Francisco "Pancho" Villa (aka Doroteo Arango)
Pancho Villa was born on June 5, 1878, in Durango, Mexico. His parents, Augustin Arango and Micaela Arambula were peons on the Rancho de la Coyotada, a large hacienda owned by the family of Lopez Negrete. His baptismal name was Doroteo Arango. There were a total of five children in the family. It is known that he did not attend school, but very little else is known about his childhood. Part of the legend that has grown up around Villa includes an incident that supposedly took place around 1894. Lopez Negrete, the owner of the hacienda, attempted to rape Doroteo's sister. In an effort to protect her, Doroteo shot Negrete in the foot. Following the incident, Doroteo fled the hacienda and was forced by circumstance to become an outlaw. Almost nothing is known for certain about this period of his life, but it appears that he was in and out of custody on several different occasions and eventually became skilled at evading capture first in Durango and later in Chihuahua.
As part of his efforts to evade capture, Doroteo decided to change his name. His father had been the illegitimate son of Jesus Villa, so Doroteo adopted the name Francisco Villa. (The nickname for Francisco is Pancho - hence Doroteo became "Pancho Villa.") On several occasions, Villa apparently attempted to give up the life of the outlaw and settle into one or another peaceful occupation. None of these efforts were successful and he always returned to a life of banditry. On one occasion, he was captured and forced to join the federal army as a private. He deserted sometime in 1902 and returned to banditry. More and more he concentrated his activities in Chihuahua and identified himself with the peasantry that felt that it was being oppressed by large landowners. There are many unverified stories of his having taken from the rich and given to the poor during this period of his life.
How, when, and why Villa transitioned from outlaw to revolutionary is much debated by scholars. Mexico had long been ruled by President Porfirio Diaz, but by 1910 the country was racked by considerable discontent with his rule. In Chihuahua, discontent was intensified by a severe economic downturn that had started in 1908. Francisco Madero emerged as a rallying point for the opposition to the Diaz regime and, in November 1910, called for revolution even though he decided to remain in Texas. On November 21, 1910, Villa led a small group of revolutionaries to victory at San Andres in the very first battle with federal troops. Not a significant military event, but of considerable importance from a political point of view. Several other battles followed and Villa's importance as a military leader increased dramatically. A number of other revolutionary leaders emerged and began following divergent objectives. On February 14, 1911, Madero entered Mexico to take control of the revolution.
Madero's forces led by Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa captured Ciudad Juarez on May 10, 1911. The treaty that Madero negotiated with the government following that victory called for a provisional president to oversee new national elections. Villa objected to the treaty, feeling that complete victory was within Madero's grasp and resigned from the revolutionary army in protest. He set up a business in Chihuahua City, married Luz Corral, and maintained a respectable lifestyle, even though some of his detractors maintained that he was simultaneously carrying on clandestine illegal activities.