Our meeting with this man in the little town I can’t name, took place some days after *we robbed our first bank in Mexico*. In the few days after our successful robbery I was feeling good, and so were my men. We relaxed in the evenings by having good dinners in restaurants, and afterwards going to bars to drink tequila and speak with locals to get more of the lay of the land.
Fortunately for us, most locals in bars we drink in can speak reasonably good English. However, to show I’m not the typical gringo, I speak in Spanish whenever initiating conversation with a local, who, invariably, answers in English, no doubt detecting that my Spanish is very rusty. And it is, because I’ve hardly spoken it since the very early 1960’s, when I was a military attaché at the British embassy in Washington, from where I’d fly at weekends to Mexico City to see Dolores, my Mexican inamorata, *of whom I’ve previously written*.
Concerning the meeting with the man I’d earlier mentioned, I can do no better than quote from what I wrote in my diary immediately after the meeting. To aid clarity, I refer to my interlocutor as “Jose”.
I, with Mikey Squeaky and Freddy, am sitting at the counter of xxxx’s (name deleted) bar. A man seats himself next to me. We begin talking. After some small talk, he (“Jose”) says, I know all about you. What do you mean, I say. I mean, he says, that there’s an international warrant for your arrest, and for the arrest of your men here.
How do you know this?
I’m the police chief in xxxxx (name deleted). I know all that goes on around here. I know you robbed the bank down the road in xxxxx (name deleted). I know you are an Englishman who was a soldier long ago. I know about the men you and your compadres killed north of the Rio Grande. You want me to go on?
You say you’re the police chief? Show me your badge.
I see that Mikey Squeaky and Freddy, who can hear what’s being said, have moved to behind “Jose”. I see also that other men, hombres, have surrounded Mikey Squeaky and Freddy. There are more of them than us.
You want trouble, amigo?
I motion my men back to their bar stools. The other men then move away.
I’m gonna tell you a story. I’m descended from Doroteo Arango. You heard of him?
You heard of Pancho Villa?
You Ingleses. Ignorant like Americanos. Doroteo Arango and Pancho Villa were the same man. Pancho was a big man around these parts when you were sólo un adolescente, just a young punk, no? Pancho was born poor, real poor. Not like you, amigo, who had inside your mouth when you were born la cuchara de plata, the silver spoon.
Is there nothing “Jose” doesn’t know about me?
Pancho was born a campesino, a peasant, on a hacienda. When he was un adolescente his father died and there was no-one to support his mother and little brothers and sisters. So Pancho had to work in the fields to feed the family. One day Pancho came home from the fields and found the hacendado, the hacienda owner, about to have sex with his, Pancho’s, young sister. He shot the hacendado dead with una pistola, a pistol.
Pancho took off for las montañas, the mountains, to escape the law. He joined a group of bandidos and soon became the leader. They stole cattle and robbed banks and trains. But they didn’t keep all the money for themselves. No, they gave lots of it to the poor people. So Pancho and his bandidos were like, how do you call him, Robin Hood, in your Inglaterra, England.
But even you can see, amigo, that there was no future for Pancho in, how do you say, this line of work. Sooner or later the rurales, the police, would catch him and put him before the firing squad. Now luck fell Pancho’s way, because his qualities as a leader of bandidos were needed by the men who were planning una revolución, a revolution, against the corrupt dictator Porfirio Diaz. You heard of him?
Sort of. When exactly was all this?
1910 and 1911. Didn’t you read about it in your English newspapers? You were old enough to read newspapers, no?
I was, but the foreign news was mostly about Germans, not Mexicans.
Over the next few years in Mexico there was lots of political unrest and lots of fighting which you, un Inglés, will find confusing if I go into it too much. I’ll just say that Pancho Villa, my revered ancestor, was, how you say en inglés, in the thick of things. Hundreds of men flocked to his banner because he was such a brave fighter and skillful leader.
What gives me special pride as Pancho’s descendant is that on March 9th 1916 – a day emblazoned in the hearts of all Mexicans – Pancho, with 400 men, crossed into los Estados Unidos, the United States, and attacked the town of Columbus New Mexico. Having such a small force, he couldn’t help eventually being driven out. But his crossing the border and attacking the mighty United States was a such a change from the Americanos always humiliating us. Even you will know, amigo, that they had taken half the land of Mexico and made it part of los Estados Unidos. At the very least, Pancho gave the Americanos a bloody nose at Columbus New Mexico.
Of course the Americanos, being Americanos, they didn’t, how do you say, take this lying down. They sent many thousands of their soldiers into Mexico to try to catch Pancho, but they couldn’t because Pancho was too smart for them. He was the clever matador and the Americanos were the charging bulls. The Americanos tried for a whole year to catch Pancho. Then they gave up and went home.
Consider yourself privileged, amigo, not only to be in the state of Chihuahua, where Pancho Villa lived all his life and fought his battles, and where he died; but that you should be talking to me, one of his descendants. You are lucky it was me who caught you because I admire you. Like Pancho, you have killed Americanos and been a bank robber, and the American police have chased you for over two years, as Pancho was once chased by the rurales, and later by the Americanos.
We’ll talk some more, amigo. I must go now. Meet me tomorrow, same time same place. Don’t try to escape. My men will be tracking you everywhere. Hasta mañana.