Villa, Francisco (known as Pancho ), the assumed name of Doroteo Arango (1877–1923), a Mexican outlaw and revolutionary leader. He played a prominent role in the overthrow of the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz in 1911 and led guerrilla cavalry during the period of violent political turmoil that followed. During much of his lifetime Villa was also the leader of a bloodthirsty bandit gang, but the poor generally regarded him as their champion. In 1966 the Mexican Senate, after a stormy debate, declared Villa an official Hero of the Revolution.
Villa was born in the state of Durango. At the age of 16, after killing a man who raped his sister, he became a robber and cattle rustler and took the name of Francisco Villa, a bandit of former days romanticized by the people of the region. In 1910 Villa joined the forces of Francisco Madero and the following year helped to overthrow Díaz. In the ensuing struggle for power, Madero was assassinated and Villa joined with Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza to oppose Victoriano Huerta, who had assumed the Mexican presidency. After Huerta was driven into exile, the victors fought among themselves, and Villa was forced into political retirement to the state of Chihuahua, long his home area.
Villa was angered when the United States recognized the government set up by Carranza, and on March 9, 1916, in retaliation, raided Columbus, New Mexico, killing 18 persons and burning part of the town. Brigadier General John J. Pershing was sent into Mexico in pursuit. Villa eluded capture, and the Pershing Expedition was withdrawn early in 1917. Villa continued his bandit and guerrilla activities until 1920, when Carranza was overthrown. He then made peace with the Mexican government, which gave him a large ranch in Durango to keep his good will. He was murdered by unknown assassins.