The Patton and Pancho Project
Beginning in late 2014, research and pre-production activities began on the Patton and Pancho Project. The plan included the production of a documentary film on the March 1916 attack on Columbus, New Mexico by revolutionary Pancho Villa and the subsequent Punitive Expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Villa and his followers. Included in the project plan was a historical conference and a fifty-panel photographic exhibition to be convened in Tucson, Arizona with scholars presenting papers on topics related to the events at Columbus and in Mexico during the months following the attack. Arrangements were made for the premiere of the film, the exhibit, and the conference to be scheduled on the one hundredth anniversary of the attack on Columbus, March 9, 2016.
The Research Trail
In 2014 Dr. Vernon L. Williams was in Mexico City doing oral history interviews with two of Pancho Villa’s grandchildren and several historians whose specialty was the Mexico Revolution. In this Mexico City Update, Dr. Williams provided those who might be interested in supporting the film with a brief glimpse of his ongoing interview work in the Mexican capital and what lay ahead on the research trail.
“It was my objective to bring this early twentieth century story to life as the Mexican and American people struggled with life and death choices as the conflict played out on the desert of northern Mexico,” explained Dr. Williams. “These images and the film footage of 1916 Mexico had laid dormant for a century as the story grew cold and faded into the backdrop of history. It was important to take a fresh look at the history and make it assessable to people everywhere. On March 9th, 2016, we did just that. It was an exciting time for me, and I was grateful that many of the people who helped make the conference, the exhibition, and the film possible, were there that evening to enjoy the moment with me.”
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We have much to learn from the collision of cultures along the border as each nation sought to find its way in the new modern world. The Mexican people, desperate for freedom and justice, fought for a new democratic society where their children would have a future. The Mexican Revolution revealed the best and worst of what civil war can do to its people. Desperate and determined, ordinary Mexican families saw enemies all around as their world dissolved into chaos and war.
The Americans, both black and white, joined together in their quest to transform the old frontier army into something new: a new modern army equipped with motorcycles, trucks, aircraft, radio, railroads that are backed up by the industrial heartland of America. America’s future rests upon the experiment underway as Pershing chases Pancho Villa deep into the Mexican desert country, a future that eventually will lead them to battlefields in World War I Europe and later, across the globe as the military power of the United States scores a decisive victory against Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. It all began at Columbus, New Mexico as the Punitive Expedition triggered a transition that would take American power to Tokyo and Berlin three decades later.
The Patton and Pancho Project brought these stories back to life–important stories that we need so that we can understand our world today and to help us find our way.
The Conference and the Exhibition
The Conference and the Exhibition opened on Thursday, March 10th, following the premiere of the documentary film at the Arizona History Museum on Wednesday evening. The conference was a great success and added new scholarship to the body of knowledge on U.S.-Mexican relations on the eve of America’s entry into World War II.
The detailed program is available here: