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The Life and Times of Pancho Villa

Friedrich Katz

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ISBN 10: 0804730466 / ISBN 13: 9780804730464
Published by Stanford University Press, 1998
Used Condition: Used: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Life and Times of Pancho Villa

Publisher: Stanford University Press

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:Used: Good

About this title

Synopsis:

Alongside Moctezuma and Benito Juárez, Pancho Villa is probably the best-known figure in Mexican history. Villa legends pervade not only Mexico but the United States and beyond, existing not only in the popular mind and tradition but in ballads and movies. There are legends of Villa the Robin Hood, Villa the womanizer, and Villa as the only foreigner who has attacked the mainland of the United States since the War of 1812 and gotten away with it. Whether exaggerated or true to life, these legends have resulted in Pancho Villa the leader obscuring his revolutionary movement, and the myth in turn obscuring the leader. Based on decades of research in the archives of seven countries, this definitive study of Villa aims to separate myth from history. So much attention has focused on Villa himself that the characteristics of his movement, which is unique in Latin American history and in some ways unique among twentieth-century revolutions, have been forgotten or neglected. Villa’s División del Norte was probably the largest revolutionary army that Latin America ever produced. Moreover, this was one of the few revolutionary movements with which a U.S. administration attempted, not only to come to terms, but even to forge an alliance. In contrast to Lenin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and Fidel Castro, Villa came from the lower classes of society, had little education, and organized no political party. The first part of the book deals with Villa’s early life as an outlaw and his emergence as a secondary leader of the Mexican Revolution, and also discusses the special conditions that transformed the state of Chihuahua into a leading center of revolution. In the second part, beginning in 1913, Villa emerges as a national leader. The author analyzes the nature of his revolutionary movement and the impact of Villismo as an ideology and as a social movement. The third part of the book deals with the years 1915 to 1920: Villa’s guerrilla warfare, his attack on Columbus, New Mexico, and his subsequent decline. The last part describes Villa’s surrender, his brief life as a hacendado, his assassination and its aftermath, and the evolution of the Villa legend. The book concludes with an assessment of Villa’s personality and the character and impact of his movement.

Review:

The historical figure known as Pancho Villa, hero of the Mexican Revolution, is shrouded in considerable mystery. His enemies presented him as a bandit and murderer, one who thought nothing of slaughtering innocent civilians and looting their villages. His followers considered him to be something of a Robin Hood forced to take action against the government only after stoically enduring its oppression for years. And hagiographers have assigned to Villa an important role in shaping the Mexican Revolution--an uprising that he joined somewhat late. That he was a bandit Villa never denied, but he protested being called a murderer: he killed only when attacked or betrayed, he said. Elements of many other stories made their way into American government reports, however, and went on to color the historical record. (That government, under the administration of Woodrow Wilson, took a considerable interest in Villa after he led an armed raid on the little New Mexico town of Columbus, making off with weapons and supplies.) University of Chicago historian Friedrich Katz carefully separates what can be reliably said about Villa's life from the tidbits of legend and celebration, and the extensive picture of Villa that he gives us (his book weighs in at nearly 1,000 pages) is no less interesting for all his debunking. Students of Mexican history will find much of value in Katz's researches. --Gregory McNamee

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