La muerte de Pancho Villa (The Death of Pancho Villa) (1974)

 

 

Director:    Mario Hernández.

Starring:    Antonio Aguilar (Pancho Villa), Jaime Fernández, Ana Luisa Peluffo, Flor Silvestre, Eleazar García, José Carlos Ruiz, Ernesto Gómez Cruz, Enrique Lucero, Bruno Rey, Arsenio Campos.

 (no English subtitles)

 the murder of Pancho Villa, 1923 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of almost the entire movie. 

Reporter Llergo and photographer Sosa arrive in the town of Parral.  They thank Colonel Lara for helping them get an interview with Pancho Villa.  The Colonel tells the reporters that they will have to go to Canutillo, Villa's hacienda given to him by the government, in order to talk to the man.  When they arrive Villa is participating in a big dance party in the square.  Villa meets with the three men.  Llergo tells Villa that they are staying for 2 or 3 days, but Villa wants them to stay longer in order for them to see everything.  After all:  "There's a lot to see."  They agree. 

The next day the reporters with their equipment ride horses over to see Villa.  Sitting around a table, Villa introduces some of his family members.  Then he gives them a tour of the hacienda.  He is very proud to show them a school he constructed.  He is very interested in improving the education of the children of his own family and his neighbors. 

Llergo looks at Villa's book case to see some of the titles.  He is rather impressed seeing as how Villa never really went to school.  Recently he has been able to learn how to read.  The men sit down in comfortable chairs and Villa starts talking about his past.  He says it all really began in 1910 with the start of the Mexican Revolution.  His fervent desire was to fight for the cause of the poor against the wealthy.   Then he talks about the time he met Francisco I. Madera who later became president of Mexico.  Villa really admired and liked Madero.  Remembering Madero and his latter assassination, Villa cries and has to wipe his eyes with a big red bandana. 

Now General Huerta (responsible for the death of Madero and the establishment of a dictatorship in Mexico) was a man he did not like.   Huerta imprisoned him for insubordination and was going to execute him.  But at the last minute his life is spared by an intervening Colonel.  But Villa is still in prison.  A clerk at the prison tells Villa about his plan of escape for him.  One day the boss leaves work and the clerk remains behind working.  He then closes the doors and starts to file the lock off the prison gate.  He has Villa dress up in clothes exactly like the ones his boss wears to work and he is able to walk and talk with Villa all the way out all of the gates and out to the street where they are picked up by an escape car.  Five days later Villa escapes to the United States. 

At Canutillo Villa scolds and then slugs a man who he felt was cheating a good man, a man who fight for the Revolution.  The fellow is tempted to draw his gun on Villa, but thinks better of it as many rifles are pointed at him.  He would never have gotten off a shot.  Villa tells his men to put away their guns and challenges the man to draw on him, but the fellow declines.  Villa says to him:  "You are not the man for Villa."  

Llergo tells Villa that many have called him a great man, a mixture of Simon Bolivar and Napoleon Bonaparte.  This leads Villa to think about the lots and lots of battles in which the Division of the North earned glory for themselves.  The great battle for him was Zacatecas where he broke the back of the government troops that allowed him and Zapata to enter the capital with their fighters.  It spelled the end for Huerta and Madero was avenged.   

(There is a confrontation between Villa and a military officer but I did not catch the officer's name.  All I know is that Villa is extremely angry at the man and calls him a traitor.  My Spanish still has a long way to go.)

Villa shows the reporters his collection of weapons.  He then takes them into the fields, where the photographer takes a picture of Villa and Llergo together.  Villa talks more about some of the major players of the Mexican Revolution. 

When the report is published in El Universal, Villa's followers are not happy at what their chief said to the reporters.  Villa is angry too, but defends his statements that after having sacrificed so much for the Revolution, he should be able to speak his mind clearly.  And the one-armed President General Obregón also does not like the report.  There is the fear that Villa might get militarily involved in future political disputes between rival politicians.

The fellow who Villa slugged at Canutillo now plans the assassination of Pancho Villa.  He gathers together about six men who would be happy to see Villa eliminated.

A woman shows up who is mad at Villa for not seeing her for some time.  Villa lies and tells her that he was just looking for her.  He tells a man named Frijitoto  not let anyone bother him and he takes the woman to a back room.  His wife shows up, but Frijito will not let her pass.  She tells the guard to tell Villa that she is waiting for him, then gets thoroughly disgusted and leaves. 

Villa wants to pay a visit to Parral.  The assassin speaks with two higher ups about the plan to kill Villa.  Villa goes to Parral.  A spy sitting in the square sees his car pass by.  The man walks across the street and to a door, obviously to report the event.  Villa takes the woman he hid from his wife to a house and tells her that this is her house.  He and she go in and close the door. 

The assassins are waiting in a rented room.  They put a lookout on the street to warn them of when Villa's car approaches. Villa's car comes back and the lookout gives the sign to shoot, but all of a sudden a bunch of school children rush out to surround Villa's car in order to speak to the hero.  The assassination attempt is foiled 

Back at Canutillo, Villa has a flashback to the Battle of Celaya, which proved devastating for the Division of the North.  He remembers riding through part of the battlefield littered with dead bodies.

The assassins are waiting for Villa again.  At home Villa tells his wife he is going into Parral to collect some money.  She tells him to watch himself.  One of the assassins remembers a horrible experience tied in with Villa.  His house is burned and we see him kneel while crying. 

Villa's escorts come out first.  Villa comes out and gets in the driver's seat.  He starts driving.  Once again he passes the lookout man who takes off his hat to the passing car.  The assassins open up on the car killing everyone.  Villa is riddled with bullets. 

 

Pretty good movie.  But you would have to know something about the Mexican Revolution in order to enjoy the movie fully.  Antonio Aguilar as Pancho Villa does a good job.  He played quite a few roles of men involved in the Mexican Revolution.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

See Viva Villa! (1934).

 

Alvaro Obregón is the president of Mexico, 1920-1924. 

Plutarco Elías Calles is the president of Mexico, 1924-1928. 

 

1920

July 28  --  Villa signed an agreement with provisional president Adolfo de la Huerta to retire from politics.  Villa accepted amnesty and became a private citizen.  In return he got a 25,000 acre ranch in Canutillo, Durango (just across the border from Parral, Chihuahua). He also got a pension and could keep his elite guard of 50 dorados ("golden ones") (his cavalry) for protection, at the hacienda of El Canutillo. 

 

1922

April 30-May 5  --  Regino Hernández Llergo arrives in Canutillo along with photographer Fernando Sosa and his wife Emilia and stays six days.  He talks with Villa several times. Francisco Pińon Carvajal, Villa's adopted son and right hand man, is present at several of the conversations.

June 12-18  --   Hernández Llergo publishes in El Universal a report on Villa's life in Canutillo generated from the Villa interviews.  The publication of the report causes worry among the politicians who think that Villa may re-involve himself in politics. 
 

1923

Pancho Villa is in retirement. 

March  --  Villa writes a long letter to El Universal saying that for more than a year and a half, Jesús Herrera (one of the last male members of the Herrera clan to survives Villa's attempt to wipe out the family) has been attempting to assassinate him. 

April 18  --  Villa writes to Álvaro Obregón and Calles asking for help with controlling Herrera. 

?????  --  some of Villa's men entice Herrera's would-be assassins Primitivo Escarcega and another man into a brothel and kill them. 

May 9  --    Obregón finally writes back to Villa thanking him for his caution in the matter and saying he will look into it.  Herrera stops his public attacks on Villa. 

July 2  --  the brother of Salas Barraza gives an anonymous letter to Amaro about killing Pancho Villa. 

July 7  --  Salas Barraza writes a letter to Amaro telling him of his plans to kill Villa.  He writes that the reason for this is that Villa is planning another uprising.  He asks Amaro for monetary help and a commitment to help his family if something should happen to him.  Amaro informs Calles of these plans. 

July  --  a planned assassination of Villa thwarted by the presence of hundreds of children exiting from a school adjacent to the hideout of the assassins. 

July 19  --  Villa spends time in the town of Parral collecting some money.  He feels very secure in town. 

July 20  --  commander of the city garrison Lara and his men leave Parrral for the nearby town of Maturana.  (There is some evidence that this was a deliberate decision so that the garrison would be conveniently out of town.) 

July 20  --  Villa decides to leave Parral and go home to Canutillo. 

Villa drives his car.  With him in the passenger seat is his secretary Trillo.  In the back are the chauffeur and Villa's assistant Daniel Tamayo.  Along with them are three escorts: Rafael Medrano, Ramon Contreras and Claro Hurtado. 

The car reaches the intersection of Benito Juarez and Gabino Barreda and a man there raises his hand in salute to Villa and yells "Viva Villa!"  The man is the lookout to give the assassins a heads-up that Villa is approaching the intersection.  The assassins are waiting in an apartment at the junction of the two streets.  The assassins open fire when Villa slows the car to make a turn at the intersection.  The assassins fire more than 40 shots at the car.   

Pancho Villa  --  nine bullets kill him instantly.

Secretary Trillo, the chauffeur,  and assistant Tamayo   --   killed instantly. 

escort Medrano  --  shot in the arm and leg; rolls under the car and plays dead.  He dies later.

escort Hurtado  --   tries to escape but his exit is blocked; when he turns around he is shot and killed by one of the assassins. 

escort Contreras  --  badly wounded but is able to kill one of the assassins before escaping.  He is the only survivor of the assassination plot.

In no hurry whatsoever, the assassins take their time leaving town. 

July 21  --  Villa buried with a procession of thousands of Parral residents. 

2 and 1/2 weeks after the assassination  --  Salas Barraza claims that he was the only one who ordered and organized the assassination of Villa.  (The evidence indicates that this was a lie to protect those higher up.)  Obregón and Calles give a sigh of relief. 

September 13  --  Salas Barraza is sentenced to 20 years in jail.  (But three months later he is pardoned by Governor Enríquez.)  None of the other assassins are accused, arrested or detained. 

Many years later it was determined that although Salas Barraza was one of the assassins, he was not the main organizer.  The guy with the actual idea was Melitón Lozoya.  This man had been the administrator of Canutillo and had sold large parts of the estate for his own profit.  Villa found out and threatened him with reprisals up to the possibility of killing him.  Lozoya recruits eight men at a small ranch named La Cochinera.  The assassins rented the house from which came the shots that killed Villa. 

Evidence indicates that both Obregón and Calles were involved in the plan, but it is not known which one was the most involved plotter.

Source: 

Friedrich Katz, The Life and Times of Pancho Villa.  Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1998.  
 

 

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