Lesson Overviews: Corridos About the Mexican Revolution Students will be introduced to causes of the Mexican Revolution and key revolutionary figures through the study of a particular Mexican song form, the corrido.
Form and Theme in the Traditional Mexican Corrido Students will analyze the themes and literary devices used in the traditional Mexican musical form of corridos.
Pancho Villa, once a terrorist, now celebrated in New Mexico By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY 9 March 2011 Updated 24m ago
In 1916 this was ground zero, target of a cross-border raid by Pancho Villa that killed 18 Americans, enraged the nation and almost started a war with Mexico. Which is why today, standing on Villa Hill in Pancho Villa State Park, looking toward Pancho Villa Café, Pancho Villa Lounge and Hacienda Villa Motel, and thinking about the coming "Raid Day" fiesta, the unimaginable suddenly seems imaginable: Lower Manhattan in 2096, as tourists visit Osama bin Laden State Park, where they learn how the Muslim militant planned the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, how he eluded U.S. forces, and why he hated America. It's outrageous, far-fetched and much like Columbus today, says Richard Dean, whose great-grandfather was killed when 500 Villa soldiers hit this border town on March 9, 1916, during the Mexican Revolution. It was the worst foreign attack on the continental United States — until Sept. 11, 2001. That day, "I thought, 'That's what happened here!' " says Dean, president of the Columbus Historical Society. Except for the scale of destruction, he says, the parallels "are mind-boggling": a sneak attack by a foreign insurgent who sought revenge for perceived injustices, and then vanished into forbidding terrain. In this 10th anniversary year of 9/11, with renewed danger south of the border, the legend of Pancho Villa is a testament to the mutability — and the circuitousness — of history. A terrorist in 1916, a tourist attraction in 2011. Villa's photo (often his Columbus police wanted poster) adorns countless cantinas and taquerías across the nation where he once was as reviled as bin Laden is now. He personifies daring, rebelliousness and a good time. It helps explain the growing popularity here of one of the most ironic events on the calendar, the Cabalgata Binacional Villista. On Saturday, as every year, about 100 Mexican horse riders, following Villa's invasion route, will cross the border and parade into Columbus. At their head: a Pancho Villa re-enactor. The event's organizers call it a celebration of American-Mexican friendship; Dean and his supporters say it overshadows the solemn memorial service the historical society holds each March 9. "My great-grandfather did nothing to Pancho Villa. There was no reason for him to be killed, other than he was an American," says Dean, who has long sought to get the state park renamed. He says Villa was a terrorist. Yet Villa is admired by many in this town of about 1,800 people — especially among those of Mexican descent, who make up a majority of the population. Sheriff Raymond Cobos' grandfather was a young orderly in Villa's army. Municipal Court Judge Javier Lozano, whose great-uncles were officers under Villa, knew Villa's widow, who was made an honorary citizen of Columbus. "You can't judge a historical figure based on contemporary values," says Alex Mares, manager of the state park. "You judge them in the context of their time." Besides, he says, with violence in northern Mexico scaring away visitors and border traffic today, Villa's name "catches people's attention. It draws them to the park." One afternoon this month, Paul Fraley came by the park office to donate an Army service medal belonging to his late father, who was in Gen. John Pershing's "Punitive Expedition" that chased Villa after the Columbus raid. Fraley doesn't recall his father ever having a bad word for Villa. "I can see why he was a hero. He wanted to change things," Fraley says. "Americans hate people who attack them, but they like underdogs." Pancho Villa rides again It's hard to say what's more amazing: That when Villa raided Columbus he already was a folk hero in America, or that after the raid he eventually became one again. By 1915 Americans knew all about how Villa had risen from virtual serfdom and subsequent banditry to become a leader of the Mexican Revolution against the dictatorial President Porfirio Díaz; how Villa's army repeatedly defeated better equipped, more numerous Mexican government forces; how he was feared by the rich, worshiped by the poor and loved by many senoritas. He cut a dashing figure on horseback with his sombrero, bandolier and moustache. He signed a contract with a Hollywood studio to film his battles, and used the proceeds to supply his army. As revolution turned to civil war, Villa was a favorite of the U.S. government. But in 1915, after Villa lost several battles to his rival, Venustiano Carranza, Washington recognized Carranza's regime, and allowed it to move troops by rail through U.S. territory. Villa, volcanic under the best of circumstances, was apoplectic. On Jan. 8, 1916, 18 U.S. businessmen were massacred by Villa's men in a train robbery in northern Mexico. It was not the first or last of Villa's atrocities; he personally shot a priest who begged for clemency for his villagers, as well as a woman who blamed him for her husband's death. Then Villa turned on Columbus, a bustling town with a railroad depot, three hotels, a bank, a drug store, several general stores, a U.S. custom house and an Army camp. The latter was designed to forestall just such an attack. Despite numerous warnings, the Army was unprepared when the Villistas charged in before dawn, burning, looting and shooting. Finally the cavalry used machine guns to turn the tide, killing scores of the invaders. When the Villistas retreated to Mexico, eight U.S. soldiers and 10 civilians were dead, including a man attending a Sunday School conference and a pregnant woman. Americans were shocked. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner called Mexico "a bandit nation" and police cracked down on Mexicans in several Western U.S. cities. National Guard units around the nation were called up and sent to the border. Under intense political pressure, President Wilson ordered 10,000 men into Mexico. The Punitive Expedition became a sort of dress rehearsal for U.S. operations in World War I. For the first time, the Army used airplanes and motor vehicles, including primitive tanks, in combat conditions. But it could not find Villa, who dispersed his forces and, after being injured, may have hid out and recovered in a cave. When Pershing withdrew a year later Villa made a comeback, rebuilding his army and winning some victories against Mexican opponents. In 1920 he retired with the Mexican government's blessing to a ranch in Chihuahua State. On July 20, 1923, while driving his black Dodge sedan, Villa was ambushed and killed by assassins. Their lookout signaled his approach with his old battle cry, "Viva Villa!" Life after Pancho After the Punitive Expedition ended and the Army camp closed, Columbus began a long decline. In 1959, to try to boost tourism, the state opened the park and named it for Villa. In life, he'd tried to destroy the town; in death, maybe he could save it. By now, Villa's reputation in America was fully restored. To the poor, he was a Robin Hood; to the Left, a freedom fighter; to the Right, a self-made man; to Hollywood, a swashbuckling matinee idol; to Mexican immigrants spreading across America, the general who'd bested Pershing. In 1988, Richard Dean retired to Columbus, drawn in part by his family's history there. He recalled his grandmother's description of the raid: Her father, hearing shots, had gone to check his grocery store. His son found his body in the street, "shot like a dog," as his wife put it. Dean found James T. Dean's name on an overgrown desert tombstone, and Pancho Villa's on a sign over the park entrance. "I felt this was strange," he recalls. "Why name a park after a man who sacked the town and killed people?" After 9/11, he became convinced the park's name should be changed, but a campaign to pass a bill to do so fell short. Dean calls the Cabalgata, with its Villa re-enactor, "un-American." But it's also a high point of the year in Columbus. The Mexicans are greeted at the border by a group of American riders, including Judge Lozano dressed as a U.S. cavalry officer. Together, bearing their nations' flags, they trot to the Columbus plaza for a program that includes horse tricks and Mariachi music. Thousands come from around the region. "This was our big historical moment. What better opportunity for a party?" asks one of the organizers, Linda Juarez. "Especially now," she adds, referring to the situation in Mexico. The Cabalgata's local sponsors, however, don't want to appear to celebrate Villa's attack. Although March 9 was long called "Raid Day," says Glenda Sanchez, a local school teacher "we're trying to get away from that name." Across the border Palomas, Mexico, just across the line from the U.S. Port of Entry, once was popular with Columbus residents seeking inexpensive food, drink, entertainment, cigarettes, prescription drugs and medical procedures. But drug cartel violence there has reduced traffic across the border to a trickle. Ivonne Romero owns the Pink Store, which sells craftwork from around Mexico. A few years ago, there were lines to get in on weekends; now, she says, "we're just hanging on." In the town plaza, she points out the gazebo where people going to Mass one Sunday morning last August found three severed heads, and the corner where the mayor was kidnapped in October 2009. His body, riddled with bullets, was found in a burned-out car near town. Outside City Hall is a larger-than-life statue of Pancho Villa on horseback. A military vehicle rolls by, filled with federal soldiers carrying automatic rifles; since the police chief sought asylum across the border, they've been the law and order in Palomas. Columbus Mayor Eddie Espinoza says he was getting a root canal in Palomas when his dentist was robbed at gunpoint. He was in the chair at the time. "That gun looked very big," he recalls. Since then he hasn't crossed the border as often. Columbus, in contrast, has relatively little crime, and most people say they feel safe. Even illegal immigration has diminished, thanks to a weaker U.S. economy and tighter border security, including a wall along the international line and a Border Patrol highway checkpoint north of Columbus. But Mayor Espinoza says people have moved to Columbus from Palomas, people with no apparent source of income and nice homes, big cars and plenty of spending money. Sheriff Cobos says some seem to be involved in the drug trade, "plying their nefarious business by cellphone." Despite recent incidents elsewhere along the border, including the slayings of an American missionary and a U.S. federal agent, Columbus residents reassure themselves that the drug cartels would never invite law enforcement attention on the U.S. side of the border. Meanwhile, Columbus's museums have reminders of what happened in 1916, such as the bullet holes in the door of the bank's vault and in the front seat of one family's roadster. The state park shows visitors a documentary film made decades ago, when a few of the Villa raid's survivors were still alive. After telling the bloody story, the narrator concludes that in Columbus today, "There's nothing to worry about any more — just sandstorms from time to time."