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Pancho Villa
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Pancho Villa

Alternate meaning: Pancho Villa (boxer)

Doroteo Arango Arámbula (June 5, 1877July 20, 1923), better known as Francisco "Pancho" Villa, was a Mexican revolutionary.

He was born in La Coyotada, San Juan del Río, Durango, and the early tale of his life is confused by several divergent accounts as well as by Villa's own desire, later in life, to be perceived as a people's champion. It is known that he was born to a poor family and quickly took up the life of a bandit in the state of Chihuahua. He was caught several times for crimes ranging from banditry to cattle rustling, but through influential connections was able to secure his release.

Villa underwent a transformation after meeting Abraham González, the political representative of Francisco I. Madero in Chihuahua. González gave Villa a basic education which opened his eyes to the political world and changed the way in which he thought about his own life and his relation to those in power (in the state of Chihuahua, the powerful Creel/Terrazas family). From this point until near the end of his life, Villa considered himself a revolutionary fighting for the people.

In 1911, Villa helped defeat the federal army of Porfirio Díaz in favour of Francisco I. Madero. After that, Villa again rebelled against former allies, first against Victoriano Huerta, later against Venustiano Carranza.

On March 9, 1916, Villa led 1,500 Mexican raiders in a crossborder attack against Columbus, New Mexico. They attacked a US Cavalry detachment, seized 100 horses and mules, burned the town, and killed 17 of its residents.

U.S President Woodrow Wilson responded by sending 12,000 troops, under Gen. John Pershing, into Mexico on March 15 to pursue Villa. In the U.S., this was known as the Pancho Villa Expedition. During the search, the United States launched its first air combat mission when eight aeroplanes lifted off on March 19. The expedition to capture Villa was called off as a failure on January 28, 1917.

In 1920, Villa ended his revolutionary actions. He was assassinated three years later in Parral, Chihuahua. As a perceived rebel against injustice and abuse, and despite the violent excesses he undeniably committed – he was particularly noted for his dislike of Orientals and would reputedly massacre any people of Chinese extraction whom he encountered during his raids – Villa is still remembered in Mexico as a folk hero.

Modern historians debate whether Villa was involved with the Germans and how much aid and information passed through them. Some contend that the Germans encouraged Villa's actions against US interests and incursions into Texas and New Mexico in order to create instability on the southern border of a power they definitely did not want interfering in World War I. Other actions by the Germans such as the Zimmermann Telegram correspond with Germany's wish to destabilize the USA. The extent of Villa's role as an abettor of German interests and receiver of German aid is still very much in question, but the idea would not seem to be in contradiction with his opportunistic tendencies.

Villa has been represented in films by himself (1912, 1913, 1914), Raoul Walsh (1912, 1914), George Humbert (1918), Phillip Cooper (1934), Wallace Beery (1934), Juan F. Triana (1935), Domingo Soler (1936), Maurice Black (1937), Leo Carrillo (1949), Pedro Armendáriz (1950, 1957, 1960 twice), Alan Reed (1952), Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr (1958), José Elías Moreno (1967), Ricardo Palacios (1967), Yul Brynner (1968), Telly Savalas (1971), Hector Elizondo (1976), Freddy Fender (1977), Gaithor Brownne (1985), Pedro Armendáriz, Jr (1989), Antonio Aguilar (1993), Jesús Ochoa (1995), Carlos Roberto Majul (1999), Mike Moroff (1999), Peter Butler (2000), Antonio Banderas (2003)