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Searching for the Real Pancho Villa


Who was Pancho Villa?
Savior or outlaw? Saint or sinner?
One thing is certain. Francisco (Pancho) Villa is synonymous with the Mexican Revolution and a leader whose notoriety crossed borders.

Whether he was working the fields as a sharecropper or outsmarting his opponents by placing sombreros in strategic places among the hills surrounding a battlefield to give the illusion of a great army, Pancho Villa was a man from humble beginnings who rose to historical prominence.

In the paperback book published by Cinco Puntos Press titled The Face of Pancho Villa: A History in Photographs and Words by Friedrich Katz, Pancho Villa the man, the revolutionist and the womanizer is revealed in simple, straight-forward text and through a collection of black-and-white photos tracing Villa from his early days in the Mexican Revolution to his death by assassination at the hands of federal officials.
The life of Pancho Villa is condensed into 23 pages that retell how Villa entered the world of outlaws only to transform himself into a Mexican version of “Robin Hood” who fought against the wealthy elite of the country to provide for the poor.
Providing insight into Villa’s life, from the many children he fathered out of wedlock to creating one of the finest schools in the country that serviced the children of peasants and laborers, the book’s text draws a more complete picture of Villa.
We learn that while he executed those he captured, he also always spoke out for the poor. Seemingly cruel but compassionate at the same time, Villa was clearly a soldier who abided by the rules of war while never forgetting what the fight was about.
Through the text and the grainy photos showing a man with a ready smile (in an era when stone-faced poses were the norm), and a mischievous glint in his eye, Villa comes alive for readers.
It is also becomes clearer as to why, to this day, Villa is still heralded as a hero among Mexico’s poor in popular corridos like the following:
Pobre Pancho Villa.
Fue muy triste su destino.
Morir en una emboscada.
Y a la mitad del camino.
Ay, Mexico está de luto.
Tiene una gran pesadilla.
Pues mataron en Parral
al valiente Pancho Villa.
Poor Pancho Villa.
His fate was a sad one.
To die in an ambush
in the middle of the road.
Ay, Mexico is in mourning
It has a great nightmare
Because they killed in Parral
The brave Pancho Villa.

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