The 1910 Presidential Election in Mexico kept the incumbent President, Porfirio Díaz, in power, and sparked a revolution that lasted for roughly ten years (1910-1920). His policies were largely unpopular, and he was disliked by a growing number of Mexicans. His opponent, Francisco Madero, lost through election fraud, and subsequently started the Mexican Revolution. He attracted thousands of revolutionaries to his cause. Among the most notable revolutionaries was a man named Pancho Villa, a gunslinger who wanted to use his talents for fighting to further Madero’s revolution.
Villa’s personality changed over the years, especially after he became a commander in Madero’s army. However, this change in character may have been fashioned by Villa himself, in order to differentiate his life as a commander from his life as an outlaw, as well as to define himself as an outlaw rather than a bandit. The distinction between a bandit and an outlaw is thin. Bandits are generally looked down upon by the entire community, roam the countryside, and work only for their benefit. An outlaw is a criminal only to the government and works for the benefit of their community. Villa sought to become an outlaw through his actions. The goal of this paper is to explore Pancho Villa as a character that he created, and to view his actions as performative for this character. This character is defined by three key components: gunslinging, being an outlaw, and defending his honor.