On June 21, 1916, the Mexican military attacked elements of the U.S. 10th Cavalry at Carrizal, a city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The clash occurred during the punitive expedition carried out by General Pershing in pursuit of the guerilla leader “Pancho Villa.”
Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula preferred to be called Francisco Villa, or “Pancho Villa”. And who could blame him for that? Doroteo is no name for a true revolutionary.
Today, in Mexico, Pancho Villa is honored. He is remembered as a modern Robin Hood. North of the border he is known for the (in)famous raid on Columbus, New Mexico where he burned down the town, captured horses and supplies and killed 18 Americans in the process.
Soon, Villa was on the run from both U.S. Cavalry and Mexican government forces. General Pershing crossed the border and chased the man for 11 months, long enough to annoy the locals incessantly but not to capture Villa.
In the end the Mexican army moved in and cooler heads in Washington decided to deescalate the tension. The American soldiers were recalled in February 1917.
What made President Wilson abandon the pursuit of Villa?
One month earlier, the U.S. Government had received a telegram intercepted by the British intelligence. In it, Germany asked Mexico to join the Central Powers in exchange for Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Mexico wisely decided to ignore it, but the telegram helped Woodrow Wilson make the case for war with Germany. The Americans went to war in Europe and Pancho Villa was forgotten.
Villa kept a lower profile until 1920, when he received amnesty from the Mexican government. He was assassinated July 20, 1923 while driving an American made Dodge. Viva la Revolucion!
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