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Pancho Villa


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Pancho Villa Essay, Research Paper

By the turn of the century, Profirio Diaz’s regime had not only been marked by notable achievements, but also

by brutal tyranny. Under Diaz, the finances of Mexico were stabilized, and country experienced an unprecedented

economic development. Foreign capital, especially American, was invested in the exploitation of the country’s

mineral resources; the mining, textile, and other industries were constructed; and the foreign trade increased about

300 percent. On the other hand, foreign investors drained great part of the country’s wealth. Much of the ancient

communal lands (ejidos) of the Native Americans, where poverty and illiteracy were widespread, was in the hands

of a relatively small number of landowners. The “haciendas” could reach up to eight million acres at times and

controlled the lives of many. Manifestations of the resulting social discontent were suppressed by Diaz with an iron

hand until the revolution of 1911. After years of growing up on a “hacienda,” Doroteo Aranga learned to hate

aristocratic Dons, who worked he and many other Mexicans like slaves. Even more so, he hated ignorance within

the Mexican people that allowed such injustices. At the young age of fifteen, Aranga came home to find his mother

trying to prevent the rape of his sister. Aranga shot the man and fled to the Sierra Madre for the next fifteen years,

marking him as a fugitive for the first time. It was then that he changed his name from Doroteo Aranga to

Francisco “Pancho” Villa, a man he greatly admired.

Upon the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911 against the Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz, Villa

offered his services to the rebel leader Francisco I. Madero. During Madero’s administration, he served under the

Mexican general Victoriano Huerta, who sentenced him to death for insubordination. With his victories attracting

attention in the United States, Villa escaped to the United States. President Woodrow Wilson’s military advisor,

General Scott, argued that the U.S. should support Pancho Villa, because he would become “the George

Washington of Mexico.” In August of 1914, General Pershing met Villa for the first time in El Paso, Texas and was

impressed with his cooperative composure; Pancho Villa then came to the conclusion that the U.S. would

acknowledge him as Mexico’s leader.

Following the assassination of Madero and the assumption of power by Huerta in 1913, he returned to join the

opposition under the revolutionary Venustiano Carranza. Using “hit and run” tactics, he gained control of northern

Mexico, including Mexico City. As a result, his powerful fighting force became “La Division Del Norte.” The two

men soon became enemies, however, and when Carranza seized power in 1914, Villa led the rebellion against him.

By April of 1915, Villa had set out to destroy Carranzista forces in the Battle of Celaya. The battle was said to

be fought with sheer hatred in mind rather than military strategy, resulting in amass loss of the Division del Norte.

In October of 1915, after much worry about foreign investments, in the midst of struggles for power, the U.S.

recognized Carranza as President of Mexico. When Pancho Villa learned of this he felt betrayed by President

Wilson and assumed Carranza had signed a dangerous pact with the U.S., putting Mexico in United States’ hands.

As a result, this set the stage for a confrontation between the U.S. and Pancho Villa. Hence, the United States put

an embargo on Villa, not allowing him to purchase guns, ammunition, equipment, etc., in American border towns.

His transactions were, thus, made illegal, which automatically doubles his price. Considering his shortages, troops

through harsh terrain to Aagua Prieta. Villa assumed it would be poorly protected and by capturing it, he would

create a buffer zone with the U.S. to transport arms in his campaigning efforts. Too his surprise, Agua Prieta was

heavily protected, because Wilson had allowed Carranza to transport5000 Mexican troops to American soil, which

had arrived before Villa. The trains of soldiers forced Villa’s tired horseback troops into retreat. The U.S. was

delighted when Carranza declared Villa done for good. Consequently, Carranza invited old U.S. investors (from

before the Revolution) to invest again.

On March 9th 1916, Villa crossed the border with about 600 men and attacked Columbus, NM killing 17

American citizens and destroying part of the town. Because of the growing discrimination towards Latinos, the

bodies of Mexicans were gathered and burned as a sanitary precaution against “Mexican diseases.” A punitive

expedition, costing the U.S. about twenty-five million dollars, dispatched and about 150,000 troops to be mobilized

in efforts to capture Pancho Villa, who was now known as a bandit in U.S. territory and a hero to many in Mexico.

The Tenth Cavalry, which was made up of African-Americans and headed by Anglo-American officers, were labeled

the “Buffalo Soldiers” because they were tough men who would punish the Mexicans. This was first time the

United States used heavily armored vehicles and airplanes, which in turn served as a practice run before W.W.II.

General John Joseph “Blackjack” Pershing had already earned a respectable name in the U.S. with his service in

the Apache campaign, 1886; Sioux campaign, 1890-91, Cuba 1898, and in the Philippines from 1899-1903.

Therefore, he was assigned to head the Punitive Expedition, an attractive assignment. His mission objective, as he

understood it, was to bring Villa in dead or alive.

On March 16th, the New York Times reported, “When Word Was Given, All Were After Villa.” The

expedition included new machinery, which the American people were not familiar with yet. Tanks weighing up to

four tons, along with the production of trucks and planes, were the reason for the deaths of many American soldiers

who did not know how to operate them. None-the-less, Pershing ordered many pilots to board and land as he

wished. Villa’s troops did not have uniforms, so wherever American troops traveled, they paralleled the route.

Hence, their survival was based on their familiarity with the land. Towards the end of March, Pershing established

his headquarters 125 miles south of Chihuahua. Pershing realized how strong Pancho Villa’s countrymen supported

him and his raids, when he was met with dramatic hostility and resentment. In actuality it is ostensibly logical to

believe that the hostility was due to fear of foreign powers on their territory. Most of the blood spills were amongst

townspeople and Carranzista troops, because Pershing’s troops never caught sight of Villa.

On the second day of April of 1916, Pershing received word of what was supposed to be Villa’s hiding place.

Major Hank Tomkins, commander of the thirteenth cavalry was ordered to Parral, which is about 410 miles south

of the U.S. border. This was the deepest penetration of U.S. troops into Mexico to look for Villa. The townspeople

responded by saying that the Americans were invading them and Mexican families. When two tired American

soldiers decided to bathe in a public fountain of the humble and conservative, town, the children began to throw

stones at them. As the chaos grew into an uproar, the Mexican people began to retaliate and shots fired.

Carranzista troops trying to stay away to avail battle, were not too far off and joined the retaliation. The American

troops retreated sixteen miles way in a small village. With the death of a few Americans, Pershing was outraged

and decided to counterstroke. In support, the American people demanded a full-scale invasion of Mexico. Within

two months, more than 150,000 troops were on active duty from Texas to California; this was the largest military

duty since World War I. After many weeks, Mexico began to pressure Carranza more decisively against the

Punitive Expedition. Carranza, claiming Pancho Villa was no longer a dangerous threat, formally demanded the

retreat of American troops. Wilson refused, which lead to a full-scale war between Mexico and the United States.

On the morning of June 18th, 1916, the commander of the tenth cavalry arrived in a small town named

Carrizal, saying they would have to pass through the town to reach their ordered destination. Carranza refused,

proclaiming his uncertainty of the peoples reactions to such an event. The commander of the American troops

refused to go around and began to march on through, firing at those who refuted. To the surprise of many

Americans, the captain was killed along with about eighty men of the tenth cavalry, claiming fourteen Americans

killed and twenty-four taken prisoners. As a result, Wilson prepared a letter to Congress demanding a full-scale

war and an ultimatum was sent to Carranza, demanding the release of all American prisoners, which Mexico had

already threatened to kill. Within days, all prisoners were released and all international bridges were seized.

Although Carranza was finished, Pancho Villa was not ready to throw in the towel. Thus, he prepared for a series of

attacks to come. General Pershing reported to Wilson of Villa’s repeated violence, but Villa continued, capturing

many towns held by Carranzista forces. On January 1917, Pancho Villa gathered his forces to capture Toreon. In

the end, hundreds of his men were dead and his defeat was seized upon by Wilson as a convenient way out of the

problems in Mexico. The U.S. would then prepare to withdraw, declaring the Punitive Expedition a success,

although they failed to ever capture Villa. After the overthrow of Carranza in 1920, Villa formed a truce with the

new government by laying down his arms in exchange for land and amnesty. He then retired to a ranch near Parral,

Chihuahua, where he was assassinated by political enemies in 1923.

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