Pancho Villa Unit

Pancho Villa Unit




Pancho Villa is one of the best known Mexican revolutionaries. Theman, born as Doroteo Arango, who some nicknamed the Mexican Robinhoodwhile others dismissed him as an illiterate bandit and murderer,played a significant role in the Mexican revolution. His role in thisrevolution has often been compared to that of other knownrevolutionaries in Mexico and around the world including Che Guavaraand Montezuma. To help better understand his role in the revolution,“Pancho Villa: A biography” tells the life history of this Panchoas narrated by Alejandro Quintana.

Quintana starts out his book by making it clear in the preface thathis work on Pancho Villa is informed by two previous studies on theman Katz (1998) and Taibo (2006). However, this does not make thebook any less interesting. The book is organized into six paragraphseach covering a different life period Pancho’s life. It thedevelopments of the day that influence and shaped Villa’s path inthe revolution for which he is most remembered. His desire for changeemanated from an unpleasant status quo.

The first chapter narrates the period 1876 and 1910 that covers thepolitical and socioeconomic state of Mexico then and the birth ofPancho. He was born on June 5th 1878 in San Juan del Rioin Durango to sharecropper parents working in a hacienda owned by theLopez Negrete family. This was just two years after Porfirio Diaztook power through a military coup that ousted President SebastianLerdo de Tejada. His reign was characterized by rapidindustrialization, there was strife and continued poverty in thegeneral public that led many people into banditry as a way of life.Villa was to join the bandits while one exile after he had attacked aman who had tried to rape his younger sister. It is during his periodin exile in Chihuahua that he changed his name to Pancho Villa toevade arrest.

Chapter 2 of the book narrates the motivation and the trigger eventsthat led to the revolution. The author makes it clear that therevolution was triggered by the president’s own words by claimingin an interview that the country was ready for democracy.Consequently, both the wealthy and the poor held the president toaccount over his political promises and even ignited the desire toreplace Porfirio’s aging cronies in government. Francisos Moderoemerged as one of the vocal leaders. He called for ousting of thepresident and acossitutional democracy.

Soon after, the Mexican revolution began. Villa made his name byleading an attack on the town of San Anders. He also worked closelywith Pascal Orozco to defeat government authorities in the battle ofCiudad Juarez that triggered Porfirio’s resignation to usher inFrancisco Madero. However, even before Modero had taken over thepresidency, Villa had fallen out with Orozco and he had resigned as amilitary leader of the revolution and even attempted to lead a quietlife after marrying one Maria Luz Corral. Modero’s presidency didnot last long. Orozco, angered by his apparent omission fromgovernment started another revolution to replace Modero. Villatogether with General Victoriano Huerta worked to support Modero. Adisgareemnt between Villa and Huerta led to Villa’s imprisonment.Soon after, Huerta changed sides and together with Orozco ousted andkilled Modero. By then, Villa had escaped from prison and had goneinto exile in Texas.

Chapter three tells the story of another phase of the revolution.This phase was geared towards ousting Huerta. Venustiano Carranzaemerged a leader challenging Huerta. He invited Villa back in Mexico.To form a large army, Villa relied on confiscating properties of therich and distributing to the poor. With such tactic, he formed a hugearmy. Meanwhile, Huerta was forced to resign and various leadersclaimed the presidency. Villa captured Chihuahua and declared himselfgovernor.

Chapter four narrates the most successful period of Villasrevolutionary efforts after splitting with Corranza in 1914. Giventhat Carranza had immense experience as a government, he defended hisclaim to the presidency as legit and considered Villa as just abandit who could not lead the country. In response Villa joinedEmiliano Zapata, a leader of the Morelos who was opposed to Carranza.

Chapter five narrates the events of1915 and 1916 in which variousrevolutionary leaders fought each other in bloody war. PresidentEmilina Guiterrez was installed as president. He attempted todischarge Villa as leader of the Mexican army but instead the presentresigned. This was at a time when Villa had the most political power.However, his methods of operation such as taking money forcefullyfrom the wealthy and even banks were not sustainable. As such inApril 1915, he lost his first major military defeat to GeneralObregon. In early 1916, the US government officially recognizedCarranza as head of the revolution. This angered Villa and inretaliation, he a military barrack in Columbus, New Mexico. Inreturn, the US mounted a serious search for Villa by sending severalthousand soldiers into Mexico but they never captured him.

In chapter six, the author narrates the final moments of PanchoVilla. Together with General Felipe Angeles, Villa made a finalattempt to overthrow Carranza on June 1919. When this attempt failed,Villa sought to make peace with the government by signing an amnestyagreement. However, on July 23 1923, Villa was assassinated in thetown of Parral.

All in all, the book makes an interesting read. It providesinteresting historical fact and sheds light on one of the mostcelebrated and yet vilified leaders of the Mexican revolution. Thebook is precise without omitting key details and the language andflow are of high level.


Katz, F. (1998). Thelife and times of Pancho Villa. Los Angeles: Stanford UniversityPress,

Quintana, A. (2012).Pancho Villa: A Biography. New York: ABC:CLIO.

Taibo, I. (2006).Pancho Villa. New York: Restless Books.