"Pancho Villa crossed the border in the year of ought sixteen
The people of Columbus still hear him riding through their dreams
He killed seventeen civilians you could hear the women scream…"
Tonight We Ride Tom Russell
Doroteo Arango Arámbula (June 5, 1878 – July 20, 1923), better known as Francisco or "Pancho" Villa, was the first Mexican Revolutionary general. According to one version of his life story, at the age of 16 he shot an older man, the son of a big landowner, who had tried to rape Pancho's younger sister. After this, being pursued for murder, he escaped. During the following years, he first lived as an bandito, then worked his way up to a position as commander of a division.
As commander of the División del Norte (Division of the North), he was the veritable caudillo of the Northern Mexican state of Chihuahua; which, given its size, mineral wealth, and proximity to the United States of America, gave him great popularity. Villa was also provisional Governor of Chihuahua in 1913 and 1914. While he was prevented from being accepted into the "panteòn" of national heroes until some twenty years after his death, today his memory is honored by Mexicans and many people around the world. In addition, numerous streets and neighborhoods in Mexico are named in his honor.
Villa and his supporters, known as Villistas, employed tactics such as propaganda and firing squads against his enemies, and seized hacienda land for distribution to peasants and soldiers. He robbed and commandeered trains, and, like the other Revolutionary generals, printed fiat money to pay for his cause.
Following the murder of US citizens in Mexico and raids into US territory, Villa also made an enemy of the US, leading to a year long punitive expedition1 lead by General John J. Pershing. Despite a number of tactical sucesses the expedition failed to meet any of its objectives - such as neutralising Villa himself, forcing a decisive defeat on his forces or ending the border raids - although long term it appears that it may have seriously undermined the Villista's strategic position and led to them spending the rest of Villa's career (until his retirement in 1920) on the back foot against Mexican Government troops.
Despite extensive research by Mexican and foreign scholars, many of the details of Villa's life are in dispute.
Game and Story Use
- One of Pancho Villa's nicknames was "El Centauro del Norte", literally "The Centaur of the North". That suggests numerous ideas for gaming.
- In a secret history setting with occult themes, he might literally be or have the ability to become a centaur.
- Likewise, a mythago created from his legend and reputation might manifest in a centaur-like form.
- A fantasy game might feature a centaur leader of the leader of the rebellion, and perhaps subtly base his rebel group on Villa's Division of the North, as a reference to the famous Revolutionary General.
- Villa's life serves as an example of how an ordinary man, put in a dire situation, can rise to greatness or notoriety. Entire campaigns can be based around such a theme. See also The Hero's Journey.
- Villa himself could serve as The Aragorn in a largely historical / western game set in Mexico during the revolution.
- PCs could equally well serve under someone like Jack Pershing - many of those involved in the expedition (not least George S. Patton) later went on to greater things and the rather chaotic, shoestring nature of the campaign lends itself to small unit actions and individual acts of heroism. Punitive expeditions are not a new form of warfare.