Pancho Villa was born Doroteo Arangol in Durango on June 5, 1878, the son of a
field labourer. As an adolescent Villa became a fugitive after killing a man
who assaulted his sister. Fleeing to the mountains, he changed his name and
became a bandit.
In 1910 he joined the rebellion led by Francisco Madero, which was
successful. When Madero was assassinated in 1913 Villa formed an army several
thousand strong which came to be known as the Division del Norte - the
Division of the North. He fought on the side of Venustiano Carranza and the
Constitutionalists against the new dictator, General Victoriano Huerta.
They won a decisive victory in June 1914 and entered Mexico City in triumph.
However, the rivalry between Villa and Carranza caused a schism and Villa had
to flee to North Mexico, but continued in guerilla warfare.
In 1916 Villa killed 16 American citizens in Santa Isabel and attacked
Columbus in New Mexico, and President Woodrow Wilson ordered troops into
Mexico to capture Villa. The expedition pursued him for eleven months but was
ultimately unsuccessful, due to Villa's familiarity with the terrain and also
his popularity with the Mexicans.
Carranza was overthrown in 1920 and Adolfo de la Huerta's government granted
Villa a pardon, on the condition that he would give up his guerilla tactics.
Villa retired to a ranch in Parral, Chihuahua. He was assassinated there on
June 20, 1923.
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Chambers Biographical Dictionary