death before he was accepted into the "panteón" of national heroes. Today he is honored by many people around the world.
Pancho Villa was the son of a sharecropper in San Juandel Rio, Durango. While growing up, Pancho Villa witnessed and experienced the harshness of peasant life. In Mexico During the late 19th century in Mexico, the rich were becoming richer. The rich were taking advantage of the lower classes, often treating them like slaves. Villa’s father died when Villa was 15, so Villa began to work as a sharecropper to help support his mother and four siblings.
One day in 1894, Pancho came home from the fields to find that the owner of the hacienda intended to have sex with Villa's 12-year old sister. Villa was only 16-years old. He grabbed a pistol and shot the owner of the hacienda. He then fled for the refuge of the mountains.
In another accounting and assessment of Pancho Villa’s life it is written:
During his lifetime, he was a ruthless killer. He killed his first man at age sixteen. He was a notorious bandit. He rustled cattle. He was a bank robber. He was bloodthirsty in nature.
It seems that how Pancho Villa is perceived is in the eye of the beholder. While one article includes that Pancho “killed his first man at sixteen", it doesn’t give the explanation of “why”. The article describes Villa as being “bloodthirsty”. If the owner of the hacienda had tried that with my sister would I be described the same?
Haciendas originated in land grants, mostly made to minor nobles, as the grandees (important nobles) of Spain were not motivated to leave, and the bourgeoisie (social class) had little access to royal dispensation. The hacienda system can be considered to have its origin in 1529, in Mexico, when the Spanish crown granted to Hernán Cortés the title of Marquis (nobles of hereditary rank) of the Valley of Oaxaca. This entailed a tract of land that included all of the present state of Morelos. The grant included all the Indians living on the land and power of life and death over every soul in his domain. There were no courts of appeals governing a hacienda. The unusually large and profitable Jesuit hacienda Santa Lucia near Mexico City was established in 1576. It lasted to the time of its expulsion in 1767. It was reconstructed by Herman W. Konrad (1980) from archival sources. This reconstruction has revealed the nature of the hacienda system in Mexico. It gives great insight to the fate of serfs, its systems of land tenure, and the workings of its isolated, intradependent society.
Villa spent a lot of his time in the mountains running from the law from 1894 to 1910. He did what he could to survive. By 1896, he had joined some other bandits and was their leader. Villa and his group of bandits would rustle cattle; steal shipments of money, and many crimes against the wealthy. Pancho Villa became the modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and often giving to the poor.
During this time Doroteo Arango became Francisco "Pancho" Villa. "Pancho" is a common nickname for "Francisco." Some say he chose the name of a bandit leader he met; others say it was his fraternal grandfather's last name.
His notoriety as a bandit and prowess at escaping capture caught the attention of revolutionaries. These men knew that Villa could be used as a guerrilla fighter during the revolution. The sitting president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, had created much of the current problems for the poor. Francisco Madero promised change for the lower classes. Villa joined Madero and agreed to be a leader in the revolutionary army.
From October 1910 to May 1911, Pancho Villa was very effective, but in May 1911, Villa resigned from command because of differences with another commander, Pascual Orozco Jr.
On May 29, 1911, Pancho Villa married Maria Luz Corral. They tried to settle down to a quiet life. Although Madero had become president, political unrest appeared again in Mexico.
Villa robbed and commandeered trains. He, like the other revolutionary generals, printed fiat money to finance his cause.
Despite extensive research by Mexican and foreign scholars, many of the details of Villa's life are in dispute.
The president of Mexico from 1911 to 1913, Francisco Indalecio Madero González, was a revolutionary. When one of Madero's military commanders, Pascual Orozco, started a counterrebellion against Madero, Villa gathered his mounted cavalry troops and fought alongside General Victoriano Huerta to support Madero. However, Huerta betrayed Villa as he viewed Villa as an ambitious competitor. Huerta later accused Villa of stealing a horse and insubordination. He then had Villa sentenced to execution in an attempt to be rid of him. Villa was standing in front of a firing squad to be shot as a telegram from President Madero was received thus saving his life. His sentence was commuted to imprisonment. Villa later escaped. Villa improved his poor reading and writing skills with help from Gildardo Magaña Cerda, a Zapatista who was in prison at the time. This would serve him well in the future during his service as provisional governor of the state of Chihuahua.
During the second part of the Mexican Revolution, President Francisco I. Madero was betrayed and assassinated. After crushing the Orozco rebellion, with the federal army he commanded, Victoriano Huerta, held the majority of military power in Mexico. Huerta saw this opportunity to become dictator of Mexico, and began to conspire with other men such as Bernardo Reyes, Félix Díaz, and the American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson. This led to La decena trágica (the "Ten Tragic Days") and the assassination of President Madero.
Huerta proclaimed himself provisional president after Madero's murder. Venustiano Carranza then proclaimed the Plan of Guadalupe to oust Huerta. The generals and politicians, including Pablo González, Álvaro Obregón, Emiliano Zapata and Villa, supported Carranza's plan. They were collectively styled the Ejército Constitucionalista de México (Constitutionalist Army of Mexico). Huerta had not obtained power through methods prescribed by Mexico's Constitution of 1857.
Villa's hatred of Huerta became very personal and intense. Villa's political mentor, Abraham González was murdered on March 7, 1913. Huerta had ordered the murder. González had worked with Madero and Villa since 1910. Pancho Villa recovered González's remains and gave his friend a proper funeral in Chihuahua.
With a mere 8 men, 2 pounds of coffee, 2 pounds of sugar, and 500 rounds of rifle ammunition, Villa joined the rebellion against Huerta. US President Woodrow Wilson dismissed Ambassador Wilson, and began to support Carranza's cause. Villa's generalship, recruiting appeal, and fundraising methods were key factors in forcing Huerta from office a year later, on July 15, 1914.
Villa recruited able soldiers and allies. He raised money by assessing haciendas from hostile owners. He robbed trains. He once held 122 bars of silver ingot from a train robbery and a Wells Fargo employee hostage. He forced Wells Fargo to help him sell the bars for cash. Villa won hard-fought battles at Ciudad Juárez, Tierra Blanca, Chihuahua and Ojinaga. He became provisional governor of the state of Chihuahua. Villa's war tactics were studied by the American Army. He had a contract with Hollywood. Hollywood filmed Villa's movements. In support of the Revolution, fifty percent of the profit was paid to Villa.
As governor of Chihuahua, Villa raised money by printing his own currency. This tactic financed a campaign to the south. He decreed that his paper money was to be traded and accepted equally with gold Mexican pesos. He then forced the wealthy to give forced loans that would allow him to supply food and clothes and pay salaries to his army. He took some of the land owned by the hacendados (owners of the haciendas) and gave it to the widows and family of dead revolutionaries. The forced loans also supported the war machinery of the Mexican Revolution. He targeted specific banks and confiscated gold. He once held a member of a bank's owning family hostage until the location of the bank's hidden gold was revealed. This was the extremely wealthy Terrazas clan.The bank was the Banco Minero.
Banks in El Paso, Texas, accepted his Villa’s paper pesos at face value. Villa was so well thought of by the US military that he and Álvaro Obregón were invited to Fort Bliss to meet Brigadier General John J. Pershing.
The new money purchased food, arms, ammunition, draft animals, cavalry horses, and mobile hospital facilities. These were railroad cars and horse ambulances staffed with Mexican and foreign volunteer doctors, known as servicio sanitario. The money was also used to rebuild the railroad south of Chihuahua City. The rebuilt railroad transported Villa's troops and artillery south. He then defeated Federal forces at Gómez Palacio, Torreón, and Zacatecas.
Pancho Villa, El Presidente Provisional Eulalio Gutiérrez,y Emiliano Zapata
Mexican RevolutionPart II
After Torreón, Carranza ordered Villa to break off action south of Torreón and diverted him to attack Saltillo. Carranza threatened to cut off Villa's coal supply if he did not comply. Villa needed the coal for locomotives to pull the trains transporting soldiers and supplies. This stunned Villa and he saw this as an attempt by Carranza to divert Villa from a direct assault on Mexico City. This would allow Carranza's forces under Álvaro Obregón to drive in from the west via Guadalajara, and take the capital first. Obregón and Carranza did enter Mexico City ahead of Villa. This was expensive and disruptive for the División del Norte. At that time,Villa's enlisted men were paid the then enormous sum of a peso per day. Each day of delay cost thousands of pesos. Villa attacked Saltillo as ordered, and won that battle.
Villa saw this as egoism. He was repulsed by it and tendered his resignation. Felipe Ángeles and Villa's officer staff pleaded with Villa to withdraw his resignation. They encouraged him to defy Carranza's orders, and proceed to attack Zacatecas, a strategic mountainous city. Zacatecas was considered nearly impregnable. Zacatecas was the source of a lot of Mexico's silver. It would be an incredible resource for whoever held it. A Victory in Zacatecas would insure that there would be a small chance for Huerta to hold the remainder of the country. Villa cancelled his resignation and took Ángeles's advice. In the Toma de Zacatecas (Taking of Zacatecas), the División del Norte defeated the Federals. This was the single bloodiest battle of the Revolution. Approximately 7,000 dead of the military forces and 5,000 wounded. There were unknown numbers of civilian casualties. There is a memorial to and museum of the Toma de Zacatecas. It is on the Cerro de la Bufa. This is one of the key defense points in the battle of Zacatecas. Tourists use a teleférico (aerial tram) to reach it, because of the steep approaches. It is easy to see from the top how difficult it was for Villa's troops to dislodge Federal troops from the peak. The June 1914 loss of Zacatecas broke the back of the Huerta regime. Huerta left for exile on July 14, 1914.
Peace returned to Mexico. The revolutionary caudillos (strongmen) met and conducted a series of meetings in Aguascalientes. This National Convention set rules for Mexico's democracy. The armed revolutionaries were not allowed to be nominated for government positions. Eulalio Gutierrez was chosen as interim president,. Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa met at the convention. Zapata warned Villa that he feared Carranza's intentions were those of a dictator. Zapata was correct. Carranza opposed the agreements of the National Convention and set off a civil war.
Ft. Bliss 1913 Gen. Pershing
After years of public and documented support of Villa's fight, the United States, following the diplomatic policies of Woodrow Wilson, who believed that supporting Carranza was the best way to expedite establishment of a stable Mexican government, refused to allow more arms to be supplied to Villa's army, and allowed Carranza's troops to be relocated over US railroads. Villa felt betrayed by the Americans. A Villista night attack on the border town of Agua Prieta, Sonora, on November 1, 1915 was repelled by Obregón's use of searchlights, powered by American electricity. Villa felt more betrayed.
In January 1916, a group of Villistas attacked a train on the Mexico North Western Railway, near Santa Isabel, Chihuahua, and killed several American employees of the ASARCO company. Passengers included 18 Americans, including 15 who worked for American Smelting and Refining Company. There was only one survivor, who gave the details to the press. Villa admitted to ordering the attack, but Villa denied that he had authorized the shedding of American blood.
While the presence of American troops served to deter Villa on the north of the Rio Grande, the murder of U.S. citizens in Mexico continued. One of the most heinous atrocities occurred January 11, 1916, when Villa’s bandits stopped a train at Santa Ysabel. The bandits removed a group of 17 Texas business men (mining engineers) invited by the Mexican government to reopen the Cusihuiriachic mines below ChihuahuaCity and executed them in cold blood. However, one of those shot feigned death and rolled down the side of the embankment, crawled away into a patch of brown mesquite bushes, and escaped. The corpses were left at the mercy of the slayers, who stripped and mutilated them as the train moved on. The escapee arrived back at ChihuahuaCity, a special train sped to Santa Ysabel to reclaim the bodies. El Paso was immediately placed under martial law to prevent angry Texans from crossing into Mexico to wreak vengeance on innocent Mexicans.
“Villas bandits stopped a train and…”. Villa denied giving the order. Villa also denied that he participated.
On 9 March 1916, General Villa ordered nearly 500 Mexican members of his revolutionary group to make a cross-border attack against Columbus, New Mexico. The raid was conducted because of the U.S. government's official recognition of the Carranza regime and for the loss of lives in battle due to defective bullets purchased from the United States.
They attacked a detachment of the 13th Cavalry Regiment (United States), seizing 100 horses and mules, and setting part of the town on fire. 18 Americans and about 80 Villistas were killed. On 15 May, they attacked GlenSprings, Texas, killing a civilian and wounding three American soldiers; on 15 June, bandits killed four soldiers at San Ygnacio, Texas; on 31 July, one American soldier and a U.S. customs inspector were killed.
The populace of Columbus was in a state of hysteria. The American cavalry troops collected the bodies of the “Villistas” that had been shot in the streets and on the outskirts of town and piled them on funeral pyres and cremated them. For a day or more the fires smoldered and the odor of burning flesh permeated the air. Columbus lay virtually demolished, so completely burned and pillaged that it never recovered its former vitality.
Everybody loses in war but also in oppression.
General John J. Pershing tried to capture Villa after a year in pursuit. Villa and his Villistas, used tactics such as firing squads and propaganda against their enemies. They seized hacienda land for distribution to peasants and soldiers.
Columbus, New Mexico
On 9 March 1916, General Villa ordered nearly 500 Mexican members of his revolutionary group to make a cross-border attack against Columbus, New Mexico. The raid was conducted because of the U.S. government's official recognition of the Carranza regime and for the loss of lives in battle due to defective bullets purchased from the United States. They attacked a detachment of the 13th Cavalry Regiment (United States), seizing 100 horses and mules, and setting part of the town on fire. 18 Americans and about 80 Villistas were killed. On 15 May, they attacked GlenSprings, Texas, killing a civilian and wounding three American soldiers; on 15 June, bandits killed four soldiers at San Ygnacio, Texas; on 31 July, one American soldier and a U.S. customs inspector were killed.
General John J. Pershing tried to capture Villa after a year in pursuit. Villa and his supporters, known as Villistas, used tactics such as propaganda and firing squads against enemies, and seized hacienda land for distribution to peasants and soldiers.
Before the Villa-Carranza split in 1915, there is no credible evidence that Villa co-operated with the German government or accepted any help from them. The USA supplied arms, employed international mercenaries and doctors (Americans included). Pancho Villa was portrayed as a hero in the US media. He made business arrangements with Hollywood. He certainly did not object to the 1914 US naval occupation of Veracruz. In Villa's opinion, the occupation simply hurt Huerta.
Villa opposed armed participation of the United States in Mexico. He did not act against the Veracruz occupation however to maintain the connections in the United States to buy ammunition and other supplies. Villa rejected offers and money from the German consul in Torreón. This was for the occupation of the port and oil fields of Tampico to enable German ships to dock there. Villa refused.
In the infamous Zimmermann Telegram to the Mexican government, the Germans did propose an alliance with the government of Venustiano Carranza.
After Villa's split with the Constitutionalists, there were documented contacts between Villa and the Germans. This was in the person of Felix A. Sommerfeld. Allegedly, in 1915, Sommerfeld funneled $340,000 of German money to the Western Cartridge Company to purchase ammunition. Sommerfeld was probably acting on his own. His interests were more for himself. Sommerfeld acted as a double agent for Carranza. It would seem that Villa only sought German assistance after sources of money and arms were denied.
At the time of Villa's attack on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916, Villa's military power had been marginalized Villa was repulsed at Columbus by a small cavalry detachment, after doing a lot of damage, but his area was mainly limited to western Chihuahua. He was persona non grata with Mexico's ruling Carranza constitutionalists. He was the subject of an embargo by the United States. So it would have been difficult for communication or further shipments of arms between the Germans and Villa.
Portraying Villa as a German sympathizer served the propaganda ends of both Carranza and Wilson.
Mauser rifles and carbines by Villa's forces does not mean German connection. The Mauser longarms were enormously popular. They were widely used by all parties in the Mexican Revolution,The Mexican Army had begun adopting 7 mm Mauser system arms as early as 1895 and were standard issue..
The revolution ended in 1920. The national government gave Villa a hacienda outside of Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua. He and his wife, María Luz Corral de Villaalso owned the Quinta Luz estate in Chihuahua, Chihuahua.
Villa was killed while visiting Parral on Friday, July 20, 1923. He was accompanied by his bodyguards called Dorades , the "Golden Ones”. Villa frequently made trips from his ranch to Parral for errands such as banking. Villa had retrieved gold from the local bank in Parral to pay his Canutillo ranch staff. He was driving through the city in his black 1919 Dodge Roadster. A group of seven riflemen appeared in the middle of the road. They fired 150 shots in two minutes into his car. Villa was hit by at least 16 bullets, including four in his head. These would have killed him immediately. Two of his three bodyguards were killed. Villa was reported to have killed at least one of the assassins before he died.
No one was ever charged for ordering the killing. The assassins who were later arrested were given light prison terms. This led to wide-spread speculation that the order came from someone in the Mexican government. Villa had become an embarrassment to post-revolutionary Mexico.
Villa’s death mask was purported to have been hidden at the Radford School in El Paso, Texas. Then in the 1970s it was sent to the National Museum of the Revolution in Chihuahua. Other museums have representations of ceramic and bronze that do not match this mask.
Pancho Villa was never at rest and was controversial even in death. It is alleged that an ex-Villista officer, Captain Emil L. Holmdahl, had opened the tomb three years after he was buried in the Cemeterio Municipal at Parral. Villa’s head was removed and sold to an eccentric Chicago millionaire who collected the skulls of historic figures. Villa’s sons prevented examination of the remains to see if the head was still attached, despite the rumors. Three years later, the Federal government ordered Villa’s body, moved to Mexico City to be interred in the Tomb of Illustrious Men. It was reported to be headless.
Villa's corpse may be in the city cemetery of Parral, Chihuahua, or in Chihuahua City, or in the Monument of the Revolution in Mexico City. Tombs for Villa exist in all three places, to include the tomb that he had built in Chihuahua. It is still in dispute. His skull was stolen.
The heirs of Apache warrior Geronimo are suing the WASPy wieners of Skull & Bones because it's rumored that Yale's secret society has possession of Geronimo's skull. According to legend, George W. Bush's grandpappy Prescott Bush pilfered Geronimo's skull from its grave in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. It is now allegedly part of a collection of famous heads stolen by various generations of Yalies belonging to Skull & Bones.
Among the collection are supposedly not only the skulls of Geronimo, but of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, and numerous others.
"Hated By Thousands And Loved By Millions.”
I will end this story as it began:
Pancho Villa was a Mexican revolutionary leader who advocated for the poor and wanted agrarian reform. Though he was a killer, a bandit, and a revolutionary leader, many remember him as a folk hero.
Pancho Villa, so the saying goes, was “hated by thousands and loved by millions.” He was a Robin Hood to many and a cruel, cold-blooded killer to others.
Original Pancho Villa Photo
Photo Repair 101
This is a classic example of how I repair photos with the "smudge" tool. Instead of adding a color, you can just push the color that is there until you're satisfied. With this one I used maybe three different sized "smudge brushes". Of course I use a small brush close to the face and for the spots. You can usually "reset" or "undo" if there is a mistake. I was able to remove a bad "background", but also spots from his face, hat, and clothes.
Pancho "Repaired" (and cropped)
Pancho Villa y la revolución mexicana 1/3
Pancho Villa y la revolución mexicana 2/3
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Great classic western movie from 1968 with Yul Brynner, Robert Mitchum, Charles Bronson, and Grazia Buccella. Musik from Maurice Jarre.
panteleeza on August 16, 2012:
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me on November 26, 2011:
i have an original chair that belong to pancho villa, any one wants to buy it?
alex on November 20, 2011:
yo tengo un vale igual al de que esta en tu publicación!!
RODOLFO on March 10, 2011:
VIVA EL GENERAL VILLA VIVA MEXICO CABRONES
Micky Dee (author) on February 08, 2011:
Hi jandee! It's so nice to see that jandee avatar! I think history is beautiful. These old pics and films are fantastic. Thank you dear!
jandee from Liverpool.U.K on February 08, 2011:
Hello Micky,loved reading this interesting account of Panch Villa, plus lots of photographic info.
best from jandee
Micky Dee (author) on November 23, 2010:
Hi Angie. No, I'm sorry. The books about Pocho Villa should help - maybe even the "movie". Regretfully yours my Dear!
Angie on November 23, 2010:
Great information. I have been reading a lot about Pancho Villa lately. I have been trying to get information about my family History. My Great Grandfather worked with Pancho Villa, he was from France. Unfortunately I don’t have his name. My father said, that he had to change his name in different occasions. By any chance, do you have the names of the people who worked with Pancho Villa?
Micky Dee (author) on September 20, 2010:
God bless you Petra! You also fight for justice and God bless Petra!
Petra Vlah from Los Angeles on September 19, 2010:
Great job, Micky. I will have to see the Zapata movie again now that I am into history as you know. Thank you dear and God bless you and everybody who fought for justice
Micky Dee (author) on September 19, 2010:
This is a lot of info Petra. I'll come back later too. I need to refresh. God bless!
Petra Vlah from Los Angeles on September 19, 2010:
Just loved what Pancho Villa did to the bankers; we need him NOW! I promise will come back later to read the second part and see the videos (too much information for me LOL, but it really deservers all my attention since it is another well documented terrific hub)
Micky Dee (author) on August 26, 2010:
God bless Peggy! I love your latest on lithographs!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2010:
Wow...what an extensive article about Pancho Villa. I learned much that I had never known. Will have to go back and listen to all the videos. My grandfather was stationed in San Antonio, Texas as a part of the National Guard years ago when Pancho Villa and his gang were making raids into the United States. That is why this is of special interest to me. Thanks! Rating this up and useful.
Micky Dee (author) on August 19, 2010:
God bless Rebecca. Thank you Ma'am!
Rebecca E. from Canada on August 19, 2010:
wow, again I am really getting into your things, boy you are smart, I didn't know half of this, and this is something I should know, thanks for the wake up call, I really do wish you success, and I am green with envy you are writing about the things I love (I wish I could at least get a request on some thing like this!)
Micky Dee (author) on March 22, 2010:
That was 3 months ago. Thanks Jane.
jane on March 22, 2010:
Micky Dee (author) on December 12, 2009:
Thanks for stopping by prettydarkhorse. It's been OK. Did a few errands, rode my bike 32 minutes, and scrubbed my bathhub and sinks. It was great. I may go get a couple of tuna tacos in just a bit. Thanks!
prettydarkhorse from US on December 12, 2009:
great hub here Micky, I can see your effort and He is a great man indeed, how are you? I hope your doing good today, Maita