"It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees."
- Emiliano Zapata
The notorious outlaw who would come to be known as Pancho Villa was born in 1878 in a tiny rural Mexican town to dirt-poor parents indentured on an enormous hacienda owned by some rich jerk. When he was only fifteen years old his father died and he went to work as a sharecropper on the plantation, picking strawberries and shit for like two cents and hour and leading the miserable life of an underprivileged menial laborer who barely had enough cash to feed his hungry family. You see, back in the early 20th century shit in Mexico was really fucked up. All of the power was consolidated into the hands of a bunch of super-wealthy asshole haciendados who lived in these insanely huge houses and made millions of Pesos off what was essentially the slave labor of their employees. They climbed to the top on the backs of the poor, kicked puppies, ate babies, crapped in gold-plated toilets and did whatever they wanted to whomever they wanted at all times. Anybody who had a problem with that got stuffed face-first down the garbage disposal.
As a young man Pancho Villa didn't set out to change the entire economic and social structure of Mexico. He didn't grow up with grand, idealistic plans of bringing freedom to the oppressed and righting the wrongs that were being done to his people. He was just a regular guy. Then one day he came home from work to find the owner of the hacienda in the process of trying to rape his twelve year-old sister. This shit would not abide. Villa punched the dude in the mouth, kneed him in the balls, pulled out his revolver and shot the rat bastard right in his stupid face.
Needless to say, after this incident took place Villa needed to get the fuck out of town in a hurry. He kissed his family goodbye, grabbed two bandoliers of rifle ammunition, got on his horse and rode off to hide in the Sierra Madre mountain range where he joined up with a gang of awesome sombrero-wearing banditos who were sick and tired of being oppressed by The Man. This group of desperados rode around the countryside robbing wealthy haciendados, attempting to break the power of the oligarchy, and having crazy Robin Hood-style adventures. Over time the banditos elected Villa their leader, and thanks to his "rob from the rich and give to the poor" policies and his totally sweet moustache was viewed as a hero among the underprivileged peoples of Northern Mexico.
Then one day in 1910, an hombre named Francisco Madero decided he was going to incite a revolution in Mexico and overthrow über-corrupt Presidente-por-Vida Porfirio Diaz. Madero had heard of Villa's exploits, and recruited him to lead a cavalry force in the war. Villa agreed and bravely led his crack team of hardcore motherfuckers known as Los Dorados ("The Golden Ones") against Diaz's Federalist soldiers, crushing the undisciplined conscript troops in battle after battle, and recruiting malcontent citizens and army deserters into his ever-growing army. After only a few months, Madero's forces emerged triumphant and Diaz was removed from power. Some asshole tried to lead a counter-revolution against Madero, but Villa's cavalrymen quickly put him out of his misery by bashing him over the head with a sack full of beer cans and stuffing him into a hole in the middle of the desert.
But Democracy in Mexico wasn't going to be that easy. Almost immediately following the Revolution one of Madero's top Generales, a motherfucker by the name of Victor Huerta, decided it would be really awesome to be a total dick to everyone and seize power for himself. He murdered Madero, threw Villa in prison and declared himself Dictator of Mexico. What a cockmaster that guy was.
Well it takes more than four iron walls to hold Pancho Motherfucking Villa. He broke out of prison and immediately went to work living for revenge like a true badass. He crossed the Rio Grande in 1913 with eight men, two pounds of coffee, two pounds of sugar, and five hundred rounds of rifle ammunition with one thought on his mind - kill that motherfucker. His force marched towards Mexico City, recruiting deserters, mercenaries, idealists, and disgruntled peasants along the way, putting together a powerful fighting force known as The Division of the North. His army consisted entirely of cavalry, and he was one of the first military commanders in history to utilize the railroad as a means of rapidly transporting men and artillery across long distances so they could join battle more quickly. He purchased supplies and equipment from the United States, raising money by robbing trains and raiding haciendas, and won battle after battle against Huerta's men. After only a few months he liberated the state of Chihuahua and appointed himself provisional Governor. His legend grew among the people, who viewed him as a larger-than-life folk hero. One of the other benefits of being such a popular motherfucker was that he ended up getting married to twenty-six different women. To put that into perspective, I couldn't get twenty-six chicks to sign my fucking high school yearbook.
Villa's campaign for revenge against Huerta was quick and efficient. He won every battlefield engagement with the enemy, and his use of unorthodox guerilla tactics were more effective than a tack hammer to the groin. At the Battle of Tierra Blanca he hijacked an enemy locomotive, loaded it up with explosives, and sent it crashing into an enemy train depot, destroying tons of critical supplies. At Ciudad Juarez, he captured an enemy coal train, removed all the coal, loaded in his own guys, drove the train into town unscathed, then took over the town Trojan Horse-style. Perhaps his greatest victory came during the assault on the mountain fortress of Zacatecas, where his men charged up an incredibly steep peak and captured a heavily-defended fortress that, until that point, had been considered impregnable. Oh yeah, and fucking Zacatecas was also the home of one-third of Mexico's Silver Reserve, so this daring victory essentially broke the back of Huerta's war machine and ended up being more humiliating than standing in a crowded women's clothing store holding your girlfriend's purse while she's in the changing room. In a matter of weeks Villa entered the gates of Mexico City, linking up with fellow badass revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who had just finished kicking asses in Southern Mexico.
Unfortunately in addition to being the master of cavalry tactics, Villa was also the master of getting fucked over by assholes. No sooner had he entered Mexico City than some jerk named Carranza took over and kicked Villa out of town. Villa put his army back together and assaulted Carranza's forces, but he ran face-first into a new invention known as the "heavy machine gun", which cut his cavalry to pieces faster than a paper shredder from hell. Outnumbered, outgunned, and outfinanced, he was forced to withdraw to Chihuahua and regroup.
As he was preparing to gear up to take over the country for a third time, Villa once again asked the U.S. for help. This time, the Americans told him to get bent. They were going to support Carranza in this battle. Understandably, this really fucking pissed Pancho Villa off. In 1916 he took his cavalry and mounted the only successful foreign invasion of U.S. soil in the 20th century, riding into the town of Columbus, New Mexico, kicking the asses of the U.S. 13th Cavalry, and looting a shitload of guns and ammo before escaping back across the border.
This pretty much pissed off the Americans. A few days after the raid, a force of 6,000 U.S. Cavalrymen under the command of badass General John "Black Jack" Pershing crossed the border with the explicit purpose of fucking Pancho Villa's shit up. They turned over every stone in Northern Mexico, even going so far as to use aerial reconnaissance (the first time this tactic had ever been used by the U.S.), rabid bloodhounds and GPS satellites to triangulate his position, but they could not find Villa. It was as if he had completely disappeared. After months of searching, the Americans returned home empty-handed.
While it was a sweet feat of badassery to escape the likes of Black Jack Pershing, the inability to rely on the U.S. for support essentially killed Pancho Villa's hopes of re-building a viable fighting force with which to defeat Carranza's machineguns. However by 1920 Carranza had been deposed and replaced by new leadership, and Villa declared his retirement. His days of siestas and golfing didn't last long though, as he was assassinated in 1923 while driving in his car. That's just the way it goes sometimes, especially when you're really good at making enemies everywhere you go. In true badass fashion, his last words were: "Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something."
Pancho Villa was the first true revolutionary leader of the 20th century, and his tactics and strategies shaped the way that guerilla war would be fought in years to come. He was a valiant revolutionary, a badass general, and the sort of dude you really didn't want to fuck with under any circumstance. He took a small group of loyal followers and turned them Luke Skywalker-style into a powerful upstart rebel army capable of defeating the most seasoned regular soldiers, building himself into a larger-than-life legendary folk hero and champion of the people in the process.