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Home BIOGRAPHIES Independence REVOLUTION / FRANCISCO VILLA

REVOLUTION / FRANCISCO VILLA

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FRANCISCO VILLA (1878-1923)


F
rancisco Villa is born as Doroteo Arango on the Río Grande Hacienda in Durango to Agustín Arango and Micaela Quiñones Arámbula. As a child, he works in the fields and becomes an excellent horseman. Left an orphan as a teenager, he works the lands of an hacienda. When his sister is attacked by one of the hacienda owners, he defends her honor and then is forced to flee to avoid a biased judgment against him. At that point, he takes the alias with which he will become famous. He becomes known as Pancho Villa not only in Mexico, but around the world.
 
FRANCISCO VILLA (1878-1923)

 

 

 

              Villa has no formal education in his lifetime, but does learn how to read and write. He joins Madero’s campaign in 1909 at the urging of Abraham González, governor of the state of Chihuahua. Taking up arms against Porfirio Díaz’ dictatorship, he attacks the Chavarría hacienda in Chihuahua on November 17, 1910. From the start, he distinguishes himself as a combatant and organizer, and for his detailed knowledge of the terrain.


              Villa meets Francisco I. Madero on the Bustillos hacienda, presenting himself with disciplined and well-armed troops. He is made a colonel. It is significant that Villa was one of the military leaders—the rest of which had more experience—to be included in the meeting called by Madero on May 1, 1911, in Ciudad Juárez to discuss a peace agreement. According to Pascual Orozco, by attacking Ciudad Juárez, Villa achieves one of the first and most remarkable victories of the nascent revolution. After the triumph of the armed struggle, Villa devotes himself to business. Living in Chihuahua, he introduces and raises cattle there and owns several butcher shops.
 

              When Pascual Orozco revolts, Villa takes up the struggle again, fighting in Chihuahua and Durango. The number of men under him increases. In Torreón, he joins the troops of Victoriano Huerta, who Madero has charged with subduing Orozco and his followers.


              Because of his loyalty and victories in the field, he is promoted to honorary brigadier general. He triumphs at Conejos and at the important battle of Rellano. Victoriano Huerta’s suspicions of him cause him severe difficulties, and once he is almost executed. Sent as a prisoner to Mexico City, Villa escapes from the military jail in 1912 and, traveling through Guadalajara and Manzanillo, he flees to the United States.


              After Madero’s death, Villa returns to Mexico by way of Chihuahua accompanied by only eight men. However, he is soon joined by thousands more. He also receives money from the governor of Sonora, José María Maytorena.


              The famous Division of the North, first commanded by Villa, is organized in Ciudad Jiménez in September 1913, just before the attack on Torreón. The two battles preceding the one at Torreón, which take place on September 30, 1913, and in April 1914, are worthy of including in military history.


              Back in Chihuahua, Villa attacks the capital city, and with a speed that disconcerts his rivals, he marches on Ciudad Juárez, occupying it on November 15, 1913. Shortly thereafter, he wins the battle of Ojinaga, and on December 8, 1913, he enters the city of Chihuahua, where he assumes the post of interim governor. He shows outstanding administrative abilities, reestablishes order, lowers the prices of basic goods, opens the Scientific and Literary Institute, forgives overdue taxes, and issues paper money. Although he officially steps down on January 8, 1914, in practice he continues to exercise power for several more months.


              From the beginning, there are differences between Villa and Venustiano Carranza, who orders Villa to take Saltillo but does not give him the supplies he needs to succeed. Nevertheless, Villa obeys Carranza’s orders and is able to take the city of Zacatecas in June 1914. This victory is decisive for the success of the revolutionary movement and the fall of Victoriano Huerta.


              As the differences between Villa and Carranza grow more severe, General Álvaro Obregón intervenes and meets with Villa, who almost executes Obregón. During the Aguascalientes Convention, Zapata and Villa and their followers unite against Carranza’s goals. The convention removes Villa and Carranza from their posts, but under the presidency of General Eulalio Gutiérrez, Villa is made chief of operations of the convention. Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata enter Mexico City on December 6, 1914.
 
 
              The political differences then move to the battlefields. Villa is defeated in the Bajío region: Celaya, León, and Trinidad. He is forced to return to the north, where he continues fighting until 1915. His attack on Sonora fails. He attacks Columbus, a U.S. border town, and provokes Pershing’s unsuccessful pursuit of him into Mexico. His troops shrink in size and, although he has the strength to intimidate the congressmen of Querétaro (1916-1917), Villa loses his rank of chief of the armies and returns to being a feared guerrilla fighter, becoming a legend in the process.


              In May 1920, Francisco Villa and Ignacio C. Enríquez meet near the town of Allende, Chihuahua. The purpose of the meeting is to get Villa to accept the interim presidency of Adolfo de la Huerta, established as a result of the Plan of Agua Prieta, and to get him to lay down his arms now that Venustiano Carranza, whom he was fighting, is dead. Before the meeting ends and as Enriquez’ troops prepare to arrest Villa, he evades them and escapes. Finally, Villa accepts amnesty and signs the Sabinas Agreements. He retires as a Division General and receives Canutillo ranch with its 25,000 hectares near Hidalgo del Parral in Chihuahua, from which he and his former comrades-in-arms of the Division of the North, Los Dorados, then derive their incomes.
 

              On July 20, 1923, Villa is assassinated in an ambush at the entrance of the city of Parral. His remains are desecrated in February 1926, when an American breaks into Villa’s grave and takes his head to the United States. In 1967, Francisco Villa’s name is engraved with gold letters in the Chamber of Deputies, and on November 20, 1969, a statue of Villa on horseback is unveiled in Mexico City.

 

 


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