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PostRe: MEXICO: Pancho Villa (Dick Hancock, US) (John Eipper, USA, 02/05/06 9:11 pm)
Pancho Villa's death mask ended up in the Museum of the Revolution in Chihuahua, where it is not on view. Why? I view Pancho Villa as an illiterate bandit, but some view him as a brave revolutionary who promoted education. Can Dick Hancock tell us how the people of people of Chihuahua view Pancho Villa today? Are the authorities afraid that if his death mask were put on display it migh?t become a cult object, or conversely that is might be mutilated or destroyed? Dick replies: I can state categorically that Pancho Villa is extremely popular in Chihuahua today. I don't think any politician, even a "Panista", would want to speak ill of Villa. Privately, but not publicly, I have heard a good deal of personal hatred expressed toward Villa. It all depends on whether your family suffered personally from Villa's antics.
The annual Pancho Villa Trail Ride, gathering 800 horsemen from many parts of Chihuahua and northern Mexico and even from Texas, is a continuing demonstrtation of Villa's popularity. A great many political figures, including mayors of many cities in Chihuahua and even the governor, join in this trail ride, which terminates at Parral on the anniversary of Villa's assassination on July 23, 1923. Parral hosts these people with a week-long fiesta at this time as do all of the towns and villages along the route of the trail ride, where the participants camp for the night. There is always a Pancho Villa impersonator, a la Elvis Presley, who participates in the ride. I know of at least five monuments to Pancho Villa, including four in Chihuahua and even one in Columbus, New Mexico, at the Pancho Villa State Park! There are doubtless others in Mexico of which I am not aware.
The Museum of the Mexican Revolution in Chihuahua City gives a fairly balanced account of Villa, unlike its former existence as the home of Villa's wife, Luz Corral de Villa, when it was a shrine to Villa's memory. This Museum is operated by Mexico's department of defense. Villa gave them tremendous problems and they haven't entirely forgotten this. Friedrich Katz, in his Life and Times of Pancho Villa, published by Stanford, gives a good summary of the involvement of the Mexican government in the killing of Villa.
In researching for my book, Chihuahua II, More Images of Yesterday and Today, I discovered a new Villa atrocity involving the Hacienda Corralitos. According to E.C.Houghton, the manager of Corralitos, Villa killed cattle foreman Gregorio Polanco and his four sons at Corralitos shortly after his attack on Columbus on March 9, 1916. Houghton stated that, before hanging the Polancos, he tortured them to get information on the whereabouts of North Americans who normally resided at the ranch (Houghton had previously evacuated all of his gringo employees). In one letter, Houghton stated that during the torture episode, Gregorio's wife threw herself a Villa's feet and begged him for her boys' lives. Villa stuck a pistol in her face and said, "Get away from me, you old hog, or I will kill you." It should be said that Houghton was not an impartial writer on Villa.
Incidentally, the University of Texas at Austin has an archive of fascinating letters which Houghton wrote to his employers, E. D. Morgan and Thomas Wentworth Peirce, in New York City. Houghton, who was from a pioneer New Mexico family, managed the Corralitos, then consisting of approximately one million acres, from 1885 until his death in 1928. The University of Texas archive is a story of one North American company's experience in developing a modern ranch in Chihuahua (it is located 25 miles north of Casas Grandes) and then losing it all in the Revolution.
The Wallace family now owns the Corralitos Hacienda headquarters and less than one-tenth of its original acreage. They have maintained the headquarters in its original nineteenth-century state. The present owner's grandfather, William Wallace, (he was a Scot, born in Ohio) pastured his cattle on the hacienda and ended up with the present ranch. The present owner, Bilo Wallace, is now the head of the Chihuahua Cattle Growers Association.
The Wallaces were able to survive the Mexican Revolution because they "went native" and all married Mexican wives. I think that it is not surprising that Mexicans would resent gringos who come to Mexico to enrich themselves and then return to the U.S as soon as possible. The Wallace men are all products of the famous Mormon school, Academia Juá²¥z, at Colonia Juá²¥z near Casas Grandes and have all received higher education in the U.S. They are absolutely bicultural and bilingual. The great grandson, William Wallace III, is the manager of the stock yard at Santa Teresa, New Mexico, which exports more cattle to the U.S. than does any other border station.. When he deals with an American rancher he is one of them and also has equal identity as a Mexican rancher. Casas Grandes boasts many bilingual, bicultural types such as the Wallaces. George Romney, former governor of Michigan and perenniel candidate for president, was born in Casas Grandes and also a graduate of Academia Juá²¥z.
Villa's death mask was given to the Museum of the Revolution by the Radford School, a private high school in El Paso. It is on exhibit at the museum, unless removed in the past year or so. I have seen it.
RH: The killing of th Polancos does not improve my opinion of Pandho Villa. He attacked Columbus, New Mexico, and killed several people as well as stealing. He escaped to Mexico, and General Pershing engaged in a vain hunt for him. Now there is a statue of this bandit in Columbus and a state park named after him! I understand that the local Mexican population are responsible. Where do their loyalties lie? A long time ago I visited Villa's home and met his widow.
Plan to attend the WAIS conference on "Critical World Issues " at Stanford July 31-August 1, 2006. It will be a rare opportunity to meet other WAISers. Tell interested friends.