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Pancho Villa

Outlaw / Revolutionary

Born: c. 1877
Died: 20 June 1923 (assassination)
Birthplace: San Juan del Rio, Durango, Mexico
Best known as: Legendary Mexican bandit
A hero to some and a villain to others, Pancho Villa was a brutal modern-day version of Robin Hood. Born a peasant, Doroteo Arango got on the wrong side of the law early; according to legend he shot to death a wealthy hacienda owner who had made advances on his sister. Arango fled into the mountains and then joined a gang led by Francisco "Pancho" Villa; when that Villa was killed, Arango took over his name and his gang. In 1910 the new Villa and his men joined the revolt against Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz. (Among Villa's fellow revolutionaries was another Mexican folk hero, Emiliano Zapata.) The revolution succeeded, but a few years later shifting alliances made Villa an outlaw again. Over the next decade he criss-crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, robbing and rustling cattle to survive, with armies from both sides unable to capture him. (One famous U.S. expedition was led by "Black Jack" Pershing and included future General George S. Patton.) Villa's sympathy for peasants and his early battles against the corrupt Diaz regime made him popular with Mexico's poor, and his exploits were heavily publicized in the U.S. and around the world. In 1920 Villa accepted a deal with a new Mexican government, laying down his arms in exchange for thousands of acres of land in Durango. He was assassinated three years later, though his killers were never captured.
Extra credit: Some sources say Villa was born in 1878 or 1879.

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