Pancho Villa's Finger

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Long ago I rode my motorcycle from Arizona down through Chihuahua province and near Ciudad Chihuahua I stopped in front of a hacienda once owned by Pancho Villa. His widow, very old and wrinkled, knitted as she sat by the door, taking a peso or two from visitors who wanted to browse through the place. Rather dusty, its curtains worn, it was a relic of a time when Mexicans believed the future was theirs. But then came the PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party, and the name says it all. Once "revolution" becomes institutionalized, corruption is not far behind. Mexicans still await their future after the "revolution." As for the finger, it wasn't there. No jar with it pickled inside. Just dust, and sun-bleached furniture.

Villa was born a peasant in 1878 as José Doroteo Arango Arámbula.  Charismatic and smart, he rose through the ranks to become a caudillo, a leader of men, in the División del Norte during the Mexican Revolution. With his troops he raided Columbus, New Mexico in 1916, and looted and burned the town while fighting the 13th US Cavalry.  The US Government sent General John J. Pershing into Mexico in hot pursuit of Villa.

After marching deep into Mexico, Pershing and his troops could not find Pancho.  Soon, Black Jack Pershing led the America Expeditionary Force, the doughboys, onto the killing fields of No Man's Land in WWI.  They came back without Villa and he kept all his fingers.

Pancho lasted until 1923. Driving his 1919 Dodge roadster back to his ranch, he passed a school in Parral and on cue a pumpkin seed vendor ran toward him, shouting Viva Villa!  Seven riflemen ran into the road  and fired over 40 shots into the automobile. He was probably murdered on the orders of Plutarco Elías Calles, a rival for Presidential candidacy. The roadster can be viewed at the Historical Museum of the Mexican Revolution in Chihuahua. 

Villa's last living son, Ernesto Nava, died at 94 in Castro Valley, California in 2009.

A pawn shop in El Paso, Texas had for sale for more than $9,000 what was claimed to be the right index finger of Pancho Villa, one of the leading figures of the 1910-1917 Mexican Revolution.

"Years ago someone offered us this finger, and though we don't know if it's the real thing or not, we thought it was interesting and decided to preserve it here in our shop," David Delgadillo, manager of Dave's Pawn Shop in El Paso, said. More

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