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Revolution and Pancho Villa

     Mexico might blow up, and, if it did, repercussions in the US would be a hundred times more severe that those caused by Castro's revolution. This gives special interest to THE Mexican Revolution, which is the background of Mark C. Anderson, Pancho Villa's Revolution (Oklahoma University Press,, 1997, pp. 301). Revolutions have a strange appeal for some people, one being John Reed, whose Insurgent Mexico (1914) was a forerunner of his writing about the Russian Revolution. Stanford University Press recently published The Life and Times of Pancho Villa by Friedrich Katz who, as I know from my conversations with him, is fascinated by left-wing revolutions, especially the Mexican one. Anderson himself reveals his sympathies when he says that the científicos, who wanted to modernize Mexico, were responsible for lowering the standard of living of the Mexican masses. There is no proof of this. On the contrary, they were pushing Mexico in the right direction.
     The great merit of Anderson's book is that it traces carefully US reaction to the Mexican Revolution and to Pancho Villa. He played the propaganda game as skillfully as Fidel Castro, but ultimately without success. If Mexico were to blow up, the same game would begin again, and this is a good reason to read Anderson's book. From behind the disturbances in Mexico there has emerged the Francisco Villa Patriotic Front, a shadowy organization which is using Villa as a symbol of revolution, rather like use of Che Guevara.
     Each country wants to have its native-born symbol of revolution. In the Bolivarian countries, Hugo Chaves has renamed Venezuela "the Bolivarian Republic...", while in Colombia, the FARC guerrillas have just created a political party named the Movimiento Bolivariano por la Libertad de Colombia. However the party is secret, so it can scarcely be called a political party. In any case, we should study the use of historic revolutionary figures in similar contemporary intrigues. I assume there is a study of the genesis of the Hollywood film "Viva Villa!", but I do not know it. If things go sour, Hollywood might have to make a film entitled "Muera Villa!".

Ronald Hilton - 4/30/00