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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 was also responsible for a
raid on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916, which was the first attack on U.S. soil
since 1812.
June 5, 1878 -- July 20, 1923

Also Known As:

Doroteo Arango (born as), Francisco "Pancho" Villa

Overview of Pancho Villa:

Pancho Villa was born Doroteo Arango, the son of a sharecropper at the hacienda
in San Juan del Rio, Durango. While growing up, Pancho Villa witnessed and
experienced the harshness of peasant life. In Mexico during the late 19th century,
the rich were becoming richer by taking advantage of the lower classes, often
treating them like slaves.

When Villa was 15, his father died, so Villa began to work as a sharecropper to
help support his mother and four siblings.

One day in 1894, Villa 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, only 16-years
old, grabbed a pistol, shot the owner of the hacienda, and then took off to the

From 1894 to 1910, Villa spent most of his time in the mountains running from the
law. At first he did what he could to survive by himself, but by 1896, he had joined
some other bandits and soon became their leader. Villa and his group of bandits
would steal cattle, rob shipments of money, and commit additional crimes against
the wealthy.

By stealing from the rich and often giving to the poor, some saw Pancho Villa as a
modern-day Robin Hood.

It was during this time that Doroteo Arango began using the name Francisco
"Pancho" Villa. ("Pancho" is a common nickname for "Francisco.") There are many
theories as to why he chose that name. Some say it was the name of a bandit
leader he met; others say it was Villa's fraternal grandfather's last name.
Pancho Villa's notoriety as a bandit and his prowess at escaping capture caught
the attention of men who were planning a revolution. These men understood that
Villa's skills could be used as a guerilla fighter during the revolution. Since Porfirio
Diaz, the sitting president of Mexico, had created much of the current problems for
the poor and Francisco Madero promised change for the lower classes, Pancho
Villa joined Madero's cause and agreed to be a leader in the revolutionary army.
From October 1910 to May 1911, Pancho Villa was a very effective revolutionary
leader. However, in May 1911, Villa resigned from command because of
differences he had with another commander, Pascual Orozco, Jr.
On May 29, 1911, Villa married Maria Luz Corral and tried to settle down to a quiet
life. Unfortunately, though Madero had become president, political unrest again
appeared in Mexico.

Orozco, angered by being left out of what he considered his rightful place in the
new government, challenged Madero by starting a new rebellion in the spring of
1912. Villa gathered troops and worked with General Victoriano Huerta to support
Madero. In June 1912, Huerta accused Villa of stealing a horse and ordered him to
be executed. A reprieve from Madero came for Villa at the very last minute but Villa
was still remitted to prison. Villa remained in prison from June 1912 to December
27, 1912, when he escaped.
By the time Villa escaped from prison, Huerta had switched from a Madero
supporter to a Madero adversary. On February 22, 1913, Huerta killed Madero and
claimed the presidency for himself. Villa then allied himself with Venustiano
Carranza to fight against Huerta.
Pancho Villa was extremely successful, winning battle after battle during the next
several years. Since Pancho Villa conquered Chihuahua and other northern areas,
he spent much of his time reallocating land and stabilizing the economy.

In the summer of 1914, Villa and Carranza split and became enemies. For the next
several years, Mexico continues to be embroiled in a civil war between the factions
ofPancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza.
The United States took sides in the battle and supported Carranza. On March 9,
1916, Villa attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico. His attack was the first on
American soil since 1812. The U.S. sent several thousand soldiers across the
border to hunt for Pancho Villa. Though they spent over a year searching, they
never caught him.
On May 20, 1920, Carranza was assassinated and Adolfo De la Huerta became
the interim president of Mexico. De la Huerta wanted peace in Mexico so
negotiated with Villa for his retirement. Part of the peace agreement was that Villa
would receive a hacienda in Chihuahua.

Villa retired from revolutionary life in 1920 but had only a short retirement for he
was gunned down in his car on July 20, 1923.