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Pancho Villa: Topics in Chronicling America

Originally portrayed as the "Robin Hood of Mexico", Pancho Villa was villainized in the American press and later assassinated in 1923. This guide focuses on the topic of "Pancho Villa" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Appearance of the real Villa." (Top Left) "Studio picture of Villa in his uniform as a Constitutional officer." (Top Right) "Villa is seen in the midst of some of his horsemen at a wayside camp." (Bottom) April 1, 1916 El Paso Herald. HOME EDITION (El Paso, TX), Image 13. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Francisco "Pancho" Villa is wanted "dead or alive" by American troops after Villa's army of bandits murder 16 Americans in a raid on Columbus, New Mexico, on March 10, 1916. Known at first as a "Robin Hood in Mexico," the American press later portrays Villa as a brutal villain "thirsting for blood" as war rages along the Mexican border. At the end of the Mexican Revolution, after his army dwindles, Villa negotiates an amnesty with the Mexican government and retires his military pursuits in 1920, only to be assassinated in an ambush three years later in 1923. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic, and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


June 5, 1878 Born Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula in San Juan del Rio, Durango, Mexico.
1910 Pancho Villa joins Francisco Madero against dictator Porfirio Diaz.
1913 When Madero is overthrown, Villa joins with Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza to oppose the dictatorship of Huerta. Forms own army, the Division del Norte. Serves as provisional governor of the state of Chihuahua.
1914 Villa splits with Carranza, who has assumed the presidency.
March 9, 1916 Raid on Columbus, NM, allegedly initiated by Pancho Villa in retaliation of the change in US allegiance from him to Carranza.
1916-1917 “Punitive expedition” lead by Brigadier General Pershing is sent into Mexico with 3,000 US troops. Villa eludes capture. Pershing is called back when the US enters WWI.
1920 Villa is granted amnesty and retires to a ranch in northern Mexico.
June 20, 1923 Villa assassinated in Parral, Chihuahua.