An Interesting Twist to an Old Story

We appreciate it when we receive comments and photos to share. From our story “Her Uncle Rode With Pancho Villa” we received many interesting comments by family members of people associated with Pancho Villa:

Crickett Quijada
Hi Lee, thank you for writing this article on my great uncle Ricardo Gonzalez with Francisco Villa and his wife Maria Luz Corral de Villa. He had three brothers. Jose, Simon and Daniel who was killed in WW11. Also he had three sisters, my grandmother Prajedes, Epifania and Isabel, all children of Estefana (Fanny) Gagen and Pedro Gonzalez.

Pancho Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez, great uncle of Bessie
Pancho Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez, great uncle of Bessie “Crickett” Quijada.

Alberto Gonzalez
Crickett is my cousin. I remember my Grandfather always with the funny hat and cane, I was with my Dad and my Grandfather (Ricardo Gonzalez) when this visit occurred

Rebecca Hughes
This is so cool, Ricardo was my Great-Grandfather and Crickett and Alberto are my cousins.

Matt Holguin
Ricardo was my great grandfather too! Small world!

Jonathan Corral
My family and I have been building a family tree of our family, the Corral’s, and since we only know of the Corral side. Everyone has passed away in our blood line from the elderly side and can only hope to find out more about Maria through her family or if we could find out if Francisco Villas side of the family happen to know more about Maria Corral. We have all been told by our (now deceased) grandparents that our family is related to Francisco Villas wife Dona Maria de la Luz Corral de Villa. I’m told my grandfather Joseph Louis Corral (born 1927) had a father named Leopoldo Corral (a Police Officer in Mexico and was assassinated as well) and his wife Maria Ortiz Figueroa Corral (born 1888). We know Maria Luz had a father named Jose de Jesus Corral, but we haven’t pin pointed exactly if she had any brothers our cousins. We’re told Leopoldos aunt was Maria Luz Corral.

Javier Solis
Jonathan my mother Alejandra Corral’s grandmother was Benigna Corral which was Luz Corral Sister. She still has memories of her grandmother and my grandmother (my mother’s mom) knew Luz Corral around Durango and Buena Sevi. My great great grandfather talked a lot about Pancho Villa.


Pancho Villa and Luz Corral de Villa Dona Luz Corral de Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez
Pancho Villa and his wife, Luz Corral de Villa, in 1914. Dona Luz Corral de Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez in 1967.


The California Native has been leading tours to Copper Canyon for more than 30 years. Located in the Sierra Madre Mountains, Copper Canyon is four times larger than the Grand Canyon. This area is rich in history from Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolution to the booming silver town of Batopilas.

We offer a full range of itineraries from small group escorted tours to worry-free adventures designed for the independent traveler.

An Unexpected & Very Sweet Surprise!

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Carol Schlafly, from Nashville, TN, wrote us about her recent escorted adventure in the Copper Canyon:

It was all just wonderful, food was great, all arrangements were just great, the hotels were great too! Rob [California Native guide] is wonderful — whatever we needed, he made it happen. Our al fresco lunch on the way to Batopilas was an unexpected and very sweet surprise.

I thought the prep work was great — wonderful info, all arrangements were very smooth, instructions were good. All the local guides and drivers were wonderful. A+ for all, lunch on the beach after petting the dolphins was great!

It was an adventure, we saw and did things I would not have ordinarily done, we saw some amazing terrain and some excitement along the way! Very exciting!

Rob Aikins is amazing. I could write a book on all the things he handled & how patient and understanding he was. His knowledge of the area and the contacts (he knows everyone) are fabulous. I would definetly recommend this tour to friends.

Carol Schlafly
Nashville, TN

Enjoying a picnic in Copper Canyon!
Enjoying a picnic in Copper Canyon!

“The Greatest Vacation We Have Been On”

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Bob & Ginnie Thurler, from Brooklyn Park, MN, wrote us this short letter about their adventure with us in the Copper Canyon:

We recently returned from your Ultimate 11-Day tour of the Copper Canyon. We both agree that this was by far the greatest vacation we have been on. Everything about the tour was first class and much more than we had expected it to be. This was the first guided trip we have ever been on. The guide did everything he could so that we were always informed of the days events, times and places, which we liked. We now have so much knowledge about the history of this area especially the people. As I stated before, this was our first guided tour and we both agree that it would be pretty difficult for anyone to top.

Bob & Ginnie Thurler
Brooklyn Park, MN


Tarahumara Musicians
Tarahumara musicians and dancer demonstrate a traditional Tarahumara song and dance in the Copper Canyon
Lost Cathedral of Satevo
Down at the bottom of the canyon is the “Lost Cathedral” of Satevo near Batopilas.

Had a great time in Copper Canyon!

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Recently, Ted McGrath who lives in Vancouver, Canada, returned from our California Native adventure in Copper Canyon and wrote:

California Native sent Rob Aikins from San Diego as our guide, Rob was excellent. Great personality, loaded with local knowledge, an awesome wit and ability to deal calmly and politely with any off the wall situations. Rob spoke perfect Spanish and at every stop knew just about everyone we met. He worked diligently to make our trip a seamless time where all we had to do was enjoy the experience while he attended to the detail of herding cats. He left nothing to chance!

El Fuerte
Hotel Torres del Fuerte has big rooms, high ceilings, air conditioning, bottled water, wi-fi in the hotel lobby area. Each of the 25 rooms decorated uniquely. Nice large inner courtyard. Lets call the place “charming”.

El Fuerte to Divisadero
The train ride from El Fuerte to Divisdearo was as awesome a train ride as one can find. The ride through the canyon has to be seen to be appreciated. 86 tunnels, 36 bridges with interesting rock formations. The train was great. Air conditioned, good seating and the meal at lunch very tasty.

Tarahumara woman at Lake Arareko
A Tarahumara woman is selling baskets and small items at the shore of Lake Arareko.

The Hotel Mirador at Divisadero sits right on the edge of Urique Canyon and the view is stunning. We took a gondola ride across the canyon where three of the main Copper Canyon complex of canyons join – cool!

Divisadero to Creel
From Divisadero, the train on to Creel is not as scenic. The hotel (Best Western Creel) has nice rustic western themed public space. One could think you were on vacation in Montana–western themed rooms too.

Creel to Batopilas
After one night in Creel we departed to Batopilas. Along the way we stopped at a Tarahumara cave home, and then two stops at unique rock formations. One with “mushroom” like outcroppings and one (the valley of the monks) with a proliferation of tall (really tall!) rounded rocks. About noon we stopped at a roadside home for a classy picnic lunch.

In Batopilas we walked to Mision Del Sataveo. On the way to the mision we stopped at a Tarahumara school and handed out school supplies and visited the nearby cemetery. We also visited the local museum in Batopilas and the crumbling previous property (Hacienda) of a silver mining company.

Batopilas to Creel
On the return trip to Creel we stopped again at the roadside home for lunch and went to the waterfall near Cusarare. Nice diversion, neat waterfall.

Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda in Batopilas.
Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda in Batopilas, at the bottom of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. It was once one of the richest silver mining cities in the world.

Creel to Chihuahua
After leaving Creel for Chihuahua we stopped at a Mennonite home for lunch. There’s a huge Mennonite presence in Chihuahua state, they are very successful farmers and it shows in their opulent homes and ample modern farm implements. On the drive into Chihuahua we passed many fields of apple orchards. The state is the major apple growing region in Mexico. Arrived in Chihuahua around 2:30 pm, checked into the lovely Holiday Inn & Suites in Centro. Next we were given an introductory tour of the city centre–the Zocalo, cathedral and drive by Hidalgo’s museum and a gorgeous early 20th century home now belonging to the University of Chihuahua (Mansion ‘Quinta Gameros’). This was the end of the California Native tour except for a farewell dinner at a Centro restaurant, El Retablo.

The group left for El Paso the next day.

Ted McGrath
Vancouver Canada

Her Uncle Rode With Pancho Villa

Francisco "Pancho" Villa and Ricardo Gonzalez
Ricardo Gonzalez, great uncle of Bessie "Crickett" Quijada.

A few weeks ago we received a very interesting comment from Bessie "Crickett" Quijada regarding our article, A Visit With Mrs. Pancho Villa. I contacted her and she agreed to share some of her photos with us.

In her comment Mrs. Quijada told us “My grand mother’s brother, Ricardo Gonzales, rode with The General Pancho Villa. In the Military Classics Illustrated (News Letter) there is a photo of My great uncle Ricardo on horseback along with Pancho Villa and about 5 or 6 other riders. My uncle is to Pancho Villas left. I have a photo of my uncle with Mrs Pancho Villa (Dona Luz) taken at La Quinta Manor where she lived until her death. The Villa’s manor is a museum in Chihuahua, MX. In the Military Classics Illustrated along with the photo of my uncle with Pancho Villa there is an article titled, The Villistas: Soldiers in Sombreros and Suit Coats By Don Fuchik.”

The author she refers to, Don Fuchik, was a very close friend of mine from the time we were 13-years old until his death a few years ago. He was also a consultant for The California Native and led many of our trips through Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

Pancho Villa and Luz Corral de Villa Dona Luz Corral de Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez
Pancho Villa and his wife, Luz Corral de Villa, in 1914. Dona Luz Corral de Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez in 1967.

Crickett was born in Denver, Colorado and grew up in Stockton, California. She now lives in Fresno. She describes herself as being 67 going on 12, and never wants to grow up. She has eight children, two which she adopted, and two male pet hooded rats whom she adores (she claims that rats make great pets). Her nickname is Crickett and that is what she prefers to be called.

Wanted: Pancho Villa (You’d be Mean Too, If You Were a Man Named Dorothy)

Lee Klein, California Native founder, stands beside a statue of Pancho Villa in the city of ZacatecasPancho Villa, so the saying goes, was “hated by thousands and loved by millions.” He was a Robin Hood to many and a cruel, cold-blooded killer to others. But who was this colorful controversial hero of the Mexican Revolution and where did he come from?

Doroteo Arango, for that was Pancho Villa’s real name, was born in the state of Durango in 1878, a share-cropper peasant on a hacienda. According to the legend, one day when he was sixteen, he returned home from the fields to find that his sister had been raped by the owner of the hacienda, Don Agustin López Negrete. Doroteo took up his revolver, shot Don Agustin, and escaped into the mountains on a horse.

He became a cattle rustler and later joined a band of rustlers that was led by a man named Francisco “Pancho” Villa. In one of their many skirmishes with the law, the group was surprised by a group of rurales (mounted police) and Francisco was killed. Doroteo then took command of the gang and also assumed the name of the fallen leader. He may have done this to throw off those who hunted him for the murder of the hacienda owner or he may have done this to insure his authority over the group. Anyway, from that time on it was he who was known as Francisco “Pancho” Villa.

Wanted poster for Pancho Villa after he raided Columbus, New Mexico in 1916.Pancho Villa was a natural leader and was very successful as a bandit, leading raids on towns, killing, and looting. He was also involved in more legitimate ventures, including being a contractor on the Copper Canyon railroad.

In 1910, when the Mexican Revolution broke out, Villa was recruited by the revolutionary leader, Abraham Gonzalez. Villa put together an army of armed cowboys and ruffians and became the revolutionary general who led the war in the northern part of Mexico. His charisma and victories made him an idol of the masses.

In 1916, when an American merchant refused to deliver the arms to Villa’s army which they had paid him for, Villa entered the United States and raided the town of Columbus, New Mexico. He was pursued by General “Black Jack” Pershing through the mountains of the State of Chihuahua. Pershing’s pursuit of Villa ended in failure, causing him to telegraph back to Washington that “Villa is everywhere, but Villa is nowhere.”

The war ended in 1920, and many attempts were made on Villa’s life by relatives of persons he had killed. On July 20, 1923, while driving his car through the town on Parral, Chihuahua, he was assasinated. The men responsible were never identified.

A Visit With Mrs. Pancho Villa

Sitting in her simple wooden chair, Doña Luz Corral de Villa, widow of Pancho Villa, began a rambling discourse on her life with the famous—or infamous—bandit, general, and hero of the Mexican Revolution.

The year was 1974, seven years before her death, when I first met Mrs. Villa. My father and I were touring Copper Canyon, and we were introduced to her at her home in the city of Chihuahua.

Sharing her memories with us, eighty-two year old Doña Luz told us of her life as a child, living with her widowed mother in the town of San Andres. One day, when she was a teenager, Villa and his soldiers rode in and demanded monetary contributions from the townspeople. Her mother asked to be excluded, and Villa visited her small store to see if she was really as poor as she claimed to be. There he met Luz. The courtship was very brief, and over the objections of her mother, Luz married Villa. The attending priest asked Villa to make his confession. The General refused, stating that it would take days to list all his sins.

Luz was not the only woman in Villa’s life. He was linked with several in bogus marriages, but later Luz was able to produce a valid certificate proving that she was his only legal wife.

The couple had one child, a daughter, who died within a few years. Luz had no other children, but she took in children Villa had fathered with other women. Perhaps she felt that he would always return to her, knowing that several of his children were with her. Villa built the quinta (manor) during the Revolution, and Luz lived there until her death in 1981. Villa was assassinated in 1923, and several of his “wives” claimed the manor. The marriage certificate might not have been sufficient to safeguard her claim, but Luz had an important ally, Alvaro Obregon, President of Mexico. During the Revolution, Obregon had visited the Villas at the quinta. There Villa had plotted to have Obregon killed, but Luz had interceded, saving the future president’s life. The favor was not forgotten, and Obregon used his considerable influence to protect Luz’s claim.

Eventually the house became a museum, with Luz the resident caretaker, and she tried personally to meet each visitor. Luz traveled through Mexico and the United States, and in Los Angeles received the key to the city.

Shortly before her death she wrote a book about her life with Villa, Pancho Villa: an Intimacy, published by Centro Librero La Prensa, in the city of Chihuahua. In it she loyally defends Villa against most of the accusations against him for his many excesses while leading the Army of the North. While this book must be read with a skeptical eye, her account provides interesting insights into Villa and the Revolution.

The above story was written by Don Fuchik (1941-2004). A long-time travel consultant and guide for The California Native, Don was also my close friend for 51 years. Don held a Master’s Degree in Latin American history and received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities for his studies of this region.
Lee Klein