Villa, Francisco

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Villa, Francisco

(fränsēs`kō vē`yä), c.1877–1923, Mexican revolutionary, nicknamed

Pancho Villa.

His real name was Doroteo Arango.

When Villa came of age, he declared his freedom from the peonage of his parents and became notorious as a bandit in Chihuahua and Durango. His vigorous fighting in the revolution of 1910–11 was largely responsible for the triumph of Francisco I. MaderoMadero, Francisco Indalecio
, 1873–1913, Mexican statesman and president (1911–13). A champion of democracy and social reform, he established various humanitarian institutions for the peons on his family's vast estates in Coahuila.
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 over Porfirio Díaz. When Victoriano HuertaHuerta, Victoriano
, 1854–1916, Mexican general and president (1913–14). He served under Porfirio Díaz. After the revolution of Francisco I. Madero (1911) he aided the new president, who, reluctantly, made him (1912) commander of the federal forces.
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 overthrew Madero (Feb., 1913), Villa joined Venustiano CarranzaCarranza, Venustiano
, 1859–1920, Mexican political leader. While senator from Coahuila, he joined (1910) Francisco I. Madero in the revolution against Porfirio Díaz.
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 and the Constitutionalists in the fight against Huerta. The Constitutionalists met with continual success. Villa, at the head of his brilliant cavalry, Los Dorados, gained control of N Mexico by the audacity of his attacks; Huerta resigned in July, 1914.

Antipathy and suspicion had always existed between Villa and Carranza; now, with their common enemy eliminated, an open break occurred after the Convention of AguascalientesAguascalientes,
city (1990 pop. 455,234), capital of Aguascalientes state, central Mexico. The city is a pleasant health resort, noted for its mineral waters and vineyards. Its industries include railroad repair and the manufacture of textiles.
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. A bloody contest ensued, with Álvaro ObregónObregón, Álvaro
, 1880–1928, Mexican general and president (1920–24). A planter in Sonora, he supported Francisco I. Madero in the revolution against Porfirio Díaz.
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 taking the side of Carranza. In the midst of chaos, Villa, with Emiliano ZapataZapata, Emiliano
, c.1879–1919, Mexican revolutionary, b. Morelos. Zapata was of almost pure native descent. A tenant farmer, he occupied a social position between the peon and the ranchero, but he was a born leader who felt keenly the injustices suffered by his people.
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, occupied Mexico City (Dec., 1914) but later evacuated the capital (Jan., 1915). Obregón pursued Villa, and their armies engaged at Celaya (Apr., 1915). Decisively defeated, Villa was driven north and out of military significance. In the winter of 1915 he campaigned disastrously against Plutarco E. CallesCalles, Plutarco Elías
, 1877–1945, Mexican statesman, president (1924–28). In 1913 he left schoolteaching to fight with Álvaro Obregón and Venustiano Carranza against Victoriano Huerta.
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 in Sonora.

Villa's waning power was further diminished by President Wilson's recognition of Carranza (Oct., 1915), which angered Villa. In Jan., 1916, a group of Americans were shot by bandits in Chihuahua, and on Mar. 9, 1916, some of Villa's men raided the U.S. town of Columbus, N.Mex., killing some American citizens. It is not certain that Villa participated in these assaults, but he was universally held responsible. Wilson ordered a punitive expedition under General Pershing to capture Villa dead or alive. The expedition pursued Villa through Chihuahua for 11 months (Mar., 1916–Feb., 1917) but failed in its objective. Carranza violently resented this invasion and it embittered relations between Mexico and the United States.

Villa continued his activities in northern Mexico throughout Carranza's regime, but in 1920 he came to an amicable agreement with the government of Adolfo de la HuertaHuerta, Adolfo de la
, c.1882–1955, Mexican revolutionist and president (May–Dec., 1920). As governor of Sonora, he broke with President Carranza and declared the secession of the state (1920).
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. Three years later Villa was assassinated at Parral. In a sense Pancho Villa was a rebel against social abuses; at times he worked a rough justice but he was a violent and undirected destructive force. His daring, his impetuosity, and his horsemanship made him the idol of the masses, especially in N Mexico, where he was regarded as a sort of Robin Hood. The Villa myth is perpetuated in numerous ballads and tales.


See biographies by W. D. Lansford (1965), O. Arnold (1979), and F. Katz (1998); M. L. Guzmán, The Eagle and the Serpent (tr. 1930); E. Pinchón, Viva Villa! (1933, repr. 1970); H. Braddy, Cock of the Walk (1955, repr. 1970); C. C. Clendenen, The United States and Pancho Villa (1961, repr. 1972); M. A. Machado, Jr., Centaur of the North (1988); F. McLynn, Villa and Zapata (2000).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Villa, Francisco


(Pancho Villa, pseudonym of Doroteo Arango). Born Oct. 4, 1877, in Rio Grande in the state of Durango; died July 20, 1923, in Hidalgo del Parral in the state of Chihuahua. Leader of the peasant movement during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17.

Villa played an important role in the overthrow of the dictatorship of P. Diaz in 1911 and in the suppression of the counterrevolutionary rebellion of P. Orozco in 1912. In 1913 he formed the Northern Division, which operated in the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. In the territory he controlled, land belonging to owners of large latifundia was confiscated and distributed to the peasants; industrial enterprises owned by reactionaries were also confiscated. Construction of schools increased. In December 1914, Villa’s troops and E. Zapata’s peasant detachments entered Mexico City. However, under the pressure of Carranza’s government troops, they left the capital in January 1915. During the US intervention in Mexico (1916-17), Villa participated actively in the struggle against the invaders. From 1916 to 1919 he carried on partisan fighting against the landlords and the Carranza government. In 1920 he withdrew from the revolutionary movement. He was killed by reactionaries. Villa’s image is reflected in a book written by J. Reed, who was a correspondent for American newspapers in Mexico during 1913-14.


Lavretskii, I. R. Pancho Vil’ia. Moscow, 1962.
Reed, J. Vosstavshaia Meksika. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from >English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.