Readers of “Dos Gringos” know that the infamous Pancho Villa is not a major character in the story. But surely his side of The Mexican Revolution is very much there, and represented by “The Hawk” who personifies the spirit of the revolution and is the savior of the common man for young Tomás. Villa killed his first man at 16, a man who had raped his younger sister. He worked in the mines near Parral, Chihuahua, where much of the “Dos Gringos” story takes place. He soon tired of the laborer’s life and added bank robbery to cattle rustling and murder on the list of crimes for which he was wanted by the Díaz government.
He joined Francisco Madero’s revolutionary forces, thereby making a historical transition from bandido to revolucionario. The charismatic figure was able to recruit an army of thousands. Villa also became something of a folk hero in the U.S, and Hollywood filmmakers as well as U.S. newspaper photographers flocked to Northern Mexico to record his battle exploits–many of which were staged for the benefit of the cameras. Villa ruled over northern Mexico like a medieval warlord. During fiestas the mustachioed legend would dance all night with female camp followers, although he didn’t drink. According to one of Villa’s last surviving widows, he officially married 26 times.
He attacked Juarez and my Norwegian grandmother, after she and my grandfather moved there to be near my newly wedded father, told me of Villa’s cannon ball landing in her front yard, which I remember was a quite small piece of ground.
In 1923 he was assassinated while returning from bank business in Parral. Today Villa is remembered with pride by most Mexicans for having led the most important military campaigns of the constitutionalist revolution. Don’t underestimate the respect his name still garners in Mexico. If Villa in not personally in “Dos Gringos,” his spirit surely is.
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