Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

“Pancho’s Sister,” a historical story poem by Arletta Dawdy

St. Francis of Assissi (I imagine him blessing Pancho’s Sister.)

While Arletta Dawdy researched her book HUACHUCA WOMAN, she read widely about the Mexican Revolution, visited Columbus, New Mexico and learned to admire Pancho Villa.

Arletta says, "Many controversies whirled around the man, including tales of his sister's fate and his response. Variously, we are told the hacendado came to claim her and Doroteo Arango shot him in the foot, was allowed to escape or killed the landowner.

"In another version, it was the son who raped and killed her and Doroteo sought him out, killed him and fled into the mountains to become a bandit.

"Then, there's the history book version of Columbus, NM. Most accounts claim he led the raid, but some say not only was he not there, but that Carranza made it appear Villa was at fault.

"I favor the last though by 1916, he had reason to be furious with the Wilson regime. The corridos were the newspapers, telegraph and internet of the day for illiterate folk in scattered villages and lonely outposts across Mexico. He continues to be revered today...south of our fractious border."

I'm pleased to present this most recent story poem by Arletta Dawdy. --JGR

PANCHO'S SISTER

Aiyee, mi hermano, is what they say true?
Across the land they sing their corridos of you.
Where is the Doroteo of our young days,
Tending the land under the sun’s scorching rays?

Our Papa toiled hard to make his way,
With scarcely a peso to be had in pay.
Put in the ground, no longer alive,
He left Mamacita and the five of us to survive.

Scrabbling for food, we nearly lost our pride.
In rags and hunger, we worked side by side,
The hacendado’s wealth to increase,
Never knowing when our own pain might cease.

Then came the day, the hacendado’s son came to call.
He took my soul, my virginity, my all.
And, now, I lie here in the dirt,
Never to know further hurt.

But, you, mi hermano, took my cause for your own.
In rage and sorrow, you raised full grown,
And at sixteen, you murdered that whelp
Never asking any others for help.

Into the mountains, you fled
And, oh, what a life you led.
They likened you to Robin Hood,
Taking from the rich to spread the good.

You learned of sweet freedom in the company of like souls,
And turned your sights toward greater goals.
Diaz and his ilk were finally to fall,
With promises from Madero of equity for all.

From this dark grave, I watched you thunder across the land.
Drawing women, children and men to your band.
While you raided and plundered, your fame spread about,
Until by the thousands, your name did they shout.

In Huerta’s dim jail, you had time to learn
More of reading and writing than where to turn.
Wanting land for the poor, and frijoles in the pot,
Education for all and free elections, like as not.
By rail and caballo, or Dodge touring car.
Over desert and mountain, to river and sea so far,
You roamed the land, and gathered wives to yourself,
Often leaving children and lovers on an emotional shelf.

A villain to some, like President Wilson and his sort,
You riled them all with your following court.
Herrera, Carranza, Obregon and Zapata, too,
Utlimately wanted nothing of you.

Each in his way tried to lessen your favor
But scheming and plotting only made you seem braver.
Then, at Columbus, New Mexico in ‘16
Carranza’s poor peasants, in Villista whites, turned mean.

Your name, General Villa, now smeared in American blood
Brought shame and outrage in bitter flood.
Pershing gave chase and into the mountains you ran
Until his army collapsed in the desert’s hot pan.

Wounded at Guerrero, you stopped to recover
And, then, to the field once again, you went as a lover.
Still seeking freedom for each lowly minion,
You stumbled and railed against public opinion.

Carranza was murdered and then, Zapata, too.
None has ever suggested it was you.
From the long struggle, you were tired and worn,
Until it was your body the bullets had torn.

My death may have sent you on your long path,
Doroteo, mi hermano, now we lie in earth’s sandy bath,
Knowing that our lives, so soon spent,
Accomplished more than even God meant.

Whether Doroteo or Pancho Villa, you are my brother,
Who sought to revenge me unlike any other.
Let the people sing out in freedom’s name,
Of the soldier, the leader, the man of great fame.

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12 Responses »

  1. Arletta, what a fascinating character study you present of these personages in history...breathing life into the history book figures.

  2. Bravo, Arletta -- I enjoyed your poem so much. My family and I spent six years in South Texas, and our daughters long ago tagged me "Mamacita." Your poem brought back memories, both fond and melancholy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Arletta makes learning history enjoyable.

  4. What a wonderful sense of place, time and people. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. A wonderful tale, Arletta. Reading your work always inspires me to use my creative energies.

  6. The poem is lovely and has a great story behind it. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  7. Such a touching, heartfelt saga of a left behind society who still stand tall in their quest for peace and justice. Keep up the good work, Arletta.

  8. Very touching and a wonder tale. Arletta knows how to make each word tell a story.

  9. YOU ARE AN INCREDIBLE WRITER I SO DEEPLY FELT YOUR HAND IN THE JOURNEY AND TALE OF PONCHO'S SISTER I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO READING MORE KEEP ME POSTED

  10. While many writers' Muses laze around on the beach all summer, I see Arletta's in place with a smile on her face. Another tour de force!

  11. Loved "Pancho's Sister". Going back to my school days (many years ago) in history class, wish I had your poems then to read. How enjoyable they would have made my history class, reading your historical accounts through your writings. Can hardly wait for your next poem.
    Keep up the writing---you have found your niche!

  12. I've finally read 'Pancho's Sister,' Arletta, and you should be proud of your words! Amazing skill you have of weaving a life's story into a few stanzas of poetry. Brava!

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