Individual Impact From Across All Corners Of New Mexico, These Four Changed State’s History

Date May 19, 2009 at 10:00 PM

Publication The Santa Fe New Mexican

Categories Local News & Sports

A benevolent rebel Pancho Villa Francisco ;Pancho; Villa, though not a New Mexican, is best remembered by this state for the raid he led against it. He was known as a benevolent rebel, fighting often on the side of Mexico's poor and marginalized. Villa, born in 1878, was a Mexican general who commanded the Northern Division of the Mexican army and ruled over the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Villa's successful guerilla campaign against the would-be dictator of Mexico, Victoriano Huerta, earned him the admiration and military support of the United States. Villa was so highly regarded that Texas banks traded in Villa's homemade money and U.S. Gen. John Pershing hosted him as a guest of honor at Fort Bliss. After Huerta's defeat in 1914, Villa's ally, Venustiano Carranza, defied the terms of the fragile peace and sparked the fire of yet another civil war. Villa broke from Carranza over his betrayal. President Woodrow Wilson declared that the interests of the United States best rested with Carranza, and cut off supplies of ammunition and arms to Villa. Villa, incensed, led one of the most daring cross-border raids in the history of the Southwest, commanding between 500 and 700 men in an attack against the tiny New Mexican border town of Columbus, on March 9, 1916. Villa's troops killed 18 Americans, including members of the U.S. 13th Calvary. It was only the second time the United States had been attacked by a foreign power on its own soil. President Wilson dispatched 10,000 troops and handful of warplanes to pursue Villa into Mexico, led by none other than Villa's former host Pershing. Though pursued by both Pershing's and Carranza's forces, Villa outmaneuvered and escaped them both. In 1920, after Carranza's assassination, Villa negotiated a peace with Adolfo De la Huerta. Villa, finally retired, was assassinated in July 1923. Explorer of the West Juan Bautista de Anza At the time of Juan Bautista de Anza's birth in 1736, Spaniards had staked their claim in New Mexico for more than a hundred years. Still, the territory between the Sonoran desert and Santa Fe was a wild, dangerous place. The son of a Sonoran desert garrison commander, Anza was a toddler when Apaches killed his father. He grew up determined to follow in his father's footsteps, becoming the captain of the Tubac Presidio, in southern Arizona, in 1759. (During his lifetime, he used Anza as his surname, not de Anza, evidently because of his Basque heritage.) Meanwhile, in California, the Spanish were struggling to maintain a presence against the encroaching British and Russians. Anza proposed opening an overland supply route from Mexico to Monterey Bay, where the Spanish were attempting to establish a permanent colony. Anza, guided by a colonized Native American, set out for California in January 1774. In three months, he and his small band crossed over the Colorado River and through the deserts of Arizona and Nevada down into the Los Angeles basin, a route that would in parts become the Spanish trail, linking New Mexico and California. A year later, Anza led a larger expedition of colonists all the way to Monterey, along the way mapping and naming vast swaths of land. This expedition led to the founding of San Francisco. In 1777, Anza was appointed governor of New Mexico. As one of his first acts he led a large military expedition of his soldiers, colonists and Pueblo warriors into southern Colorado to battle the Comanches. Outside of modern day Pueblo, Colo., Anza's force killed Cuerno Verde, the Comanche leader, and captured the tribe's women and children. The resulting peace with the Comanches allowed the Spanish colonists to spread farther north and east in the state. He served as governor until 1787, and died but a year later. A passion for art and culture Mabel Dodge Luhan Mabel Dodge Luhan was born into wealth and never left it. What she did leave behind when she came to New Mexico in 1917 was a child, an affair, a husband killed in a hunting accident and several years abroad in France and Italy, where she entertained the most notable artists and writers of the day. Luhan had broken with her second husband in 1912, and lingered in post-Europe despondency and lassitude in her New York apartment. Her hunger for purpose led her in and out of love affairs with both men and women, and, ultimately, to seek out and support the company of the people who believed that they had a purpose, or at least spoke eloquently of that desire. Within months she became noted for hosting lavish, intellectual parties with the nation's foremost reformers and thinkers. After her third husband, Maurice Sterne, left New York for New Mexico, he lured her to the desert with letters suffused with love and promises of purpose. ;Do you want an object in life? Save the Indians, their art, culture -- reveal it to the world!; he wrote to her. Shortly afterward, Luhan joined Sterne in New Mexico, but found Santa Fe too civilized, even in its gritty railroad days, and convinced Sterne to accompany her to Taos in 1919. There she met Pueblo Indian Tony Luhan, whom she married after an unceremonious split with Sterne. Her home became a beacon once more for the literary and artistic talent of the day, every day, for the next 40 years, and helped establish New Mexico and Taos as a center for the arts. Luhan took in and gave creative space to Georgia O'Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence -- who wrote about Luhan in his memoir Lorenzo in Taos -- Ansel Adams, Martha Graham and Carl Jung. Luhan herself was an active writer, posting dispatch after dispatch lauding the Southwest, its people, its culture, the subtle quality of its light. She also piqued the curiosity of wealthy and adventurous East Coasters, drawing them West.;I have no news,; she wrote to a friend. ;Nothing happens here but miracles.; Her home, now an inn and historical landmark, continues to act as a locus and amplifier of creative imagination. A shield for her tribe Lozen Born in the late 1840s, Lozen was a Chihenne-Chiricahua Apache, gifted, legend says, with the preternatural ability to sense the movement of enemy troops. Exiled from their homeland in southwestern New Mexico, Lozen fought alongside her brother, tribal chief Victorio, as well as Geronimo, earning renown and respect rarely granted to the fiercest of warriors, let alone a woman. Lozen, whose story is known only in pieces, emerged into the historical record in 1877 when Apaches confined to the wretched San Carlos Reservation rebelled and launched a series of raids against United States and Mexican forces throughout the lower Southwest. When a young member of the raiding party gave birth deep in hostile territory, Lozen escorted the mother and her child across Chihuahuan desert to the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico, stealing from, beguiling, and outwitting her Mexican and American pursuers. Upon arrival in New Mexico, she learned that her brother and most of his warriors had been ambushed and killed by Mexican forces near Tres Castillos in Chihuahua. Lozen again snuck through the enemy patrols and rejoined her decimated band. Inflamed by her brother's death, Lozen and the survivors left a bloody swath of vengeance through New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona, killing soldiers and civilians alike. With Lozen as their de facto leader, the survivors joined forces with Geronimo in the last campaign of the Apaches. She was beside him when the ragged band of warriors surrendered to the United States in 1886. Imprisoned and sent to Mount Vernon military barracks in Alabama, she contracted tuberculosis and died, buried in an unmarked grave.