Pancho Villa

(Columbus NM)
This very small town was made famous in 1916 when it was raided by the army of Méxican Revolutionary General Francisco Pancho Villa. It was the last invasion by a foreign military on the American mainland.

Hill with flag pole

Coote’s Hill Lookout at Pancho Villa

Cootes Hill, named after a soldier, was used during the day as a lookout to watch the border. However, on that fateful night, it  helped conceal the approach of the pre-dawn invaders on horseback. A small calvary garrison was taken by surprise and several soldiers and civilians were killed, before the Villistas were eventually driven off.

The raid prompted a military build up and a punitive expedition into México to capture Villa. However, he was never found. The campaign was the last use of the cavalry in action, and the first mechanized force by the USA with trucks, armored carriers and airplanes. It was lead by General Pershing, who incidentally had befriended General Villa earlier. And, a young Lieutenant George Patton was involved too.

Cactus patch with buildings beyond

Visitor Center, Customs House, RR Depot

Although an entire village block was burned down during the raid, a few buildings from that time still remain. Including what was the Customs Office and the RR Depot, which is now the Historical Museum. Pancho Villa State Park is built on land that was once part of Camp Furlong, and the first Army Airfield.

They have an annual festival that honors those that died in the skirmish, both American and Méxican. Just four miles south gets you across the border to the town of Puerto Palomas which caters to American tourists and those seeking inexpensive prescriptions, dental and eye care, and Méxican crafts.

Blooming cactus in garden

Cholla in bloom and desert garden

There are lots of desert gardens, which in the Spring, turns the park into a colorful display of blooms. While there is not a lot to do in the town, the park Visitor Center and the Historical Society Museum do a good job of telling their story.

Leafless tree in front of sunset

Sunset over the desert

A double burrito plate at the Patio Café provided the south of the border flavor for me. And, as the sun set on this sleepy little village, I began planning for my next camp. I learned a lot while there and enjoyed the warm temperatures and quiet desert.
Camp: Pancho Villa SP
Scene: Desert, gardens, history museum

5 Responses to Pancho Villa

  1. J. RICHARD SECOR January 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    Looks like a cool place! Don’t know if I would get that close to the Mexico border in that area!!

    • Pleinguy January 30, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

      No problem really. People go back and forth across the border, between Columbus and Puerto Palomas, all the time. It’s a fairly peaceful area; besides, the border patrol has a big presence to deter any mischief.

    • J. RICHARD SECOR January 30, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

      When we lived in New Mexico for 5 years 2007-2012, that area was a big crossing for lots of illegals – I would not trust it.

  2. Rob February 3, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    Can you walk across the border or do you need to drive?

    • Pleinguy February 3, 2014 at 1:12 am #

      There is a parking lot on the USA side of the border. So, you can park and then walk across. But, I suppose there are those that drive across too.

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