24. A Last-Minute Reprieve From the Firing Squad
The Mexican rebels’ alliance split after victory, because the new government failed to enact promised land reforms. Pancho Villa was made a brigadier general, and he supported the new government against his former comrades. Then he struck a superior general during a quarrel and was sentenced to death. In an unexpected twist in a life full of unexpected twists, Villa was saved from the firing squad at the last moment by the arrival of a telegram from Mexico’s president, ordering his imprisonment instead.
Villa escaped and fled to the US. He secured American support, and returned to Mexico in 1913 to fight against a new government that had seized power in a coup. Villa again achieved considerable success, and local military commanders appointed him governor of the state of Chihuahua. As governor, he confiscated grand haciendas, and broke them up into smaller plots which he redistributed to the widows and families of fallen revolutionaries. It was during this period that Villa gained international fame, and was depicted in the press as a romantic bandit-warrior who took from the rich and gave to the poor.