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Hidalgo del Parral



July 20, 1923: Shots ring out from the building on Avenida Juárez in downtown Hidalgo del Parral, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. A 1921 Ford, driven by the retired revolutionary General Francisco “Pancho” Villa, crashes against a tree. Villa, riddled by at least 15 gunshot wounds, dies almost instantly. Villa is the target, but not the only casualty: retired Colonel Trillo and three others also perish.


The building from which those shots were fired is today a museum (Museo Pancho Villa) chronicling the life, campaigns and death of Chihuahua’s most famous adopted son. But Hidalgo del Parral has a history much beyond that of Pancho Villa. Founded in 1631 as a mining center, the city still has over 500 buildings of historical importance, ranging from churches to a hotel once owned by Pancho Villa himself. There is the Casa Griensen, home of the heroine Elisa Griensen. With rifle in hand, she led a group of women and children in resisting the invading United States Army in 1916. The old La Prieta mine—which extracted gold, silver and zinc for almost four centuries—now offers guided tours into its inner chambers.


Every year in July, a several-week long cavalcade through Chihuahua traces the movements of General Villa’s legendary División del Norte army. The celebration includes art and photographic exhibits, music, dances, theater, round table discussions, lectures and other events reflecting the culture and history of the Mexican Revolution.


The city cemetery holds a great mystery, the locals say. The day after he was gunned down, Pancho Villa was buried here, but several times his grave was defiled. After his head was stolen (some say it is in the possession of Yale University´s secret society, Skull and Bones), his family decided to move his body to an undisclosed grave. Years later, an unknown woman died and some say the mayor decided to have her buried in the former Villa site. In 1976 the Mexican government ordered Villa’s remains to be moved to the Revolution Monument in Mexico City where they supposedly rest today.


The winds pass through the streets of Hidalgo del Parral, around the spires of colonial churches, through the old mines, bespeaking the centuries of the blood spilled into the sands imprinted by the footprints of the swift Rarámuris. By listening and following its touch, one comes to understand the history of Mexico from the days of Spanish rapine to the Mexican Revolution—and even to this modern day.

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