Griggs: Dateline – Villa Tangara, Panajachel, Guatemala

By DAVID H. GRIGGS, Chaosopher
Foreign Correspondent
Los Alamos Daily Post

“Come South for Gold and Glory!”

What a tantalizing call to action: “Come south of the border and ride with Pancho Villa, the Liberator of Mexico!”

I was ready for a change. The brutal campaign season just ended in the States. The Wall was going up. My meager Social Security pension fund was about to be looted. And on top of that, winter was thrusting its cold shoulder onto the stage.

“Enlistments Taken in Juarez, Mexico.” Perfect – I was on my way across the Rio Grande, anyway, to build a house in Ciudad Juarez with a group from Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church, under auspices of Missions Ministry.

“Weekly Payments in Gold to Dynamiters, Machine Gunners, and Railroaders.” OK – I received a well-rounded liberal arts education. Those subjects weren’t in the curriculum, but if you hum a few bars I should be able to play it by ear.

The chance to ride with Villa was a dream come true. I majored in Latin American history in college, and was captivated by Pancho Villa. Bandit, revolutionary, and general, he headed a raid into the United States at Columbus, New Mexico, in 1915, and then led General “Black Jack” Pershing and the American army on a merry chase through northern Mexico in the years just before World War I. 

Back in Juarez: After three days, the new house was built. A family who had been living in a one-room, dirt floored, windowless, tarpaper shack now resided in a three-room house with windows, electricity and insulation.

When the rest of the group got in the church van and headed north. I went to the bus station and headed south. Ahead of me was an eight-hour bus ride to the city of Chihuahua, which glories in the memory of its favorite son, Pancho Villa.