Pancho Villa Biography

Pancho villa “el centauro del norte” (the northern centaur) biography

Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula better known as “pancho villa” was born in 1878 in a small town in Durango (a state located in the northern part of mexico) named “la hacienda de Rio Gande” a municipality of “San Juan del Rio”. His parents were Agustin Arango and Micaela Arambula. Agustin unfortunately died when Jose Arango a.k.a. “francisco villa” was only a teen ager. In his teenage years Francisco Villa became the head of the household supporting and taking care of his younger brothers and sister whose employers “hacendados” (name given to hacienda owners. Hacienda= a big extension of land used for crops and the place where several farmers worked and lived for a very small fraction of money) took advantage of her.

Francisco Villa after an attempt to help his sister was forced to abandon her to avoid retaliation from the hacienda owners and from justice itself. After fleeing, Jose Arango Arambula change his name for the name that has given him not only recognition in Mexican history, but recognition all over the world, that remembers him as Pancho Villa.*Jose Arango changed his name to Francisco Villa, but among Mexicans, people named Francisco are also known as “Pancho”. For example, the name Anthony and “Tonny”.

Quick Facts:
Nick name:
“el centauro del norte”. That exactly translates in “the centaur of the north”, “La Cucaracha” (cockroach) etc.
June 5th 1878
place of birth: “
la hacienda de Rio Grande”, Durango, Mexico.

Died: July 16th 1923 in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico. Assassinate while driving on the streets of Parral Chihuahua
Mexican revolutionary fighter that reached the rank of general for the northern Mexican armed forces
Known for:
Pancho Villa is the only person that has attacked U.S. soil without significant retaliation and one of the most famous characters in the Mexican revolution of 1910.

Childhood and growing years

 In June 5th 1878 Pancho villa was born in an hacienda/small town called “hacienda de San Juan del Rio under the name Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula given by his parents Agustin Arango and Micaela Arambula. Jose had 4 younger siblings which had to take care of after his father Agustin died. Pancho attended school for only few years, but after his dad died, he was forced to drop out from school in order to support his family as a farmer.

During Jose’s teenage years he found out that his sister got raped by the hacienda owner “Agustin L. Negrete”. As revenge for his beloved sister, Jose killed Agustin Negrete and in order to escape justice Jose fled his small town to become an outlaw in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, the north western region of Durango.  After some time as an outlaw, Pancho became part of a group of bandits led by “Ignacio Parra”, a well known thief in the state of Durango. During Pancho’s years as a bandit he was known as “Orango”.

In the early 20th century (1902), Pancho was arrested for stealing working animals from some farmers as well as for committing other crimes. Because of these acts, Jose was sentenced to die, but thanks to his influence with a powerful individual (Pablo Venezuela, the person who bought stolen property from Pancho) his life was spare but consequently he was forced to join the Mexican army. After some time of joining the Mexican army, Pancho killed an army officer that forced him to flee to the nearby state of Chihuahua to be known as Pancho villa. Some historians are inconsistent about the time when Francisco became known as Pancho Villa. Some said he changed his name after killing his sister rapist and some others argue that he became known as Pancho Villa after killing the army officer in 1903. What historians agree is that Pancho Villa was also known as “La Cucaracha” (cockroach). Because of this nickname, there was a song composed in his honor named “la cucaracha” that mocked some of his actions and his physical condition at the time the song was composed.

In 1910 Pancho changed his perspective about being an outlaw after meeting Abraham Gonzalez, a politician that was against Porfirio Diaz and was part of the ideas represented by Francisco I. Madero. Abraham was able to persuade Pancho that by helping him he was going to cause substantial damage on the “hacendados” as well as to help the poor Mexican farmers who had no rights and owned no land.

Decisive years
By 1910, Mexico was going through a total turmoil after president Porfirio Diaz had remained in power for more than 30 years. As most people don’t know, during Porfirio Diaz years, Mexico’s economy was almost as good as the northern neighbor’s economy (The United States) something that wasn’t very convenient for the U.S. economy at the time. During these years the Mexican economy saw an unprecedented growth thanks to the dictatorial decisions taken by President Porfirio Diaz that pretty much were copied from France and other European countries. Because of this, the U.S. felt that if the Mexican economy’s growth continued as projected, there will be some serious consequences that could spell disaster for the U.S. economy and other U.S. interests that couldn’t be achieved if the Mexican economy got strong or stronger. As it is well known when something affects the interests of the U.S. almost instantly their secret agencies begin gathering intelligence and information to determine how to achieve the U.S. goals without caring for consequences, without caring who will be affected by these actions and the most important thing, doing it without anyone knowing who is the actual perpetrator behind such infamous acts.

In 1910 the U.S. government saw the perfect opportunity to plot against the Mexican government not by using force, but, by using the resource most appreciated by the U.S. and a resource that the Mexican government has lacked the most throughout its history, “Intelligence”. When the U.S. government realized that the vast majority of the Mexican population (poor people, “jornaleros and campesinos”) were unhappy and needed someone, a hero perhaps, so, the U.S. government relied not in a spy or force but an insider, from with in Mexico, someone that knew exactly how Mexican people think and how Mexican people act as well as someone who understood Mexican laws and Mexican politicians at that time. The U.S. government played its cards really well, it found the perfect person for the job, a Mexican citizen that came from a wealthy family that had completed his studies in a U.S. university, this man’s name was Francisco I. Madero. Madero was contacted by the U.S. government in order to explain him the whole plan, obviously Madero wasn’t told the real plans that the U.S. government had in mind, but of course after a generous contribution and fundings it was pretty hard not to accept to contribute in this cause funded by the northern neighbor. The U.S. wanted Madero to become President of Mexico to use him as their personal puppet and do whatever they wanted to without the Mexican people really knowing what was going on. Madero’s main motto was “sufragio efectivo, no reeleccion” that literally translates to “effective vote, no reelection”, which was intended for

President Porfirio Diaz, who had been in power for more than 5 presidential terms, lasting 6 years each.

The approach that the U.S. wanted from Madero towards the Mexican population was by persuasion and chaos ending in a revolution in which the whole country was going to be involved in. Madero knew that this couldn’t be achieved by himself only, so he needed not a person like him, with education and with a wealthy family, he needed someone that could relate to the Mexican people at the time, someone who understood exactly how the “jornaleros and campesinos” thought, someone who could start a revolution without actually knowing the true reason and the real interests behind it, someone that had little or no education, some one like Pancho Villa and “Emiliano Zapata” (Zapata was also a general during the Mexican revolution that fought in the south for the people’s rights, freedom and land. In fact Zapata’s motto was “Tierra y Libertad” that literally translates into “land and freedom”. Emiliano Zapata as Pancho Villa, came from poor families and both had similar experiences during their teenage years, making them perfect candidates for Madero’s and the U.S. government plans of claiming “la silla presidencial”, the presidential chair).

Madero knew exactly how to persuade Pancho, Madero offer Pancho the opportunity to fight against the oppressor, fight for the people, fight for his own cause, and the most important thing, fight with almost unlimited fundings given by Madero who obtain generous fundings from the northern neighbor. Pancho saw an incredible opportunity in Madero’s offering for liberating his people and his country, plus a substantial amount of money that Pancho simply couldn’t refuse. After everything was arranged, the fighting began in 1911, when Pancho’s army help Madero’s army fight against federal forces of President Porfirio Diaz in the battle of Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua). There were several battles that were won by Pancho’s army mainly because of Pancho’s expertise, fighting tactics and leadership skills. It is believed that the main reason why Pancho was so successful in his campaigns of “la division del norte” (the northern division. Name given to Pancho’s army because it fought in the northern part of mexico) because of Pancho’s knowledge of the terrain he fought on.

After several battles won by Madero’s army, Pancho’s army, Zapata’s army “El ejercito liberador del sur” (the southern liberator army), plus other volunteers, the federal army was defeated and after 33 years, Porfirio Diaz finally gave up the Mexican presidency allowing democratic elections. After Porfirio Diaz lost the war, he was forced into exile. When democratic elections took place in Mexico for the first time after more than 30 years, Madero became Mexico’s president by a considerable amount of votes, but when Madero name “Venustiano Carranza” (a Mexican politician coming from a wealthy family that supported Porfirio Diaz until Diaz refused to make Carranza Coahuila’s governor one year before the Mexican revolution started) as his war secretary, Pancho became very upset and began having second thoughts about supporting Madero.

During the Madero’s presidential term, a Madero’s army commander name Pascual Orozco, found out about Madero’s real intentions and actions that were favoring the U.S. government, starting another rebellion against newly elected president Madero. Pancho despite the fact that he had second thoughts about Madero, aid him together with “Victoriano Huerta” (a Mexican military officer that wanted to become Mexico’s dictator. Huerta ordered his men to assassin Madero in the infamous events of “La decena tragica”, the tragic tenth.) against Pascual Orosco’s revolt.

When Pancho and Victoriano Fought together, Victoriano realized that Pancho could compromise his plans to become Mexico’s president. Because of this, Victoriano accused Pancho of perpetrating insubordinate acts and stealing property. Victoriano later realized that his plans didn’t work as expected, so he got Pancho sentenced to death by a shooting squad. Allegedly, few minutes before Pancho was about to be killed, the army officer commanding the shooting squad received a telegram from President Madero himself lowering Pancho’s sentence to imprisonment only, allowing Pancho to escape death once more. In 1912, after spending a small amount of time in jail, Pancho escape and decided to head towards the U.S. only to come back to Mexico to fight once more against Victoriano Huerta. In 1913, Pancho was declared provisional governor of the state of Chihuahua, a situation that will play a very important roll later in time in the war against Victoriano huerta’s regime.

Pancho Villa’s involvement in the second part of the Mexican Revolution

After spending some time in the U.S. Pancho returned to Mexico when he found out that Madero had been assassin by Victoriano’s orders. Pancho entered Mexico passing through the state of Chihuahua with only 8 men; later thousands of volunteers join Pancho’s army to help overthrown Victoriano Huerta from power. It was at this time when Pancho created a sub division of “El Ejercito Constitucionalista de Mexico” (Mexico’s constitutionalist army), name “La division del norte” to fight against Victoriano, which became Mexico’s president by unconstitutional means. This army had such name because its main intention was to give the power to the right person by constitutional means mentioned in “La Constitucion de 1857” (1857 constitution). Zapata and other important generals at the time (Pablo Gonzalez and Alvaro Obregon), joined Pancho in the fight against Victoriano. In March 7th 1913 Pancho’s anger towards Victoriano grew bigger after Victoriano ordered Abraham Gonzalez (Pancho’s mentor in earlier years) to be executed. The war against Victoriano was the time where Pancho’s fame and military tactics and expertise grew unprecedented.

During the war against Victoriano, Pancho devised pretty ingenious ways to get money to fund his army thus funding the war against Victoriano. These methods used by Pancho despite being a little unorthodox, were key in overthrowing Victoriano from power. Some of these methods used by Pancho included the creation of money notes (an action that was possible because Pancho was Chihuahua’s provisional governor at the time), forced loans from “hacendados” (hacienda owners), robberies, and other illegal activities very characteristic from Pancho Villa. The constitutional army also received fundings from U.S. president at the time Woodrow Wilson that supported Venuztiano Carranza’s war against Victoriano. Venuztiano at some point ordered Pancho to attack certain cities in the northern part of Mexico, which Pancho realized that were backed by selfish intentions of seizing the power. Because of this, Pancho resigned from the Constitutionalist army for only a brief time before being convinced by his army men to return to direct the attack against Victoriano’s army in “Saltillo” (the city capital of Coahuila state located in northern Mexico) as ordered by Venuztiano. During the time Pancho was fighting Victoriano’s army, he became that popular in the U.S. that he received several offers from Hollywood to make movies about his life and his actions during the war that gave Pancho and his army extra money to support “La Revolucion Mexicana” (the revolution). Pancho was so popular in some border cities in the U.S. that some El Paso banks accepted his money notes with the same value as Mexican currency (“Peso”) which at the time were made of gold and silver.

By the time the revolution was won over a year later in July 1914, by the “El Ejercito Constitucionalista”, Pancho together with Zapata and other “Revolucionarios” (revolutionaries) marched towards Mexico City to occupied “El palacio presidencial” (the presidential palace). When they reached the presidential palace, Pancho sat on the presidential chair next to Zapata and others in which a crucial conversation took place between Pancho and Zapata that change the course of Mexican history. A very famous picture was taken that day that depicts Pancho, Zapata and other revolutionaries occupying the presidential palace. When Pancho first sat on the presidential chair, he was pretty much overwhelmed about what he had accomplished together with Zapata and other volunteers, Pancho confess to Zapata that the presidential chair was really big to be occupied by him. In other words, Pancho could have become Mexico’s president, but when he realized that he wasn’t capable of such task, he pretty much surrender the power to Carranza.

Pancho Villa and Venuztiano Carranza

 After Victoriano Huerta was defeated by the constitutionalist army commanded by Pancho Villa, Alvaro Obregon (Alvaro Obregon was Venuztiano Carranza’s General fighting in a different front against the federal army from Victoriano Huerta. After the war against Victoriano, Alvaro Obregon fought against Pancho’s and Zapata’s army in different battles. Alvaro Obregon Agreed with Venuztiano Carranza’s views as the elected Mexican president) and Emiliano Zapata, Pancho realized that Venuztiano had similar characteristics as dictator as Porfirio Diaz who had been thrown out only a few years back, making Pancho very upset and disappointed so he began fighting against Venuztiano’s Army commanded by Alvaro Obregon who previously fought together with Pancho and Zapata against Victoriano’s federal army.

Almost at the end of 1914, the same year that the constitutionalist army won the war against Victoriano’s army, Pancho gathered his men to begin the fight against Venuztiano. Pancho’s main reason to fight Venuztiano was that Pancho knew that Venuztiano would not respect his political approach to have a democratic government, (the main reason why the Mexican revolution started) and indeed after Venuztiano became the leader of the revolution, he did not follow what was agreed at a national convention that took place in the state of Aguascalientes. In this convention all the important generals and commanders that fought Victoriano’s army gathered to determine Mexico’s future as a democratic nation. It was in this convention that Venuztiano agreed to allow democratic elections in Mexico, but after he gain the power, Venuztiano suddenly change his mind and his true political views as a dictator surfaced making Pancho extremely angry. Zapata, who also shared Pancho’s ideas of Venuztiano as a new dictator, decided to fight Venuztiano together with Pancho. Zapata was also very suspicious about Venuztiano’s real intentions, making him join forces with Pancho ending again in civil war that will last several years, but now against a different dictator, Venuztiano Carranza.

 After the civil war began, Venuztiano knew that the only way to defeat Pancho’s and Zapata’s army was by using the expertise and military tactics of his best general, Alvaro Obregon. Even though Pancho’s and Zapata’s army was way better, Alvaro Obregon was a better army tactician, one of the most important factors that determined the outcome of the civil war between Venuztiano and Pancho. In 1915, Alvaro encounter Pancho’s and Zapata’s army at “La Batalla de Celaya” (battle of Celaya) in central Mexico, were Pancho’s army suffered thousands of casualties and thousands of captured men. Is estimated, that in this battle alone, Pancho lost more than 4 thousand “revolucionarios” and more than 6 thousand men captured. Later that year in April 29 1915, Pancho encounter Alvaro’s armies once again at “La Batalla de Trinidad” (battle of Trinidad) were Pancho was terribly defeated. 6 months after, Pancho decided to head north to Sonora where Venuztiano’s army commanded by Alvaro had their main forces. By the time Pancho reached “Agua Prieta” (Sonora), he realized that Venuztiano had reinforced the state pretty well defeating Pancho’s army yet again at “La Battalla de Agua Prieta” (battle of Agua Prieta). At this battle Pancho’s army suffered a substantial amount of casualties bringing the remaining 1,500 men’s morale down. Soon after the remaining men became discontent of Pancho and turned on him. Consequently the survivors of the Battle of Agua Prieta accepted an amnesty presented by Venuztiano. In the following month, some of the best Pancho’s combatants were captured and executed, while others decided to turn on Pancho accepting Venuztiano’s amnesty. Is estimated, that only a small fraction of Pancho’s men (approximately 200 men) remained loyal to him. Pancho together with his remaining men decided to flee to the mountains of Chihuahua State to avoid certain death. Even though Pancho’s army was extremely diminished, they did not desist in continuing fighting Venuztiano’s army. Pancho had very few chances of defeating Venuztiano’s army mainly for 3 reasons, Venuztiano at the time that the civil war began had control of 2 states, Tamaulipas and Veracruz, which had 2 of the most important ports in Mexico allowing Venuztiano have more fundings for his army to battle Pancho’s army. The second reason is that Venuztiano’s army commanded by Alvaro Obregon was better prepared and disciplined that Pancho’s army mainly composed of farmers or individuals with no prior fighting experience.

At the end of 1915, the U.S. government accepted Venuztiano as the legitimate Mexican president, cutting off supplies of ammunition, money and weapons, making Pancho extremely angry. Pancho after learning about Woodrow Wilson’s position favoring Venuztiano’s presidency, decided to retaliate against the U.S. by plotting several attacks in U.S. towns. Despite the fact that Pancho had lost thousands of men a had no longer an army, he decided to gather more men to keep fighting Venuztiano’s government and the U.S.

Pancho Villa attacks U.S. soil

 For many years the U.S. government supported Pancho’s actions against Porfirio Diaz because he presented a huge treat against the U.S. economy that needed some kind of economical boost to fight WW1. The U.S. government knew that war in Europe was inevitable as well as taking part in it and after fighting a war against Spain, the U.S. economy was in desperate need of money in order to fight the Germans in WW1. It was obvious that the U.S. wasn’t interested in helping Mexicans overthrown Porfirio Diaz from power in order for Mexicans to have democratic elections, rather, the U.S. government was interested in overthrowing Diaz so a person like Madero or Venuztiano Carranza (bribed by the U.S. government) gain the Mexican presidency to support U.S interests (finance the imminent war against Germany). By helping Pancho Villa and other “Revolucionarios” (that had no clue whatsoever about the U.S. government real intentions) the U.S. government was able to fulfill its goals of placing a Mexican president who was going to support the U.S. interests.

After Pancho’s help was no longer needed by the U.S., almost instantly the U.S. government stopped supporting Pancho’s campaing against Diaz, Huerta and Carranza. For obvious reasons, Pancho decided to attack the U.S. after feeling betrayed by the U.S. government. By the time Pancho stop receiving help from the U.S. it made fighting Venuztiano’s forces nearly impossible. After gathering approximately 500 men, Pancho together with his Lieutenants began planning the attacks against the U.S. By the late 1915’s early 1916’s, some of Pancho’s attention focused on making as much damage to the U.S. as possible, but without forgetting about his war against Venuztiano Carranza.

In March 1916, a group of 100 “Villistas” (Pancho Villa’s supporters) attacked Columbus New Mexico causing serious damage. There is certain discrepancy about the Columbus New Mexico raid ordered by Pancho Villa. Some said that the reason behind this attack was because Pancho had purchased some defective ammunition from the U.S. causing Pancho to loose important battles against Venuztiano’s army and because Woodrow Wilson officially recognized Venuztiano Carranza as the legit Mexican president. Others believe that Pancho was in desperate need of resources to continue fighting Venuztiano’s regime, and by attacking Columbus he would get the supplies needed to continue his campaign which makes a lot sense from a military point of view. There were several other attacks that took place in U.S. territory, but haven’t been officially attributed to Pancho Villa’s forces (“Los Villistas).

After the attack on Columbus New Mexico was officially confirmed to be perpetrated by “Villistas” following Pancho Villa’s orders, President Woodrow Wilson order John Pershing (U.S. army General) and 10 thousand, men to take Pancho into custody. Unfortunately this attempt to catch Pancho Villa did not succeed, mainly because the Mexican population wasn content of the fact that, U.S. troops were in Mexican territory. However, 190 “Villistas” were killed during this attempt to catch Pancho and making pay for his infamous actions on U.S. soil.

Important battles won and lost by Pancho Villa:

  • First, second and third battle of Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua (W,W,L)
  • Battle of Tierra Blanca (W)
  • Battle of Chihuahua (W)
  • Battle of Ojinaga (W)
  • Battle of torreon (W)
  • Battle of Gomez Palacio (W)
  • Battle of Saltillo (W)
  • Battle of Celaya (L)
  • Battle of Zacatecas. By far the bloodiest of all battles. This battle was decisive in overthrowing Victoriano from the power (W)
  • Battle of Trinidad (L)
  • Battle of Agua prieta (L)
  • Battle of Parral (W)

Pancho villa’s personal life and other achievements

Pancho Villa dedicated most of his life fighting, but during Pancho Villa’s life he had a lot of mistresses. Legally, Pancho married Maria Luz Corral on May 29 1911; nevertheless, he was involved in countless marriage ceremonies. Pancho had only to children, a daughter that died only years of being born, and a boy name Hipolito. Very little is known about Pancho’s son. When Pancho was assassin, 5 different women together with Maria Luz Corral claimed to be Pancho’s widows. When Pancho lived in Chihuahua, he owned several butcher shops and livestock. Pancho Villa was a very joyful and sort of charismatic man; he loved to drink “Aguardiente” and tequila. Pancho Villa was a person whose life was shaped by the abuse of the rich over the poor. As the Chihuahua governor, Pancho reestablished order in the state, he lower the prices of many different first necessity articles, he also founded “El Insituto Cientifico y Literario” and issued money notes that were accepted as currency.

 Pancho Villa’s assassination

After many years of fighting for a democratic government, Pancho saw a lot of bloodshed and had lost several of his friends in the Mexican revolution. Nevertheless he was committed to keep fighting against Venuztiano’s regime at any cost. He continued fighting until mid-1920’s, when Alvaro Obregon sympathizers killed Venuztiano Carranza and Venuztiano’s cabinet and supporters. Before Venuztiano was killed on May, 1920, Pancho fought several other battles against Venuztiano’s army, but the third Battle of Ciudad Juarez was his last one. After losing the third Battle of Juarez, Pancho accepted a cease fire against Venuztiano’s army. Despite the fact that Pancho accepted to stop fighting, he continued to do so but with little success. When Venuztiano Carranza was killed, Pancho was finally ready to stop fighting for good and finally retire.

On July, 1920, Pancho contacted Mexican intern President “Adolfo de la Huerta” to discuss peace to discuss an appealing retirement plan. Only 6 days after Pancho contacted Mexican intern President, Adolfo offered him a huge “Hacienda” in Canutillo Chihuahua together an allowance of 500,000 “pesos de oro” (gold pesos). The remaining Villistas stayed with Pancho in his Canutillo Hacienda. Adolfo also allowed Pancho to have 50 of his men to serve as his personal bodyguards.

On July 20th, 1923, Pancho Villa was assassin in “Parral” Chihuahua, when he was in town to withdraw some money from the bank to pay his hacienda employees. Most of the times when Pancho went outside his hacienda, his bodyguards accompanied him, when Pancho was killed only his main bodyguards were with him. When Pancho was on his way back to his hacienda, a man on the street randomly stood in front of his car (a dark 1919 Dodge roadster) and shouted “Viva Villa”, seconds after, 7 men that were situated in strategic positions shot Pancho’s car multiple times. Pancho got killed instantly together with the bodyguards that were with him at the time. Only one man survived the attack. It is believed that Pancho was killed because he was interested in running for the Mexican presidency, a very inconvenient situation for “Plutarco Elias Calles” (Mexican presidential candidate). Others believe that his numerous enemies that Pancho made throughout his life hire the assassins that killed Pancho.

 Pancho was buried in Parral Chihuahua but a tomb was also erected in Mexico City as a memorial for Pancho Villa the Mexican legend. *this Pancho Villa Biography contains information that has not been officially corroborated simply because is related to details that are not supposed to be known by the general public.

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